Volkswagen GTI 4 Door
- Base price: $25,019
- 200 hp, 207 lb-ft of torque
- Inexpensive, refined performance
Volkswagen's Golf hatchback is a fairly basic mode of transportation, but in GTI trim it's a whole new car. Available in two-door and four-door variations, the latter GTI model is the obvious family choice. With its welcoming sticker price of $25,019 (including $750 for destination), the GTI should top the list of anyone looking for a budget-minded family sportster.
VW's performance hatchback utilizes a 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 that makes 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque that can be mated with either of two transmissions -- a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic (which costs an extra $1100). To keep the GTI's price in check and maintain its sporty characteristics, we prefer the slick stick shift. Standard seventeen-inch wheels give the GTI some extra styling, although eighteen-inch rolling stock is available for more dough. The significant cost and smaller sidewalls of the upsized wheels contributes to diminished comfort, so we lean toward the stock equipment. An aggressive fascia paired with red brake calipers lets everyone know the car isn't a standard Golf. VW claims that the four-door stick-shift car can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds, while returning 21 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. A track-tuned suspension and so-called XDS differential (which acts like a limited-slip differential) make the GTI perfect for the occasional autocross outing.
None of the other vehicles in the compact segment are quite as refined as the GTI, and its steering, suspension tuning, and standard features make it stand out even more. The touch-screen radio interface can control an iPod through a standard connection. Available Bluetooth offers hands-free operation of a capable mobile phone and is a great way for everyone to take part in the next phone call to Grandma. Standard electronic stability control helps the GTI stay on the road during inclement weather and aids in avoiding accidents. Eight standard air bags ensure that all occupants are protected in the unfortunate event of a crash. Folding rear seats offer a wide range of hauling possibilities. VW's Carefree Maintenance program comes standard with all 2010 models and offers free scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles. For the money, the GTI is undoubtedly the front runner for budget-conscious families looking for some pep in their ride.