2010 Volkswagen GTI Review

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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
November 8, 2009

The 2010 Volkswagen GTI sits more upright, as usual-but its punchy turbo engine, crisp handling, and paddle-shifted gearbox are anything but stodgy.

The editors at TheCarConnection.com have driven the 2010 Volkswagen GTI to bring you this hands-on review of its styling, performance, features, safety and comfort. Along with the road test, editors researched opinions from other respected Web sites to bring you a comprehensive full review of the new VW GTI for 2010.

While its Golf companion undergoes a name change for 2010, VW's GTI stays pretty much the same for the new model year. Aside from the sheetmetal changes that accompany the new Golf lineup, the GTI retains its entertaining handling, sweet turbocharged engine, and available dual-clutch transmission, as well as a choice of three- and five-door hatchback body styles. The new GTI carries a base price of $23,290 and competes against the likes of the Honda Civic Si, MazdaSpeed3, and MINI Cooper.The 2010 Volkswagen GTI hatchbacks share the same basic styling as the lesser Golf-which is to say, upright and a little dowdy, compared to the likes of the Mazdaspeed3, though the three-door is the less frumpy of the pair. It's all in the details, distinguishing the GTI from the new Golf. The new wider grille gets a black honeycomb texture and a GTI badge, along with the traditional red-stripe outline. Black side skirts, new tail lamps, and a body-color hatchback-mounted spoiler hint at the performance under the newly creased hood. Inside the GTI, there are traditional plaid seats, a flat-bottomed three-spoke steering wheel in leather and aluminum with red stitching, and tidy GTI badges sprinkled around the cabin and on the deeply sculpted sport seats. The interior's been cleaned up for the new model year, and a big LCD screen dominates the center stack and controls a new audio setup. VW's distinct touch for high-quality interiors is evident here, with lots of richly textured plastic and soft-touch surfaces.

A single turbocharged 2.0-liter, 200-horsepower four-cylinder engine pulls the 2010 GTI up and away from the rest of the Golf lineup. The engine's a torque machine, putting out a wide, flat powerband that's not at all peaky as some turbos can feel. It's teamed with either a standard six-speed manual transmission or a dual-clutch six-speed gearbox, in which twin clutches alternate and pre-select gearchanges like an automatic, but with faster-than-manual shift speed and without a clutch pedal. The six-speed manual has a vague lever feel and a light clutch action; TheCarConnection.com prefers the dual-clutch transmission. It's entertaining to paddle through gears, and it delivers better acceleration and fuel economy. With the manual transmission, VW promises 0-60 mph times of 6.8 seconds and a 130-mph top end, along with 31/21 mpg fuel economy. With the dual-clutch gearbox, 0-60 mph comes in 6.7 seconds and fuel economy jumps to 32/24 mpg.

Handling is a strong point with the GTI. Its electromechanical power steering has a well-sorted feel, and the ride is taut, not jarring. The front strut and independent rear suspension absorb big bumps with nary a crash or bang, and braking on TheCarConnection.com's test car feels strong and controllable. The GTI adds to the stock Golf an electronic limited-slip differential called XDS, which helps it push through corners better by shifting power to the front wheel with more traction. The GTI wears 17-inch wheels with all-season tires that can be swapped out for slick, painted 18-inch wheels and summer tires.

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The 2010 GTI fits enthusiastic drivers well. The sport front seats are thickly bolstered and shift eight ways-though TheCarConnection.com's editors wish the three adjustment types (two levers and one big knob) could join up with each other in a mutually agreeable location. They offer plenty of head- and legroom, but tall drivers up front will cut into the legroom in back. There's a little less space back there than expected, and knee room in back can be an issue. Headroom is quite good, though an "easy entry" seat belt holder on two-door models doesn't make the climb into the back much easier. The GTI's rear seats get their own armrest and adjustable headrests, and fold flat to open up the cargo area to a considerable size. The upright shape and sizable glass areas give the GTI great visibility, and the feel isn't unlike that of the MINI Cooper.

The 2010 VW GTI hasn't been crash-tested yet, but as it's very similar to the prior Golf/GTI duo, it's likely to repeat the four-star ratings for frontal impact and five-star ratings for side impact from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and the Top Safety Pick designation awarded to it by the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). Standard features include six airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, and brake assist, as well as tire pressure monitors and active headrests. Rear side airbags are an option in the four-door GTI.

The 2010 GTI is on par with the tech-friendly competition in terms of features. All GTIs come equipped with 17-inch wheels and performance tires, high-capacity brakes, sport suspension, metal-trimmed pedals, and monochromatic exterior paint schemes-in addition to air conditioning, cruise control, and a rear defroster. Also standard are an eight-speaker, AM/FM/Sirius audio system with touchscreen controls, a six-disc in-dash changer and USB and Bluetooth connectivity. For 2010, the GTI offers a new 18-inch alloy wheel package, available with summer performance tires, and a navigation system with an SD slot, a 30GB hard drive for storage, and DVD playback. A premium 300-watt audio system is an option. An Autobahn package adds sport seats, leather trim, and a power sunroof.

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