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The All-New 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Builds on the Success of its Predecessor

But it's still all the car you’ll ever need

Nick YekikianWriterManufacturerPhotographer

Here at Automobile, we're big fans of the MkVII Volkswagen Golf GTI. It's been available for a few years now and has proven to be a comfortable, competent everyday cruiser as well as a blast to drive down a good piece of road. Now the MkVIII is here to do everything the MkVII did, but better. The GTI will also now likely serve as the entry level Golf in the U.S., as we still have yet to receive confirmation that Volkswagen will bring the new base-model Golf to our market. For now, at least, we don't believe it's going to happen.

So if you want a Golf, you're going to have to spring for a GTI. But that's no bad thing, because you're going to get a lot more car. The GTI now packs 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque from it's updated 2.0-liter, direct-injected four-banger. That's 21 more ponies and 15 more lb-ft than the outgoing GTI. The engine still hails from the EA888 family that powers the last GTI (and a number of other VW models in various states of tune). It is mated to either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic.

To give the GTI a sportier look compared to the base car, VW dropped the ride height by 0.6 inch, and the car features more aggressive bumpers, sills, dual exhausts, and a roof spoiler. The strip of red that adorned the grill of past GTIs is present and correct. There are also standard LED headlights, taillights, and DRLs. The 2021 Golf GTI rides out of the box on 17-inch wheels and tires; there's no word yet on optional sizes. The manual shifter is in the shape of a golf ball, there are some GTI specific logos, and the seats are now one-piece buckets to hold you in place—thankfully, they carry on with the classic tartan plaid pattern. 

The 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI also comes loaded with a host of performance enhancing goodies to make it drive even sweeter than before. Volkswagen calls its new chassis system the Vehicle Dynamics Manager, and it manipulates both the stability control and the suspension's dampers to help drivers carve their ideal lines. As with the previous GTI, various drive modes include Comfort, Eco, and Sport.

Volkswagen also announced a sporty plug-in hybrid Golf model, the GTE, and a sporty diesel, the GTD. We won't get either of those cars in the U.S., though. The GTE makes the same amount of power as the GTI, but it has an EV option and can travel up to 37 miles on electric power alone. The GTD is down on power—200 to 241—to the GTI, but makes 22 lb-ft of additional torque, and it will certainly go longer between fuel stops.

As with the base Golf, the GTI gets plenty of Volkswagen's safety tech as standard. That means a 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit and the 10-inch navigation system, lane-keep assist, frontal-collision assist, and Car2X (VW's trick tech that allows your car to communicate with other vehicles and the traffic infrastructure by itself) are all included in the base price. That said, the company hasn't announced pricing for the new 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI or exactly when it will hit U.S. shores. Considering the 2019 GTI cost just more than $28,000, we expect the 2021 GTI will cost similar money when it arrives here later this year.