There’s a good reason this new, seventh-generation Volkswagen GTI triggers a feeling of déjà vu: you have, in fact, seen it before. When VW rolled out its all-new Golf VII range at the Paris Motor show last September, it also unveiled an all-new GTI – but said that the hot hatch was merely a concept. No more. The new GTI returns in time for the 2013 Geneva Motor Show, but this time without the pesky concept suffix.
Little, if anything, has changed since we saw the car in Paris. GTI models once again look like their base Golf siblings but with a number of sporty cosmetic tweaks. The front fascia is more aggressive and incorporates fingerlike louvers protruding from the foglamps. The GTI’s trademark honeycomb grille and red grille accent return, but the latter neatly extends through the headlamp assemblies themselves. Like its diesel-powered Golf GTD cousin, the new GTI gains sportier rocker sills, a rear diffuser with dual exhaust tips, smoked LED taillamps, and a roof spoiler. Seventeen-inch “Brooklyn” aluminum wheels are unique to the GTI. We’ve heard rumblings that the lowered suspension is stiffer than in prior GTI models, but we won’t know for certain until we try it for ourselves.
Interior amendments are in step with what we saw in last year’s concept. GTI models wear faux carbon-fiber accents on the dash, door panels, and center console and have a black headliner and red ambient lighting. Red accent stitching is applied to both the flat-bottom steering wheel and the seats – which, if trimmed in cloth, still boast the trademark Tartan-plaid inserts. In Europe, standard content also includes stainless steel pedals, VW’s latest touchscreen infotainment system, automatic climate controls, and heated front seats.
Like the rest of the Golf VII family, the GTI rides on Volkswagen’s modular MQB platform, which VW promised would help shed cost and weight. We can’t speak to the former point, as U.S. pricing is still a ways off, but the new GTI is a bit slimmer than before. Volkswagen says the curb weight of the base GTI is 2978 pounds, which is about 56 pounds less than the outgoing sixth-gen GTI. Should that weight savings carry through to the five-door model, the GTI may also undercut many of its five-door competitors, including the Ford Focus ST (3223 pounds), the Mazdaspeed3 (3281 pounds), and the Subaru WRX.
That weight savings might help the GTI in terms of performance, as it doesn’t necessarily best its rivals in terms of sheer power. Power still comes from the turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 (known as EA288) found in the current GTI. Careful tuning allowed VW to crank up the power in two stages. Base GTIs now pack 220 hp at 4500 rpm and 258 lb-ft at 1500 rpm, increases of 20 hp and 51 lb-ft. Opt for a new performance package, and horsepower rises to 230 hp. Regardless of the engine’s output, power is still sent to the front wheels through either a standard six-speed manual gearbox or an optional six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The performance package also adds some upgraded hardware. While standard GTIs continue to use Volkswagen's XDS "differential"--an electronic, front brake-based system--performance package models add a mechanical torque-sensing limited-slip differential. Base GTIs also use 12.3-inch vented disc brakes up front and 11.8-inch solid discs at the back; performance package models receive vented discs all around, increased in size to 13.4 inches up front and 12.2 inches at the back.
Volkswagen keenly notes that the GTI emits only 139 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer traveled and earns 39.2 mpg combined on the European test cycle, thanks in part to a standard stop/start system, but if you’re reading this, chances are those aren’t the performance metrics you truly care about. The new GTI can rip from 0 to 62 mph in 6.5 seconds before hitting a top speed of 153 mph. Add the performance pack, and the GTI’s time improves by a tenth of a second, while the top end increases by 2 mph.
Volkswagen officials cautiously note that these details are for the European car and “may not apply” to the U.S.-spec GTI. Does that mean our cars will only be offered with the performance pack, or that VW has an extra dose of horsepower up its sleeve for the American GTI? Only time will tell. Expect the new GTI to come stateside well after it goes on sale in Europe – early production cars should hit dealers in Germany this May, but U.S.-bound models won’t arrive until the first half of 2014.