- Balanced handling
- DSG gearbox
- Quality interior
- Somewhat plain exterior styling
- Not as powerful as some of the competition
- Can grow pricey with options
It isn't the fastest or flashiest sporty hatchback around, but the 2012 Volkswagen GTI may well be the most balanced, carrying forward its legacy into the 21st century.
Volkswagen's GTI was once the benchmark for the hot hatch, but in recent years has been challenged from all quarters. While the GTI retains its conservative styling, attention to detail, and overall fun demeanor, it is now outpaced by others in terms of power, style, and handling. For 2012, the situation doesn't improve, as the newest year model carries forward from 2011 essentially unchanged.
That's not all bad, however, as the 200-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged TSI powerplant sticks around, and both two-door and four-door body styles do too. A new Convenience and Sunroof package available on the base GTI adds tilt/slide sunroof, leather-trimmed steering wheel, and the Premium VIII touchscreen stereo system with in-dash CD-changer to the mix.
Both manual and DSG dual-clutch six-speed transmissions are available, with the DSG offering quick paddle shifts and a convenient automatic mode. The manual gets a gas mileage rating of 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway, while the DSG improves that to 24 mpg city and 33 mpg highway--while taking a few tenths off the manual's 0-60 mph time.
Visually, the 2012 Golf gets an update to LED daytime running lights and new 10-spoke 18-inch wheels on GTI Autobahn models, while the GTI with Sunroof and Navigation trim adds just the LED daytime running lights. The rest of the lineup stays the same as last year.
Interior quality is generally good, with textured plastic and soft-touch surfaces throughout. The plaid seats carry on GTI tradition, and are generally comfortable, if a bit soft and flat for sporty driving. Space isn't exactly abundant, especially in two-door models, but the 2012 GTI will hold more than you might expect given its compact, sleek exterior.
Ranging in base price from $23,695 to $30,434, the GTI competes with a wide range of hatchbacks, including potent ringers like the Mazdaspeed3 and smaller, sportier models like the MINI Cooper range. Nonetheless, the GTI's combination of features, style, and performance has proven successful. the 2012 model should carry that success forward, with six standard airbags, electronic stability control, a touchscreen sound system, and 18-inch alloy wheels all part of the standard package. Available Bluetooth, navigation, iPod connectivity, and Dynaudio premium sound offer several upgrade paths.
The 2012 VW GTI hasn't been fully tested by the NHTSA, but the four-door model does get a four-star rollover resistance rating. The IIHS, on the other hand, rates all models of the 2012 GTI at its top rating of "good," and awards a Top Safety Pick to the four-door models.