When it comes to the “Hot Hatch” moniker, no other manufacturer has the clout of the famous Volkswagen GTI. Few vehicles offer the combination of practicality and fun that the GTI does. Throw a kayak in the rear on Sunday, load up your sample inventory for work on Monday. Moreover, you get the razor-sharp handling and German engineering VW is known for.
The GTI swaps the engine in the plain-Jane Golf for a 2.0L mill commonly found in Audi models. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine can be coupled to a DSG automatic-style transmission. However, our tester was equipped with a wonderful six-speed manual transmission complete with the “golfball” shifter — it even sports little dimples, just like a golfball! Horsepower comes in at 228, but the torque is even more impressive with the low-end grunt provided by the turbo huffing in the engine bay. It comes in at 258 lb-ft. All that power in a chassis that has been refined for over 40 years yields a great time!
The only question is, which GTI model is right for you? There are the usual three trims: S, SE and Autobahn. However, a new heritage-inspired Rabbit Edition will make older folks smile as they reminisce about the bunny from the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Rabbit slots itself between the S and SE trims, which is great for keeping the price reasonable for a limited-edition car. It is set apart with 18-inch gloss black alloy wheels, a black rear spoiler, LED headlights with Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS), black mirror caps, Rabbit-badged seat tags, red-stitched floor mats, keyless-entry with push-button start, Front Assist, Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Traffic Alert.
Those black accents that set off the Rabbit practically scream for window tint, so plan to have that done shortly after your purchase. The Rabbit edition is offered in only four colors: Cornflower Blue, Urano Gray, Pure White and Deep Black Pearl. My tester came in at a not-too-bad $29,790.
The Rabbit has everything you need to get you going, but it isn’t full of luxury amenities. To keep the cost down, the climate control has manual controls instead of an automatic setting. But both front seats do offer power recline and heating elements. The best part of the interior is the old-school Clark plaid tartan seat fabric. It lets you know you are sitting in something special with historic enthusiast value.
The VW infotainment system is simple and easy to use. However, it is lacking in the audio department. Some upper-level trims get the good Fender-branded audio system. The Rabbit edition makes do with a mundane six-speaker audio system. It should immediately be taken to an aftermarket specialist who can raise the quality of the system to match the engine and handling performance. A speaker upgrade for the front soundstage should be first on the bill, followed by amplification and a subwoofer that can be easily tucked away in the large hatch (for a vehicle of its size). At least the 6.5-inch touchscreen features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as well as a backup camera.
The Driving Mode Selection feature offers Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual settings. As you scroll through the modes, the steering weight and throttle response change. You can choose the settings you like best for Individual. And if you do fall in love with the practicality and fun of your VW, you will be pleased with the six-year, 72,000-mile warranty. To keep your Vee Dub looking fresh, we recommend some paint protection film around the front bumper and a quality ceramic-coating detail to keep it looking great for years to come. Some enthusiasts might run toward a Subaru WRX or Honda Civic Si. But once you hear the thud that the doors on the solid Golf platform make, you may be sold on German engineering for your hot hatch!