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2003 Volkswagen GTI

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2003 Volkswagen GTI Review

A fun and fuel efficient vehicle with a dated body style.

Reviewed by Automotive on


The 2003 Volkswagen GTI is an upgraded hatchback version of the Golf line of vehicles. There is also a Golf hatchback, which is related to the GTI but is not one of the GTI models. It's nicknamed a ""pocket rocket"" due to its small size and turbocharged engines. As part of the Golf lineup, a GTI version called ""hot hatch"" was introduced in mid-first generation. The GTI was not commonly used at the time and was quickly dropped until 2003. The modern Volkswagen GTI was in production from 2003 through 2009 as the turbocharged hatchback for the fifth generation Golf.

The 2003 Volkswagen GTI is known for its sporty performance compared to the Golf, and for its small dimensions. It's a convenient vehicle for city driving. There were a handful of optional and standard editions for the 2003 model year.

The Range

Body Styles: hatchback
Engines: 1.8-liter four-cylinder, 2.8-liter V-6
Transmissions: five-speed automatic, five-speed manual, six-speed manual
Models: Volkswagen GTI 1.8T, Volkswagen GTI VR6, Volkswagen GTI 20th Anniversary Edition

What's New

The 2003 Volkswagen GTI celebrates its 20th anniversary with a special edition model. For 2003, the GTI remained much the same in style, but with a range of new standard and optional features. A three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel along with leather covering for the gearshift and the handbrake were added. It added backlit buttons to an upgraded CD sound system. The windshield wipers were upgraded. The VR6 version has standard 17-inch wheels new, and this is optional on the 1.8 Turbo model. Electronic Stability is now standard on the VR6 and optional on the turbocharged model. In 2002, it received a power boost, and this remained the same for the 2002 model year.


The 2003 Volkswagen GTI is a compact two-door with a somewhat angular body style for a hatchback. It has a long hood with a small grille and the VW logo in the center leading to a non-descript hatchback body. It measures only 164.9 inches overall. The base model comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, and the two upgraded version have optional 17-inch alloy wheels. Other exterior features include front suspension, power and heated mirrors, rear window wiper, rear window defroster, optional rain-sensing wipers on the VR6 only, fog lights on the 20th Anniversary model only, dual tailpipes, and the taillight lenses are slightly tinted. A spoiler is standard on the 20th Anniversary model only.


The 2003 Volkswagen GTI has seating for five with two upright front-bucket seats and a rear 60/40-split bench that folds down for more cargo space, totaling 41.8 cubic feet of cargo space when down. The front seats are roomy and the rear offers moderate room for two adults but is crowded with three. The instrument layout is simple with round displays and a stylish backlight. Some interior features include telescoping and tilt steering standard, auto-dimming rearview mirror optional on the VR6 only, standard power windows, locks, and air, standard remote keyless entry, standard power moonroof on the 20th Anniversary model and optional on other models, automatic temperature control on the VR6 only, and standard eight-speaker audio system with CD player standard and remote CD player optional on all models.

Performance & Handling

The 2003 Volkswagen GTI base model has a 180-hp, 1.8-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder, which generates 173 lb-ft of torque. The upgraded models have a 2.8-liter V-6 that gets 200-hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. The base 1.8T has a five-speed manual transmission and a five-speed automatic Triptronic auto-manual is available. The upgraded models have a six-speed manual only. Both models can be quick and fun to drive, and handling feels sporty. The ride can get rough on imperfect surfaces and tight turns will jostle passengers a bit.


The 2003 Volkswagen GTI's safety features include standard front-impact and side curtain-type airbags and all-disc anti-lock brakes.

EPA Fuel Economy

Volkswagen GTI: 22/29 mpg city/highway

You'll Like

  • Performance
  • Handling
  • Fuel economy
  • Convenient dimensions

You Won't Like

  • Exterior style
  • Low quality interior on base models
  • Few standard features

Sum Up

A fun and fuel efficient vehicle with a dated body style.

If You Like This Vehicle

  • Acura RSX
  • Chrysler Sebring
  • Ford Mustang

See the New 2015 GTI.

Front & Driver Side View

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