Stick Shift: VW GOLF GTI

I’ve been behind the wheel of a good number of cars as an auto journalist. Some I’m sad to see go, others not so much. Of the numerous Golf GTI’s I’ve driven over the years, each one has fallen firmly into the category of cars I hate to give up. The Golf has developed an incredible following of admirers over the span of its long life. For 2018, that group is only bound to grow, as the new GTI is still one of the best performance compacts for the money out there. Better even than some famous competitors like the Civic SI.

While not as all-wheel-drive rally inspired as the Golf R, the GTI is still the sporty version of the standard Golf, and reminds you of it with each chance afforded. In 2018, with the retirement of the Sport version, every GTI has inherited each one of those 10 extra ponies. Total is now up to 220 hp, still streaming from that enthusiastic 2.0L turbo four. While this number may not cause any auto enthusiast reason to pause and re-read, anyone who’s driven the GTI knows that its strength doesn’t lay in its power output alone, but in the remarkable balance Volkswagen has achieved with the Golfs finely tuned chassis, extremely competent powertrain and tight yet magically comfortable suspension set-up.

Though I’ve always liked the way the Golf GTI looks, I do wish Volkswagen would make a bigger effort to get the exterior design more caught up with the top notch driving experience of the Golf. The new model year continues with the familiar shape and easy to recognize silhouette. Changes for 2018 come in the form of lighting upgrades and a revised front fascia. The red brake calipers, unique Wheel design and GTI specific front grille remain as the clear indicators that this is a Golf a cut above most.

The interior remains largely unchanged as well. Uncluttered and well made. Handsomely organized in true German fashion. The plaid cloth seats remain a favorite design feature of mine. Just funky enough, in a way that only VW could execute so well. Another favorite element of the interior space is the flat bottom steering wheel. What can I say, I melt for these and am always left wondering why more manufacturers don’t incorporate them in their sport cars.

I’m eager to see how the already iconic VW Golf GTI will evolve in the future. Right now it seems to have struck a perfect balance between practical and passionate. As a daily driver, it couldn’t be a better choice, offering an affordable, performance focused, blast to drive hard and easy to drive soft vehicle option for practically everyone. Not pretentious or assuming, just an all around smart choice worth anyones strong consideration.

By: Brandon Randall

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