2010 Automobile of the Year: 2010 Volkswagen GTI

Regis Lefebure

Yes, the VW GTI is our Automobile of the Year. Again. The last-generation car got the nod only three years ago and now its successor, the sixth-generation GTI, walks away with the trophy as well. How is it that, for the first time since we started naming an Automobile of the Year exactly twenty years ago, we have deemed a single make and model vehicle worthy of our top award not once, but twice? It's very simple. Because the Volkswagen GTI continues to burn the affordable-enthusiast-car flame like no other vehicle in the world. Because the new, Mark 6 GTI, although only a mild update to the Mark 5 GTI, made a good thing even better. Because, as we pointed out in our February 2007 issue, the GTI is "the right car for our times. Hell, it's the right car for any time." And because, as we also stated three years ago, "what the world really needs now is not cars that are fast, but cars that are practical, fuel-efficient, and fast." Not to mention affordable and fun. The 2010 VW GTI is all this, and more.

We've said it before, but it's worth repeating: It's one thing for an automaker to create a car for fifty, or seventy-five, or a hundred thousand dollars or more that gets our pulses racing. Cars that cost that much certainly better be exciting to drive, rewarding to own, and well-built, with quality interiors. But it's another thing entirely, a real achievement, when an automaker creates a car that starts at only $24,239 - well within the reach of most new-car buyers - that is, as our West Coast editor, Jason Cammisa, says, "just as much fun to drive and with just as much street cred as cars costing three times as much." Volkswagen alone has managed to do this, with varying degrees of success, longer than any other automaker: the first GTI reached the U.S. in 1983 and single-handedly created the whole "pocket rocket" genre. Lots of other cars, most recently two successive generations of the Mazdaspeed 3, have attempted to replicate the GTI formula, but none have quite cracked the code.

The key to that code, of course, is the blend of athleticism, practicality, and performance that was the basis of the original GTI and which was resurrected so well in the Mark 5 edition. In 2007, we grooved to the remarkable 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and even went so far as to say that we might take the dual-clutch DSG transmission over the standard six-speed manual. Both gearbox choices have carried over to the 2010 car, but it's a little-known fact that the 2.0T engine was, as of mid-2008, new. Code-named EA888, it's still a 2.0-liter turbo four, and it still makes 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque in the GTI, but it reflects a ground-up redesign of VW's four-cylinder engine and offers as its biggest benefit improved fuel economy. The 2007 GTI with DSG was rated at 22/29 mpg by the EPA, while the 2010 GTI DSG jumps to 24/32 mpg.

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Superfast pms
@primeautobug LOL - The GTI would DESTROY the Cobalt on the track. The fact that you have the balls to compare a crappy American car to a proven winner is a joke! The GTI wins in every category and I laugh profusely at your insanely ridiculous statistics! See you on the track as my GTI leaves you eating dust!
Jeff P
AUTOMOBILE goofed on this one. The GTI doesn't deserve this because there's another in it's class that is better in almost every way and over $4,000 cheaper. Namely, the CHEVROLET COBALT SS, especially the coupe. It looks better, in my opinion, for starters. It's turbo 4 puts out 60 more horses pushing a car that's 200 pounds lighter. The SS smokes the GTI to 60 mph by more than a half-second and easily beats it in the quater-mile. The SS chassis is better, consistently posting over .9g on the skidpads and way faster numbers in the slalom tests. The brakes are better and the steering seems to be about the same. The SS gets better gas mileage as well. In addition, it set the front-wheel-drive production car record at the Nurburgring. What more can you ask for? Sure, the interior materials are rather cheap-but don't forget that you're getting all of this class-leading performance for a savings of $4,000 over the GTI. The COBALT SS needs to get the respect it richly deserves.
Edward A. Sanchez
I definitely vote for a long-term test on this one, as I still have doubts about the longer-term reliability and durability of VWs.
Speed_3
Well, at least automobile of the year didn't go to a Kia, then I would have really lost faith. Yeah the GTI is great and I get it, but I honestly wasn't rooting for it and would have liked to see a differant car take the honor, one that really is ground breaking.
bobfromguam
I just drove one of these and must say it was pure brilliance on the road, I could not believe how much fun it was.
GopherSZS
The GTI was a four-seasons vehicle; it's cycle ended around June 2008. Automobile opted for the DSG transmission. If I remember correctly, service and reliability were not a problem.
grant74
I really like the GTI, but was burned by VW reliability and service one too many times and bought a WRX a few years ago. I second the request for a Four Seasons test of the new GTI--I want to see if it might be worth the heartbreak to own another VW!
SpeedyF1
I'm begging you guys for a Four Seasons long-term test of the GTI. Pleeeeseeee :)

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