December 3, 2012

10 Segments in 10 Days: Hatchback

Hatchback: Volkswagen GTI

Base Price: $23,995
As Driven: $30,595
Engine: 2.0L Turbo-charged 4-cylinder, 200hp
Transmission: 6 Speed Manual
MPG Rating: 21 city/31 hwy

                My love of small cars also extends to the GTI.  There are few cars, let alone hatchbacks, that can compete with the Volkswagen GTI.  It is competitively priced, has a brilliant 6 speed transmission, and is everywhere.  The 4 door GTI is on my “WANT” list.

                The performance of the GTI hasn’t diminished.  The car has gotten heavy over the last couple of generations and VW has tried to alleviate that with their next model, the Mark VII.  The original Golf GTI was a light, fast hatchback.  Modern safety equipment has caused the newer cars to be heavier and VW is addressing that concern.  Supposedly there is even a diesel GTI or a GTD in the works.

The 2012 car makes 200 horsepower out of a 2.0L turbo charged four cylinder engine.  It achieves 21 mpg city and 31 highway.  You can get the GTI with a 6 speed manual or with an automated manual that has paddle shifters.  We can’t be friends if you pick the paddle shifters over the manual.  The 6 Speed manual and clutch in this car are just too good.  I’ve driven three different generations of the GTI and I fall in love again every time I shift.  The transmission puts a smile on my face.  There are few things more fun than working through the gears of a well-built transmission and clutch.

                The GTI isn’t going to win many drag races, but it is quick.  It has FWD and makes sense in the crazy winters of the Midwest.  The 4 door version can be a reasonable alternative to some minivans.  Some, not all.

The GTI is attainable.  The price is mid-20’s to low-30’s for a really optioned-out Autobahn version.  It’s hard to find a base priced version.  If you make friends with a VW salesperson, I’d bet they’d let you know when one comes into town.

Thank you to Molle Volkswagen ( for letting me play with their GTI.

*Since this was supposed to go to print, I’ve driven a Ford Focus ST.  The base price ST is $23,700. My opinion was has changed.   I do reserve that right.  More horsepower, great handling, and turbo-blow off noise!  Love it!

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