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2002 Volkswagen GTI Review
A fun-to-drive sport coupe that fits most needs.
Reviewed by Automotive on
The 2002 Volkswagen GTI offers a great deal of value in a small package. This hatchback has utility, fine performance and handling, a generous list of standard features, good safety gear and crash test scores, reliability, and is just plain fun to drive. It is easily one of the best choices in its segment, and buyers needing a small, economical, and fun to drive car with good utility and build quality should take a look at the GTI.
Engines: 1.8-liter four-cylinder, 2.8-liter V-6
Transmissions: five-speed manual, four-speed automatic, five-speed automatic with Tiptronic operation, six-speed manual
Models: Volkswagen GTI 1.8T, Volkswagen GTI VR6, Volkswagen GTI 337
For 2002, the GLS and GLX trim levels have been discontinued. They are replaced with a 180-horsepower, turbocharged inline four or the VR6 engine. The 174 horsepower, 12-valve VR6 is replaced with a 24-valve unit that makes 200 horsepower. A special-edition model called the GTI 337 is new to the line-up. It features a six-speed manual hooked up to the 180 horsepower 1.8T, 18-inch wheels, 225/45VR18 performance rubber, a ground effects kit, genuine Recaro seats, and red accents inside and out. All Volkswagen vehicles now come standard with a four-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, increased from two years/24,000 miles. Volkswagen now offers a fully transferable limited powertrain warranty that covers five years or 60,000 miles.
The 2002 Volkswagen GTI hatchback is available in three trims: 1.8T, VR6 and 337. The 1.8T starts off with 16-inch alloy wheels, heated door mirrors, power door mirrors, intermittent wipers, rear wiper, front fog lights, MacPherson struts up front, rear window defroster, and front-wheel independent suspension. The VR6 includes an engine upgrade plus 17-inch wheels, trip computer, outside temperature display, and the option for rain-sensing wipers. The performance-minded 337 includes powertrain upgrades and a spoiler along with the aforementioned ground effects and wheel/tire increases. A power moonroof is optional for the 1.8T and VR6 trims. An engine block heater is optional for all trims.
The GTI’s cabin offers plenty of features and the 1.8T starts things off with standard gear, including air conditioning, speed control, power windows, remote keyless entry, tilt and telescoping wheel, AM/FM and cassette stereo with cd player and eight speakers, and cloth seats. The VR6 trim adds nothing standard, but does offer the option for automatic temperature control and auto-dimming rearview mirror. Aside from the Recaro seats and special trim, the 337 adds a leather steering wheel trim. The 1.8T and VR6 can be had with options like leather trim, leather upholstery, and heated front seats. All trims have the option for a remote cd player and rear window blind.
Performance & Handling
A revised and improved version of the 1.8T power plant now produces 180 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque. Power is transmitted by a choice of a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic gearbox with Tiptronic manual shifting. The 2.8-liter, 12-valve, VR6 engine develops 174 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. This engine was replaced in mid-model year by a 200-horsepower, 24-valve version mated to a six-speed manual. The special-edition GTI 337 is outfitted with the 1.8T and a six-speed. This is the same powertrain used in the New Beetle Turbo S, making the 337 the most serious driver's car in the GTI lineup. The GTI is a front-wheel drive vehicle. Performance is solid in all trims with zero-60 mph times in the seven second range. The GTI should handle most traffic situations well.
The handling is solid and tight with respectable responsiveness and a good grip. Braking is confidence-inspiring with no nose dive. The 337 can have the occasional torque steer, although it isn’t too disconcerting. The ride is surprisingly good for a car this size. The engineers at Volkswagen have struck an impressive handling/ride quality balance with the GTI. Noise levels are kept pleasantly low. All this combines to make the GTI enjoyable to drive and ride in.
Standard safety features on the GTI include dual front impact airbags, front and rear head airbags, dual front side-mounted airbags, all-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, child seat anchors, remote anti-theft alarm system, front seatbelt pretensioners, rear center three-point belt, traction control, and emergency interior seatback release. Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS have tested the GTI, but Volkswagen’s commitment to safety and the extensive list of standard gear should be enough to convince buyers of the GTI’s qualities for occupant protection.
EPA Fuel Economy
Volkswagen GTI VR6: 19/27 mpg city/highway
Volkswagen GTI 337: 20/28 mpg city/highway
- Driving fun
- Reasonable price
- Standard features
- Cargo utility
- Six-speed manual option
You Won't Like
- Outdated style
- Some difficult controls
- Needs handling improvements
A fun-to-drive sport coupe that fits most needs.
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