Long-Term

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI – Four Seasons Wrap-Up

Volkswagen’s refined-but-raucous hatch is a seven-time charmer

Long-Term 2015 Volkswagen GTI Update: Fall 2016 ( 5 of 5 ) Miles to date: 22,905

It’s a day seared into my memory. We were let loose on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with three Four Seasons cars: the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, Mazda MX-5 Miata, and Volkswagen Golf GTI. Each proved to be stellar in unique ways, but I remember being the most impressed by our four-door GTI after eight magical hours running flat-out around the legendary circuit. It didn’t matter whether I was attacking the curbing in the Corkscrew or four-wheel drifting through Turn 3, the VW proved utterly unflappable, all day long.

With seven generations of refinement, it wasn’t exactly a shock how well the newest GTI performed—more like awe. This is the hot-hatch progenitor after all, the Prince of Fahrvergnügen. It’s among the most-awarded cars in this marque’s history. And after our year behind the wheel of the 2015 Mk VII GTI S, we’d happily give it another trophy or two, just for kicks.

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI cabin 02
Much has changed over seven generations, but the GTI keeps its crown by remaining true to its fun and user-friendly roots.

But solid performance is only part of the GTI’s charm. This nimble machine proved more than capable of deftly navigating L.A.’s urban jungle. The added functionality of its hatch and two extra doors made it possible to take out-of-town family on tours around Hollywood, haul a couple of bikes up to the hills above the city (with the Golf’s 60/40-split folding rear seats flat), and chauffeur a raucous group of girlfriends from party to party. Its versatility made it a popular choice for longer trips, too. Contributor John Lamm took the GTI on a jaunt from L.A. to rural Colorado, sinking comfortably into the tartan-black (aka Clark plaid) cloth driver’s seat as he drove some 800 miles.

“There was a wonderful road that twisted along a fast-flowing river. The GTI just danced agilely along the two-laner as we straight­-lined the esses and bent through the long, carving corners,” Lamm recalled. On the way back home, however, the tire pressure sensor and the master warning light suddenly came on. He had hit a pothole hard and thought maybe that had something to do with it, but a check of tire pressures and engine fluids found nothing out of the ordinary.

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI front three quarter 12

“This car is great. It is easy to live with and a blast to drive. … I would almost certainly own this generation GTI.”

We took the GTI straight to the dealer upon his return to L.A., and as it turned out a hungry rodent had dined extensively in the GTI’s engine bay and triggered the faults. The positive battery cable, hood heat shield, and an air hose were among the items on the multiple-course menu, which ended up costing us a cool $1,236.52.

The GTI went on another big trip, from L.A. to Detroit, with former staffer Joey Capparella and his brother. Along the way, they stopped at their family compound in Nashville, where a set of Bridgestone Blizzak LM­32 winter shoes we ordered up from our friends at Tire Rack were put on the car ($951.95 in all) for its winter of discontent in Michigan. Capparella’s verdict after 2,800 miles behind the wheel? “I only grew to enjoy driving it more and more, and I struggled to come up with a situation in which it falls flat. I’d buy one of these in a heartbeat. It does everything right.”

That was the overwhelming refrain from everyone who spent time in the GTI, and the car’s logbook ended up full of flattery: “This car is great. It is easy to live with and a blast to drive.” “I feel like Kate Hudson in ‘Almost Famous’ when I say this, but if I lived in the ‘real world’ and didn’t drive different cars every day, I would almost certainly own this generation GTI.” “Did I mention I love the GTI? Love the sound of the engine purring at high rpm. Love, love, love the flat­-bottom steering wheel and fluid steering. Love the sightlines. Love the simplicity of the interior.”

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI rear three quarter 02

Eric Weiner recommended to his brother that he buy a brand-new GTI. Big bro listened … and opted for a DSG-equipped car.

So yeah, we had a hard time finding much to complain about during the GTI’s 22,909-mile run with us. It averaged just a half tick under its 28 mpg EPA combined rating. The rodent feast was the only real problem we encountered, and you can’t fault the car for being delicious. The windscreen picked up a rock chip, which we had filled. We took the GTI in for two checkups, one covered under warranty, and a 20,000-mile service that cost $270.39. There were a few minor callouts, including the somewhat shabby stereo unit, the annoying absence of a USB outlet, and a phantom rattle from the rear hatch that one staffer swears he heard.

Interestingly, the GTI’s manual transmission received a fair bit of criticism as well.

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI cabin 01

“I’d like the gearbox to feel just a bit notchier, to lose its looseness,” remarked Detroit bureau chief Todd Lassa. “The long clutch travel and ropey shifter are probably the weakest elements of the car,” said Capparella. Given how impressive Volkswagen’s DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission has become, the manual had a lot to live up to. When road test editor Eric Weiner recommended to his brother that he buy a brand-new GTI, big bro listened (possibly for the first time ever) and opted for a DSG-equipped car.

“I think my brother made the right move,” says Weiner. “There’s nothing explicitly wrong with the six-speed manual and golfball shifter, but there’s nothing especially engaging about it that makes me want it more than the fiercely capable dual-clutch automatic. The clutch is a little light and vague, and the shifter could use a bit more positive feedback entering and exiting each gate.”

But that’s where our soft-handed demerits ended. The GTI is a car that any one of us would happily drop $28,695 on, without question. It’s a car Volkswagen needs to relentlessly push as it attempts to get past recent troubles. It’s a car that will happily dance with you all day long at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca or any highway, byway, or back road you travel.

2016 Mazda MX 5 Miata Club vs 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI
Take the GTI to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for a lesson in cheap thrills and chassis tuning.

Pros & Cons

+ Sublime chassis
+ Impressive performance
+ Refined overall package
– Loose manual shifter
– Lack of device inputs
– Pedestrian style

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI Running Costs

Mileage

22,905
Warranty
3-yr/36,000-mi bumper-to-bumper
5-yr/60,000-mi powertrain
12-yr unlimited-mi limited warranty against corrosion perforation
3-yr/36,000-mi 24-hour roadside assistance
Scheduled Maintenance
9,000 mi: Oil change, oil filter, $0
19,859 mi: Oil change, oil filter, cabin air filter, $270.38
Recalls
Fuel pump, sealing cap, and steering
Out-Of-Pocket
7,138 mi: Repair rodent
damage to battery cable, air hose, heat shield, fender liner, wiring harness, $1,236.52
17,201 mi: Purchase, mount, balance Bridgestone Blizzak LM-32 225/40R-18 tires, $951.95
20,855 mi: Safelite windshield chip repair, $118.37
22,909 mi: Mount and balance summer tires, $80.00
Fuel Consumption:
EPA city/hwy/combined
25/34/28 mpg
Observed: 27.46 mpg
Cost Per Mile $0.23
($0.63 including depreciation)
Trade-In Value
$18,950
*Estimate based on information from Intellichoice

Our Test Results
0–60 mph 5.8 sec
60-0 mph 108 ft
1/4–mile 14.4 sec @ 99.2 mph
Skidpad 0.92 g

Overview

  • Body style 4-door hatchback
  • Accommodation 4-passenger
  • Construction Steel unibody
  • Base price (with dest.) $27,700
  • As tested $28,895

Powertrain

  • Engine
  • 16-valve DOHC turbocharged I-4
  • Displacement 2.0 liters (91 cu in)
  • Power 220 hp @ 4500 rpm
  • Torque 258 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm
  • Transmission 6-speed manual
  • Drive Front-wheel
  • EPA Fuel Economy 25/34 mpg city/highway

Chassis

  • Steering Electrically assisted
  • Lock-to-lock 2.1 turns
  • Turning circle 35.8 ft
  • Suspension, Front Strut-type, coil springs
  • Suspension, Rear Multilink, coil springs
  • Brakes F/R Vented discs
  • Wheels 18-inch aluminum
  • Tires Bridgestone Potenza S001
  • Tire size 225/40R-18

Measurements

  • Headroom F/R 38.4/38.1 in
  • Legroom F/R 41.2/35.6 in
  • Shoulder room F/R 55.9/53.9 in
  • Wheelbase 103.6 in
  • Track F/R 60.6/59.7 in
  • L x W x H 168 x 70.5 x 56.8 in
  • Passenger Capactity 93.5 cu ft
  • Cargo capacity(rear seats up/down) 22.8/52.7 cu ft
  • Weight 3031 lb
  • Weight dist. F/R 60.7/39.3%
  • Fuel capacity 13.2 gal
  • Est. fuel range 370 miles
  • Fuel grade 91 octane (premium unleaded)

Equipment

  • standard equipment

    • 18-inch aluminum wheels
    • Front and rear independent sport suspension
    • Electronic limited-slip front differential lock
    • Front and rear vented disc brakes
    • Alloy pedals
    • Leather-wrapped steering wheel
    • Leather-wrapped brake handle and shift knob
    • Plaid-pattern cloth seats
    • Heated front seats
    • Tilt-and-telescopic steering column
    • 5.8-inch touchscreen display
    • Bluetooth
    • Satellite radio connectivity
    • USB/iPod interface
    • 8-speaker audio system
    • Cruise control
    • Front daytime running lights
    • Air conditioning
    • Heated, power-folding exterior mirrors
    • 60/40-split folding rear seats

Options

  • options for this vehicle:

    • Lighting package – $995
    • 18-inch summer performance tires – $0
    • Six-speed manual transmission – $0