New Car Reviews

2010 Volkswagen GTI – Four Seasons Update – May 2010

Long-Term 2010 Volkswagen GTI Update: Spring 2010 Array Miles to date: 0

Months in fleet: 5
Miles to date: 16,356

Around here, it’s pretty much accepted that the Volkswagen GTI is the best all-around hot hatch money can buy. But is it the best Golf? That’s been strikingly popular question this month.

The GTI was the first variant of the sixth-generation Golf line to launch in the United States. Last month, we finally got to spend time with the base model, the 2.5-liter five-cylinder Golf. Associate web editor Evan McCausland was one of many staffers who voiced surprise at how closely it compared with our range-topping GTI.

“Having driven the base Golf back-to-back with its turbocharged GTI brother, I’m not so sure I’d blindly pay an extra $4000 for the extra boost. The Golf’s in-line five is fairly smooth and provides decent acceleration, especially if you’re willing to make the most of your shift points.”

Senior web editor Phil Floraday disagreed, but his comments focused less on the expected performance difference and more on interior features exclusive to the GTI:

“The steering wheel feels much too large in comparison to our GTI’s spectacular-looking and -feeling wheel. I know I’ve complained about our GTI’s upgraded stereo system because it looks like it should include navigation, but the base radio leaves me wanting. The FM reception was sub-par and the sound quality wasn’t very good, which is probably a result of the poor reception. It’s a little disappointing that VW doesn’t offer any other option for the stereo in the regular Golf. If you move up to the GTI or TDI models, there are much nicer stereos available and a navigation system is optional.”

Indeed, the Golf TDI offers very similar equipment – along with comparable pricing – to the GTI. It also provides a significant fuel-economy advantage, creating an even more intriguing choice between the TDI’s torque and the GTI’s horsepower. As luck would have it, an example of the new diesel also came through our garage in May. After sampling the TDI, Floraday admitted the GTI remains the enthusiast’s choice.

“Both cars have 2.0-liter engines with turbochargers and direct injection. Going the diesel route nets you 236 lb-ft of torque to the gas engine’s 207 lb-ft, but the diesel’s mere 140 hp is far less satisfying than the gas engine’s 200 hp, especially since the diesel has a much narrower power band. For some people, the extra 9 mpg (EPA combined rating) will make the TDI a great choice. With my (mostly highway) driving habits, the difference between 41 and 31 mpg is pretty minor compared with the amount of fun I have behind the wheel of a GTI.”

That there’s even a discussion of whether we’d prefer a base or diesel Golf over the mighty GTI would seem to be an indictment of our Automobile of the Year. We don’t think so. Though some may wonder if the GTI needs a bit more power to secure its place atop the hierarchy, mostly we’re just impressed by the whole Golf range. As one editor put it, “All this parsing among the VW hatchback variants glosses over the main point, which is that the sixth-generation Golf is now the best small car on the market, regardless of trim level.”

2010 Volkswagen GTI

Base price (with dest.): $23,990
Price as tested: $27,255


Body Style: 3-door hatchback
Accommodation: 5-passenger
Construction: Unitized construction, bolt-on front fenders


Engine: Turbocharged in-line 4-cylinder intercooled with direct injection
Displacement: 2.0 liters
Power: 200 hp @ 5100-6000 rpm
Torque: 207 lb-ft @ 1800-5000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: Front-wheel
Fuel economy: 21/31/25 mpg (city/hwy/combined)


Steering: Rack-and-pinion, electro-mechanical power steering
Turns lock-to-lock: 3.0
Turning Circle: 35.8 ft
Suspension, Front: MacPherson strut with lower wishbones
Suspension, Rear: Four-link with separate spring/shock absorber arrangement
Brakes F/R: Power-assisted ventilated disc; ABS
Wheels: 18 x 7.5-inch alloy
Tires: Continental ContactSport 2
Tire Size: 225/40R18
Winter Tires: Bridgestone Blizzak LM-22
Tire Size: 215/45R18


Headroom F/R: 39.3 / 38.5 in
Legroom F/R: 41.2 / 35.5 in
Shoulder Room F/R: 54.7 / 54.6 in
Wheelbase: 101.5 in
Track F/R: 60.4 / 59.7 in
L x W x H: 165.8 x 70.0 x 57.8 in
Cargo Capacity: 42.4 / 54.8 cu ft (rear/with seats folded)
Weight: 3034 lb
Fuel Capacity: 14.5 gal
Est. Range: 363 miles
Fuel Grade: 93 octane

Standard Equipment

2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
Electronic stabilizer program (ESP)
Anti-slip regulation (ASR)
Cross differential system (XDS)
Electronic differential lock (EDL)
Electronic brake force distribution (EBD)
Anti-lock brake system (ABS)
Cruise control
Leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel
Touchscreen AM/FM radio with in-dash 6 CD changer
iPod adapter
Sirius satellite radio


Power Sunroof — $1000
18-inch wheels — $890
Bi-Xenon headlamps — $700
Dynaudio advanced sound — $476
Bluetooth connectivity — $199