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2011 Volkswagen GTI Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2011 Volkswagen GTI was new.


Performance: 9.0

The 2011 Volkswagen GTI is the perfect ride for shoppers who want an impressive performer that doesn’t come with a high price tag and poor fuel economy. Even though it isn’t the fastest car in the class, the Volkswagen GTI’s turbo charged four-cylinder engine and smooth transmissions make it an impressive driver.

  • "Among the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars. All have outstanding grip in fast turns with quick, precise steering. The brakes deliver worry-free stops." -- Consumer Guide
  • "So VW doesn't catch one of its two chief competitors, the MazdaSpeed3 in terms of torque or horsepower, and its handling isn't as Formula One-edgy as the other, the Honda Civic Si. Instead, it's a smoother, more refined, better balanced hot hatch that still maintains the feeling of a relatively lightweight, cheeky little car." -- Motor Trend
  • "The GTI drives well no matter how you drive it. It's as if the car has a built-in mood sensor. Feeling calm? The GTI will cruise smoothly and quietly down the freeway. Feeling agressive? The GTI will attack your favorite curvy road like a demon tomcat. Whatever you want, the GTI delivers." -- About.com
  • "Drivability is the other main advantage the 2011 Volkswagen GTI has over other sport hatches. Output from the 2.0-liter turbo engine is smooth and linear, and that power is more manageable in the real world than that of more feisty rivals." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

There are other cars -- like the BMW 1-Series -- that beat the Volkswagen GTI when it comes to speed, but the GTI is still poses tough competition because of its on-road refinement. It has a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that produces 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. It comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed DSG automated manual is optional. The EPA estimates DSG-equipped models have the best fuel economy: 24/32 mpg city/highway. Models with the manual transmission achieve a little less: 21/31 mpg. 

The 2011 GTI is a great value, but the automotive press says enthusiasts may be disappointed. The Volkswagen GTI’s transmission is smooth and makes daily driving fun, but there are other small cars that have more powerful engines. 

  • “The GTI is still some 60 horses short of the engines found in the Mazdaspeed 3, the Chevrolet Cobalt SS, and the Subaru Impreza WRX, and acceleration is not likely to improve." -- Car and Driver
  • "Despite a slightly diesel-like coarseness just off idle, the 2.0T remains one of the most well-mannered four-cylinders on the road." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Despite some low-speed turbo lag, GTIs have quick acceleration and impressive highway passing punch. The manual transmission shifts with exemplary precision, but some testers would like shorter throws. The automatic shifts smoothly in automatic or manual mode.” -- Consumer Guide
  • "If your desire is a satisfying driver's car, then there is no question that the six-speed manual is the box to get. It's just more fun.” -- Autoblog
  • "Acceleration from a stop is impressive, but once at highway speeds the pulling power is diminished. That's expected though as the GTI is still a reasonably priced hot hatch and not a sports car.” -- AutoGuide.com

Handling and Braking

The Volkswagen GTI’s handling and braking receive higher remarks than its speed and power. Its steering is precise, responsive and well-engineered. The 2011 Volkswagen GTI has a standard XDS, which gently brakes the inside front wheel to increase traction in fast corners. This system is helpful because front-wheel drive cars often have difficulty gaining traction when accelerating out of curves.

  • "XDS not only rubs out any hint of torque steer, it does a remarkable job of limiting understeer -- even if you mash the throttle well before the apex of a corner." -- Car and Driver
  • "The GTI also comes with the most precise electronic power steering in the business, with a lightness and feedback that belies its system. Conversely, the brakes felt okay, but not solid and powerful like most German brake systems. Fade came too easily in mountain road sprint exercises." -- Motor Trend
  • "On the twisty country roads near Road Atlanta, our GTI testers handled flawlessly. The thick steering wheel gives incredible control with the optional 18-inch high-performance summer tires (and the car) reacting instantaneously to every input." -- AutoGuide.com

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