Since it shares the same basic body with the VW Golf, the 2011 Volkswagen GTI hatchbacks are upright and a little more dowdy than the hot hatches they want to beat around the next hairpin turn. The Mazdaspeed3 and Honda Civic Si sure look more sporty, don't they? The GTI grows on you anyway, particularly the three-door, which is a little less frumpy than the five-door. It has standard-issue Teutonic seriousness that the other lacks, and it's a substantially more expensive-looking hatch thanks to lovingly studied details--the louvers on the grille, the cutline around the rear doors and wheels, the very clarity of its shape as opposed to the visual chaos of the Mazda and the Honda.
To tell a GTI from a base Golf, you need some instinct for sporty styling details. The GTI adopts its usual black honeycomb grille and a GTI badge, framed in a thin red ribbon. Black side skirts, new tail lamps, and a body-color hatchback-mounted spoiler are other useful hints at the boosted performance under the creased hood.
The cabin opts for a little more showy style. Plaid seats carry on a GTI tradition, as does the flat-bottomed, three-spoke steering wheel that's trimmed in leather and aluminum and stitched with red thread. Tidy GTI badges are sprinkled on the deeply sculpted sport seats and elsewhere around the cabin. The big LCD screen dominates the center stack and is the single most advanced piece in the entire dash, and doesn't disrupt the sense that VW knows high-quality interiors, with all the GTI's richly textured plastic and soft-touch surfaces.