Everyone’s favorite hot hatch gets a new, no-brainer trim.
– Detroit, Michigan
In a previous life, I was the caretaker of a 2015 Volkswagen GTI that was, to me, perfectly optioned. The base S trim came with heated seats (in plaid, of course), and even with optional xenon headlights, still cost under $28,000. Sure, higher-grade SE and Autobahn trim levels added more luxury to the GTI, but I never found that necessary. The beauty was the simplicity of a refreshingly affordable GTI.
For 2017, Volkswagen bundles a lot of these optional features together – meet the new Sport trim, which offers goodies like a performance pack and xenon lights as standard, as well as previously unavailable (on the base trim) amenities like pushbutton start, a backup camera, and unique 18-inch wheels. The end result is a GTI that only costs $920 more than my ideally optioned 2015 example – $28,815, all in. GTI fans, meet your new perfect spec.
- Performance Pack GTIs feel ever so slightly better to drive than the base examples, which is to say VW took an already-great car and made it a teensy bit more fun. You won’t really feel the extra 10 horsepower – instead, you’ll notice the pack’s upgraded brakes (the same units as the racy Golf R) and limited-slip front differential. With 220 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque on tap from Volkswagen’s 2.0-liter turbo-four, the GTI isn’t as potent as a Ford Focus ST or Subaru WRX, but it’s more efficient, and still plenty gutsy when called upon. The GTI feels light on its feet, with nicely weighted steering and quick reflexes. But it’s a sports car that won’t punish you when you’re just driving to the grocery store.
- Even beyond its driving demeanor, the GTI is the hot hatch I’d want to use and live with day in and day out. To me, cars like this are only as good as the models they’re based on; would you rather live with a standard Focus, Impreza, or Golf? Volkswagen’s fit-and-finish just feels a little more premium than the competition, with better ergonomics and more comfortable appointments. And unlike the Focus, the GTI’s seats actually fold flat, allowing for better hauling – hot hatches are about fun and function, remember.
- Never mind the bright red paint, it’s easy for a car like the GTI to slide under the radar. I like that it doesn’t look overly flashy or unnecessarily aggressive, like a Focus ST or the upcoming Honda Civic Type R. It’s the sort of hot hatch you can bring home to mom. Plus, plaid seats!
- Every version of the MkVII GTI used to come with a cool set of recessed, vertically oriented foglights. You can’t get these on the Sport. No, they aren’t super effective as far as foggy lighting is concerned, they just look cool. I miss them.
- Despite the Sport being well-equipped compared to the old base car, it still lacks a number of features. If you want a sunroof, navigation, automatic headlights, premium audio, or the Driver Assistance Pack, you have to step up to SE or Autobahn trims that also force you to ditch the plaid cloth seats and get leather instead. I’d still buy the Sport, for sure, but integrated navigation would definitely be a nice à la carte option here – of course, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Photos: Jake Holmes / Motor1.com