The Volkswagen Golf GTI has a long lineage of making drivers very happy and while the 2021 version will soon be replaced by the venerable model’s next generation, it is nonetheless a crowd pleaser.
It is a combination of stylish design, relative affordability and being a darn hoot to drive – especially when outfitted with the six-speed manual transmission in our tester.
All that for under $40,000, before taxes.
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Not a bad deal for a pretty punchy and dynamic little hatchback that is also loaded with features, including Dynamic Chassis Control (adaptive dampers), performance brakes, adaptive LED headlights, panoramic power sunroof, adaptive cruise control and much more.
Powertrain: Helping ensure that driving fun is a smooth 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that propels the GTI with 228 horsepower and 258 ft-lb of torque. Those are excellent numbers for a vehicle this size.
And the six-speed manual, with the perfectly appropriate golf ball style gearshift knob, is as smooth as butter as you move your way through the gears.
It’s a near-perfect combination and really the best way to enjoy the GTI despite the available automatic transmission.
But perhaps I was having a little too much fun with the GTI as my fuel economy average was 11.1 litres per 100 kilometres, well off the VW estimate of 9.1 L/100 km.
Exterior: In a world of drab colours, the GTI tester was a welcome change!
Walking the dog around the neighbourhood, it is a sea of grey, black and white vehicles, so turning the corner and seeing the bright Cornflower Blue of the GTI really stood out.
Nicely contrasted against the exterior paint are black exterior mirrors and rear spoiler, as well as the 18-inch Belvedere alloy wheels.
The bright red stripe in the front grille that bleeds into the headlight assemblies is also a very nice finishing touch on an elegant front fascia.
The red brake calipers peaking out from the wheels add to the sporty appearance.
It’s a tiny but stylish and well put together package.
Interior: Red makes even more appearances inside the GTI as accent stitching on the flat-bottomed steering wheel and leather seats, and for the interior ambient lighting.
While small, the cabin never feels cramped, and the front sport seats offer excellent support as you enjoy the GTI’s agile performance.
The layout of the controls and dials is clear and neat, with a mix of large dials and buttons for all the climate controls.
Rear passengers get a decent amount of space for a hatchback, with the back bench featuring a centre armrest and pass-through, and a 60/40 split and fold option.
The cargo compartment is not overly large, but does offer a variable load floor, and comes with a cover to keep items out of view.
Infotainment: Capping the clean look of the cabin is the 8.0-inch infotainment screen. While many functions are accessed through on-screen pop-up menus, key functions are easily handled through buttons and dials on either side of the crisp screen.
The menus and interface are excellent, as is response time.
It features wireless connectivity for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as satellite radio and navigation.
The GTI is also equipped with a Fender premium audio system, featuring eight speakers and a subwoofer to deliver sweet tunes.
Drive: There’s not very much to dislike about how the GTI drives.
It checks off pretty much all the boxes: Power, handling, agility, and responsiveness.
Throw in the manual shifter, and it is no wonder the GTI is a hit with any driving enthusiast.
Yes, the cabin did feel a bit noisy on the highway, but that was easily handled by turning up the volume on the Fender system.
Conclusion: While some consumers will likely wait around to see what the 2022 GTI has to offer, the outgoing model is no slouch and shouldn’t be neglected. Heck, you may even be able to get one at a steal if any are left on the lot when the next gens arrive.
2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI
Price as tested: $38,305.00
Configuration: Front engine/front-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo/ 6-speed manual
Power/torque: 228 horsepower/ 258 ft-lb of torque
Fuel (capacity): Regular (50 L)
Combined fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): 9.1 L/100 km
Observed fuel economy (L/100 km): 11.1 L/100 km
Warranties: 4-years/80,000 km (basic)
Competitors: Honda Civic Si/Type R, Hyundai Veloster N, Subaru WRX
Link: Volkswagen Canada