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2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI First Drive

The 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI is more powerful and efficient, we get behind the wheel.

What It Is
The 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI is a performance-oriented compact hatchback.
Best Thing
The suspension is excellent, manual transmission a delight, the GTI is a pure grin-inducing machine.
Worst Thing
5.8-inch media screen is the best you can get, for now, no GTI diesel equivalent yet.
Snap Judgment
The 2015 VW Golf GTI builds on the Golf's performance, style, and appeal. The seventh-gen is as good as any.


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The 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI is available as a three-door, or five-door hatchback, and regardless of which body you opt for, it'll be powered by a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, good for 210 horsepower, with a greater amount of low-end power than ever before. An optional Performance Package optimizes power distribution, and adds an additional 10 horses, making it possible now to drive off the dealer lot in a 220-horsepower GTI. Power is transmitted via a six-speed manual transmission, or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The manual transmission models offer a significant boost in fuel economy, gaining 4 mpg in both city and highway environments to 25/34 mpg city/highway, while GTI DSG models gain 1 mpg combined, and are rated at an EPA estimated 25/33 mpg city/highway.

The 2015 Golf GTI is offered in three trims, S, SE, and Autobahn. Entry-level GTI S models will start at $25,215, and come equipped with 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with red brake calipers, a rear spoiler, heritage cloth-seats with heating, leather wrapping on shift knob and handbrake lever, among other features. The entry-level S also comes with VW Car-Net connected services, and selectable driving modes.

The top-of-the-line Autobahn model we drove was equipped with the six-speed manual transmission--automatic is $1,100 more--and featured black leather seats, navigation, a Fender premium audio system, the Lighting Package, and Driver Assistance Package, and was priced at $32,105 after delivery. So what exactly did we think of the 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI?

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Walkaround

Walking up to the GTI, you're greeted by classic design cues accentuated by a few modernizing touches. The GTI's styling is iconic, and here, VW used a gentle touch for the latest generation. The headlights are more modern, the grille narrower, and there's a unique, differentiating red horizontal highlight on the grille. Unique 18-inch GTI wheels are standard and made more noticeable with prominent red brake calipers. The newest GTI is also lower, longer, and wider, though the changes aren't perceptible at a glance. The sporty aesthetic is enough to make you want to inspect the inside.

Sitting Down

Once inside, you're greeted by a modern, sporty cabin. The instrument cluster and center stack dials will look familiar, while a new, 5.8-inch media screen highlights the controls. While the screen will get the job done, even an entry-level Mazda3 comes with an attractive, 7.0-inch color screen. We've seen better from VW on European models, and we hope they make their way across the pond.

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The dash is soft-touch, and there's abundant carbon fiber-like design accents throughout. The golf-ball shifter falls nicely in hand, and the pedals are well spaced. The seats are sporty, firm, and feature prominent bolstering. While firm, they're still comfortable, though larger passengers may disagree. Two 12-volt adapters make sure you can stay connected and charging, and AC vents in back will keep rear passengers cool. Rear seaters will also find abundant head and knee room, but foot room is cramped. There's cargo room aplenty with the seats up, and they fold down for that snowboard or not-advisable-Ikea run.

Driving

For the 2015 Golf GTI, VW added 10 more horsepower to bump total output to 210 horses, but this GTI feels as quick and light as any we've driven, making that figure seem modest. Engineers were able to boost low-end power, likely aiding this impression. The new GTI is also riding on what may be the best suspension yet. Even in Sport mode, our GTI was very forgiving of road imperfections, while simultaneously keeping the driver connected. The same pure fun of driving, of shifting, and taking a corner with a little more enthusiasm than usual, pervades this car as. Acceleration is quick, there's plenty of power on command, and steering is responsive and in line with what we've come to expect of the GTI badge. For those wanting even more, an available Performance Package ($1,495) will optimize the way power is distributed, and add an additional 10 horsepower.

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Summary

The 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI represents the seventh generation of the automaker's hot hatch, and builds on 31 years of experience in the model's largest market. The new VW GTI is lighter, more powerful, more fuel efficient, and offers a greater level of standard equipment, all without sacrificing its fun to drive, sporty nature. GTI enthusiasts and those new to the model will delight in the combination of utility, performance, and value. If you're after a performance hatchback, the 2015 Golf GTI is a must-consider.

Basic Specs

2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine, six-speed manual transmission or six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters, front-wheel drive, 220-hp, starts $25,215, 24-25 mpg city/32-34 mpg hwy manual transmission/DSG automatic transmission

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