Months in Fleet: Two
During our Automobile of the Year testing, the 2010 GTI beat out higher-horsepower competitors with its class-leading luxury and comfort. But as the car finishes its second full month at 120 East Liberty Street, some around here are beginning to wonder: Is refinement really a substitute for performance?
Certainly, most of us still appreciate Volkswagen's measured approach to the hot hatch genre. "The GTI works equally well as a commuter car or a pocket rocket," enthuses senior Web editor Phil Floraday, who has one of the longer daily drives among our staff. "It's refined enough to make a commute comfortable and fast enough to make back roads exciting."
Copy editor Rusty Blackwell agrees, and is particularly impressed by how competently the spunky VW serves the needs of his young family.
"Riley's baby seat fits very well in this two-door, and it's relatively easy to install. The front seats can't go back super far with the kid seat in rear-facing mode, but the GTI itself is so fun to drive that I'll probably end up choosing it over more convenient crossovers/sedans for several weekends in the upcoming year."
But other editors aren't so sure this latest iteration, which received no additional power in its redesign, strikes the right balance between youth and maturity. Web producer Evan McCausland writes:
"It does seem as if the GTI has grown increasingly mature over the past three decades. In some areas - notably interior refinement and ride control - it's appreciated, but in others - power, mainly - it feels as if the volks back in Wolfsburg are diluting the GTI genome.
"We know VW can extract as much as 265 hp from this little turbo 2.0-liter by simply revising the intake and exhaust, along with fiddling with the electronics. I'm not necessarily saying I'd like that many horses without an all-wheel-drive system to rein in the torque steer, but a slight bump, say to 230 hp, would be gladly appreciated."
McCausland's last point about more power and all-wheel drive was well taken by this writer, whose terminally immature father recently purchased a 2009 Subaru WRX listed at $26,600 - about $600 less than our very similarly equipped GTI. After a short ride in our VW, the Old Man couldn't help but point out his clear stat-sheet superiority. "My WRX would kick this thing's ass," he concluded.
But then, he would say that. Still, it's worth wondering whether the GTI's overall polish can make up for its relative lack of performance (not to be confused with overall driving engagement). For most of us, the initial conclusion has been a definite yes, but we'll see how this debate develops over the next ten months.
2010 Volkswagen GTI
Base price (with dest.): $23,990
Price as tested: $27,255
Body Style: 3-door hatchback
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
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
Weight Dist. F/R: xx / xx%
Fuel Capacity: 14.5 gal
Est. Range: 363 miles
Fuel Grade: 93 octane
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)
Leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel
Touchscreen AM/FM radio with in-dash 6 CD changer
Sirius satellite radio
Power Sunroof -- $1000
18-inch wheels -- $890
Bi-Xenon headlamps -- $700
Dynaudio advanced sound -- $476
Bluetooth connectivity -- $199