The sporty 2019 Volkswagen GTI hatchback earned top marks in the latest IIHS crash tests and qualified for the organization's top award when equipped with extra-cost headlights and collision-prevention gear.
The 2019 GTI earned "Good" ratings in every crash test, save for an "Acceptable" in the passenger-side small overlap front test. Those score were good enough to help the VW GTI qualify for a Top Safety Pick award. Top Safety Pick+ winners must earn a "Good" rating in the passenger-side test.
The optional automatic emergency braking system avoided crashes at 12 mph and 25 mph, and the forward-collision warning system also meets NHTSA criteria.
Like so many vehicles the IIHS tests, the GTI was let down by its headlights. Only the optional LED headlights, which come standard on GTI SE, Rabbit Edition, and Autobahn trims, earned an "Acceptable" rating, which helped the car make the cut for a Top Safety Pick. The base headlights, however, are rated "Poor" for their subpar illumination in numerous tests.
It's worth noting the VW Golf on which the GTI is based earned the same crash test ratings but failed to earn a Top Safety Pick due to its weak standard headlights. The same scenario played out for the related Golf Alltrack and Sportwagon models. The GTI is the first VW to earn an award from the IIHS so far this year.