Wednesday, July 24, 2013

First Drive: 2013 Volkswagen Golf GTI

In 1974, Volkswagen released the Golf, a subcompact hatchback. In  June1976, a high performance version of the Golf came out, the Volkswagen Golf GTI. The Golf GTI Mk1 popularized a category of vehicles known as hot hatches. Hot hatches are hatchbacks that are small, practical cars that had a sporty feel and solid performance. The Volkswagen Golf is currently on its seventh generation, the Golf Mk6, which has been production from 2008 and was available starting with the 2010 model year. Proudction of a seventh generation Golf has started for the European market. For every generation of the Volkswagen Golf, there has been a Volkswagen Golf GTI. The Golf GTI is available as either a three-door or five-door hatchback. The Golf GTI has a front-engine, front-wheel drive layout. I have seen several versions of the Golf GTI spanning all generations at various Houston auto events. During one Friday in April 2013, I stopped by a local Volkswagen dealership and took a Golf GTI out for a test drive. The version I drove was the five-door hatchback variant can came with a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters (an $1,100 option). The Golf GTI comes with a six-speed manual transmission as standard.

The Volkswagen Golf was never really that good of a styling. The sixth generation is no exception. It looks bland when compared to its competition. Then again, Volkswagen is not known for its exterior styling. The GTI has a a few minor exterior changes compared to the standard Golf. The Golf GTI has 18" wheels, red trim around the grill, a wider grill on the front bumper, and lights on the front bumper. The GTI also features a GTI badge on the front grill and on the rear hatch. The interior is nothing special. The steering wheel is wrapped in leather. Upper trim levels include a touchscreen and a sunroof. I drove the base Golf GTI. The seat was firm, but not too firm that it is uncomfortable. The GTI is sports tune, so a firm seat is expected. I had decent amount of legroom and headroom behind the wheel.

The Volkswagen Golf GTI is powered by a turbocharged 2.0L I4 engine that produces 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. It goes from 0 to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds and reaches a top speed of 149 mph. The Golf GTI has solid performance. Anything with a 0 to 60 mph in under 7.0 seconds has good acceleration. It was quiet inside the car plus it has a smooth ride to it. But there is not much excitement with the driving experience. Prices for a three-door Golf GTI starts at $24,995, including a $795 destination charge. The five-door Golf GTI I drove with the automatic transmission costs $26,690. This is a bit of money for what get with the Golf GTI. There are hot hatches out there that cost less than the Golf GTI.

The Golf GTI Mk6 has been featured on Top Gear, Top Gear Korea, Natale in Sud Africa, Fifth Gear, RTL Autowereld, Broom, Turkisch fur Anfanger, Um Himmels willen, Motorweek, and Tatort-Es ist bose. The Golf GTI Mk6 is playable in StreetRally, Rumble Town Racing 2, The GTI Project, GT Racing: Motor Academy, GTI Edition 35, Forza Motorsport 3, Car Town, Nitto 1320 Legends, Real Racing 2, Forza Motorsports 4, Real Racing GTI, and Test Drive Unlimited 2.

Overall, This is an above solid car. It has good performance, especially for a subcompact. The Golf GTI has a great top speed for a hot hatch, maxing out at 149 mph. It has a higher top speed than some six-cylinder sports car. It can outrun a Ford Mustang V6 (top speed 114 mph). This is not a bad car, but it is overpriced. $25,000 is a bit much for a subcompact car, even if it is a hot hatch. For the price of a Golf GTI, you can get a Scion FR-S/Subaru BR-Z or a Subaru Impreza WRX. The Ford Fiesta ST, another hot hatch, starts at $22,195, but it only comes with a six-speed manual transmission. The Mazda Speed3 starts at $24,995 and it is a compact hot hatch, although it only comes with a six-speed manual transmission. The Golf GTI has a good drive quality. It is pricey for what you get. But it is also one of the very few hot hatches you can get in the United States that comes with an automatic transmission. I drove four other cars on the same day I drove the Golf GTI. One of those cars is the Volvo C30. It is another hot hatch. It is very fun to drive and also comes with an automatic transmission. It only comes as a three-door hatchback. I would easily recommend the C30 over a thee-door Golf GTI. But if you want a five-door hatchback, then you will have to pass on the C30. So, if you want five-door hatchback with a minimum of 200 hp with an automatic transmission, you best option is the Golf GTI. It would be a great buy if it cost $5,000 less. In summary, it is a good car, just overpriced.

Photo was taken by a camera phone.
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