Volkswagen's energetic GTI hatchback coupe comes in two forms: with either a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder or a 2.8-liter V-6. An offshoot of the two-door Golf hatchback, the GTI carries on the tradition of affordable "pocket rockets" by providing performance in a small, high-value package.
GTIs have been charter members of the Volkswagen lineup for two decades. Volkswagen's Electronic Stabilization Program, which uses yaw and position sensors, is standard on the VR6 (V-6-equipped) model and optional on the 1.8T. The GTI is a carryover model for 2005.
The GTI coupe measures 164.9 inches long overall, which is substantially shorter than the company's Jetta sedan. Each GTI is equipped with a sport suspension, darkened taillight lenses and dual tailpipes. Body-colored bumpers, mirror housings, side moldings, door handles and grille round out the exterior picture. Alloy wheels hold standard 16-inch tires on the 1.8T. The VR6 gets 17-inchers, which are offered as an option on the 1.8T.
The upright styling of the GTI allows occupants to sit more vertically than in most small cars. Space is adequate for four adults, though seating for five is provided. Height-adjustable rear headrests are standard. The area behind the rear seat holds 18 cubic feet of cargo, and the 60/40-split rear seatbacks fold for additional cargo space. Folding the seats creates 41.8 cubic feet of cargo area.
The instruments are backlit in a vibrant blue hue with red indicators, and the driver faces a sporty three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel. General Motors' OnStar communication system is optional.
Under the Hood
GTI buyers have two engine choices. A turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder in the 1.8T produces 180 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 173 pounds-feet of torque at 1,950 rpm. The VR6 model holds Volkswagen's narrow-angle 2.8-liter V-6, which generates 200 hp at 6,200 rpm and 195 pounds-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm.
A five-speed-manual gearbox is standard in the 1.8T, and a five-speed-automatic transmission with Tiptronic operation for manually selected gear changes is optional. Only a six-speed-manual gearbox is offered in the VR6.
Standard side curtain-type airbags protect the heads of outboard occupants in side collisions. Seat-mounted side-impact airbags, all-disc antilock brakes and daytime running lights are also standard.
Performance is most notable in the 1.8T with its 180-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder and Tiptronic automatic transmission. Having so much power at hand raises the fun quotient, and this hatchback's confident handling talents are even more appealing.
But be a little wary of the 17-inch tires in combination with the sport suspension. Even though the 1.8T's ride doesn't qualify as punishing, occupants do get tossed around more when the pavement gets rough. The ride remains pleasant on smooth surfaces, but small road imperfections can produce a jolt.