200 turbocharged horses and 207 lbs-ft of torque in a two-door hatchback with a 200 pound man behind the wheel. Ok…220. I’m driving the 2010 Volkswagen GTI, the sixth and latest generation of the German automakers beloved compact sports car. It’s a modern hot hatch which still draws upon its 1976 first generation roots (1983 for the US). It matches style and performance in a compact package which is as happy to be tearing up a winding mountain road as it is being employed as an efficient daily driver. The 2010 Volkswagen GTI is essentially the most comfortable and well-appointed go-kart you can buy. It handles as if the crafty engineers from VW laid down special Golf-only rails throughout the country. I turn the leather-wrapped steering wheel and the rubber-wrapped 18″ wheels go exactly where I want them to. To put the summer tires to the test, I woke up early and drove the Candy White GTI to the Little Tujunga Canyon Rd section of Los Angeles. It’s filled with tight twists, turns, gradient changes, long drops, and it’s an environment in which the GTI shines. It was tight and responsive providing me with a smile from start to finish (and back again). The 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder doesn’t sound as breathy as the versions found in its Audi cousins. However, it does a great job of providing power throughout the rev range. The 207 lb-ft of torque is available from 1,500 rpm up to 5,000 rpm. It’s practically diesel-esque in this regard, except the diesel version would have given up around 4,000. Connected to the engine is a six-speed paddle-shiftable DSG transmission. I
hate have a strong dislike for this six-speed DSG in most applications but I was pleasantly surprised with the unit while running through the canyon. Volkswagen typically offers quite friendly (read: sloppy) manual transmissions, and I feel that six-speed stick may have had me cursing as I hunted for the right gear. There is no hunting with the dual-clutch unit, just flip up on the right side or down on the left and keep my eyes peeled on the next corner.
The exterior of the 2010 Volkswagen GTI is a clear refinement of the previous generation. The lines of have been tightened up while the face has been smoothed out and the headlights swept back. To be honest, it reminds me of the local ladies here in Orange County. It has had a nip and a tuck, but the result works…so on second thought, it does not remind me of the local cat-face ladies. Overall, I am a big fan of the look achieved here, with one exception – the wheels. They come off as sort of a goofy caricature of normal wheels. It’s nothing a quick set of BBS LMs can’t fix. If the handling of the VW GTI is the shining highlight of the performance side of things then the interior is the design equivalent. The inside of this hot hatch is excellent. The level of fit and finish is superb and the whole package makes me feel like I am sitting in a far more expensive vehicle. The touchscreen system has one of the best looking displays in the industry. Everything is easy to read the the system is easy to use. The optional Dynaudio advanced sound system ($476) filled the compact car completely crisply and cleanly (+5 for alliteration). The 2010 Volkswagen GTI is the modern successor of a beloved German original. It is small (relative to modern cars), nimble, and truly a blast to drive. If you can keep your foot out of it from time to time, you will even see over 30 mpg on the highway. The base price for a GTI is $23,290 which is a great deal for a car that is so well put together. The car you see here however will ring the bell at $31,900. That is a steep price to pay for a sporty compact even for one such as this which is so well done. Looking over the options list however, I can find ways to bring that price back to Earth. The Autobahn Package costs $2,795 and adds partial-leather seat covering, a power sunroof, and front sport seats – Bis nachher! The six-speed DSG adds $1,100 – zur Hölle fahren! The Bi-xenon headlamps and aforementioned wheels add nearly $1,600 to the bottom line – raus aus meinem Auto! I just took about $5,500 away which would bring us to a price around the $25k mark, which means you can stop fussing with the salesperson and head to the F&I desk. The GTI is a go at that price. It looks good, drives wonderfully, and has one of the best interiors (at any price) you will find. The 2010 Volkswagen GTI is a hoon-machine in stylish, thrift-store clothing.