2018 Volkswagen GTI

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MSRP: $26,415 - 36,170

2018 Volkswagen GTI Review

Spirited performance and appealing technology help make the 2018 Volkswagen GTI one of the best compact cars on the market. It also boasts plenty of cargo space and comfortable accommodations in its modern, upscale cabin.

8.9

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 9.6
Performance: 9.0
Interior: 8.6
Safety: 9.3
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Pros & Cons

  • Lively acceleration
  • Sharp handling
  • Excellent infotainment system
  • Comfortable, roomy, and upscale interior 

 

  • Poor fuel economy

 

New for 2018

  • Refreshed styling inside and out
  • Reshuffling of trim levels and standard features
  • Base engine now makes 220 horsepower
  • Six-year/72,000-mile warranty now standard

 

Is the Volkswagen GTI a Good Car?

The Volkswagen GTI is one of the best vehicles in the highly competitive compact car segment. Its peppy engine and agile handling make it one of the sportiest cars in the class. While it’s very fun to drive, the GTI also has a practical side with its spacious cabin, excellent technology, and good safety scores. In addition, the 2018 GTI’s warranty is twice as long as GTIs from previous model years. The downsides of this Volkswagen relate to cost, including below-average fuel economy and an above-average starting price.

Should I Buy the Volkswagen GTI?

Although the GTI’s high sticker price is a detractor to some, the comparably sporty Subaru WRX and Ford Focus ST cost about the same, and the Volkswagen Golf R is even more expensive. If your pocketbook can handle it, give the GTI serious consideration. This VW is known for its engaging driving dynamics. Also, its spacious, comfortable cabin showcases quality materials and a refined infotainment system.

Compare the GTI, WRX, and Focus »

Should I Buy a New or Used Volkswagen GTI?

The current GTI is part of a generation that began with the 2015 model year. VW has updated the GTI every year since. An updated infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a standard rearview camera, and additional driver assistance features are among the notable changes for 2016. For 2017, a Sport trim made its debut, and the two-door model was discontinued. 2018 models add a longer warranty, a more powerful base engine, reshuffled trims and standard features, and updated interior and exterior styling.

Unless the changes for 2018 are important to you, shop through the previous model years of the current generation to save some money. Check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts on used vehicles.

Compare the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Volkswagen GTI »
We Did the Research for You: 40 Reviews Analyzed

Our Volkswagen GTI review includes far more than just one person's opinion. We collected professional evaluations from 40 sources and combined them with concrete data like fuel economy estimates, safety features, and performance specs to help you make an informed buying decision. This 2018 Volkswagen GTI review uses applicable research and reviews from the 2015 through 2018 model years.

Why You Can Trust Us

The Best Cars team – a division of U.S. News & World Report – has been reviewing cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007. With more than 75 years of combined automotive experience, our editors, writers, and analysts rank a wide variety of new and used cars. Additionally, we publish up-to-date car news and issue three annual awards: Best Cars for the Money, Best Cars for Families, and Best Vehicle Brands. To keep our recommendations unbiased, we decline expensive gifts from carmakers, and a third party handles our advertising.

How Much Does the Volkswagen GTI Cost?

For 2018, Volkswagen Golf GTI starting prices range between $26,415 and $36,170. That's significantly higher than the average starting price of a new compact car, which is closer to $19,000. However, it's in the same neighborhood as retail prices of the Subaru WRX and the high-performance Ford Focus ST. Keep in mind that these are only the suggested sales prices. For great savings at your local Volkswagen dealer, check out our U.S. News Best Price Program. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our VW deals page.

Volkswagen GTI Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Volkswagen GTI or Volkswagen Golf?

The GTI isn't the only performance-oriented model in the Volkswagen Golf family. The sport-tuned Golf R has similar handling dynamics to the GTI, but it has more power and all-wheel drive (unavailable in the GTI). While the GTI costs $6,400 more than the regular Golf, it costs $13,000 less than the Golf R. The Golf R also boasts high-end features like navigation, a performance data recorder, leather seats, and navigation. But you'll have to pay even more for these amenities. If you like the GTI’s spaciousness and practicality, but don’t care as much about performance, go for the standard Golf. If you want better performance than the GTI and don’t mind coughing up thousands more, consider the Golf R.

Which Is Better: Volkswagen GTI or Ford Focus?

Two performance variants of the Focus hatchback are available: the RS and the ST. With 350 horsepower, the RS is the stronger of the two, but its $41,120 starting price is steep. The ST has a more reasonable sticker price of $25,170. It also puts out more than 30 extra horsepower and has similar handling to the GTI, but the VW has a roomier back row and a more upscale cabin. Overall, the GTI is a better all-around car than either version of the Focus.

Which Is Better: Volkswagen GTI or Subaru WRX?

The Subaru WRX has a similar base price to the GTI, but unlike the VW, it comes standard with all-wheel drive. In addition, the Subaru's base engine is stronger. In terms of its interior quality, the WRX isn't as nice as the GTI. It has an outdated infotainment system, and its interior materials are lower quality. Go with the swankier GTI unless you want all-wheel drive.

Compare the GTI, Golf, and Focus »

GTI Interior

How Many People Does the GTI Seat?

The Golf GTI may be a hot hatch, but it's also a suitable people hauler. It offers spacious seating for five people, with supportive cushions that are comfortable for a full day of antics. Several compact cars stretch the back seat a little more, so if the rear of the GTI feels too pinched, you may want to consider a Volkswagen Jetta or Honda Civic instead.

GTI and Car Seats

It's relatively easy to install a child safety seat in the back of a GTI. Its LATCH hardware – which includes three tether anchors and two sets of lower anchors – is accessible and user-friendly.

GTI Interior Quality

Inside, the GTI looks and feels almost like a luxury car. Its styling is handsome and modern, and the interior is replete with premium materials that are soft to the touch.

GTI Cargo Space

The GTI's hatchback body style means you can carry more stuff in the back than you can with a sedan. Its cargo area measures 22.8 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 52.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. Adventurers who need even more room for gear should look in the back of a Volkswagen Alltrack, which has a 30.4-cubic-foot cargo hold.

GTI Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The base GTI comes standard with a sleek and responsive 6.5-inch touch screen. All other trims feature an 8-inch touch screen. Three smartphone integration systems are included (Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink), granting effortless access to many map and media apps from your phone. Overall, the system feels high-tech and user-friendly and gets a thumbs-up from test drivers.

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto? Then, see the Best Cars With Apple CarPlay and Best Cars With Android Auto.

Read more about interior »

GTI Performance

GTI Engine: Ready to Play

For 2018, every GTI comes with a 220-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which represents a power increase from last year's base powertrain. This engine sounds as good as it feels and delivers brisk off-the-line acceleration. There's no wrong choice when deciding between the standard six-speed manual transmission and the available six-speed dual-clutch automatic. Purists, no doubt, will prefer the fast-shifting manual gearbox.

GTI Gas Mileage: Not Very Fuel-Efficient

The GTI gets an EPA-estimated 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway with an automatic transmission. That's one of the lowest fuel economy ratings in the class (though few compact cars are tuned for performance as the GTI is).

GTI Ride and Handling: Precise and Responsive

The GTI is an athletic front-wheel-drive hatchback. Its suspension system leans toward the firm side – an optimal tuning for minimal body roll – and though it's stiffer than a regular Volkswagen Golf, the GTI never feels harsh.

Read more about performance »

GTI Reliability

Is the Volkswagen GTI Reliable?

The 2018 GTI has a predicted reliability rating of three out of five. That’s average for the industry as a whole, but most cars in this class earn better ratings.

Volkswagen GTI Warranty

Volkswagen expands its GTI coverage for 2018 with a six-year/72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. Previously, the GTI came with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

GTI Safety

GTI Crash Test Results

For 2018, the Golf GTI earns a perfect five stars for its overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It also gets the highest rating of Good in five crash tests and an Acceptable rating in passenger-side small overlap front test from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

GTI Safety Features

A rearview camera, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and an automatic post-collision braking system are standard safety features in the 2018 GTI. Available features include blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, park assist, automatic high beams, parking sensors with automatic braking, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring.

Read more about safety »

Which Volkswagen GTI Model Is Right for Me?

The 2018 GTI is available in three trim levels: S, SE, and Autobahn. All three come with the same 220-horsepower engine and the choice between a six-speed manual transmission (included in the base price) and a six-speed automatic (an $1,100 option).

Given the GTI's above-average starting price, some buyers may have reservations about spending even more on a higher trim. We have good news: The base S trim is already nicely outfitted with an appealing number of standard features. With its enhanced smartphone integration (which connects many mapping and entertainment apps to the GTI's touch screen), there's no need to pay more for a built-in navigation system.

Volkswagen GTI S

Standard features in the base GTI S include heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, an eight-speaker sound system, a 6.5-inch touch-screen display, smartphone integration (via Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink), rain-sensing windshield wipers, an automatic post-collision braking system, and a rearview camera. Prices start at $26,415. 

Volkswagen GTI SE

The $30,470 GTI SE comes with a sunroof, an 8-inch touch screen, satellite radio, HD Radio, keyless access with push-button start, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring.

Volkswagen GTI Autobahn

Added features in the top-of-the-line GTI Autobahn ($35,070) include leather seats, a 12-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, navigation, a Fender premium audio system, dual-zone automatic climate control, and adaptive cruise control.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local VW dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Volkswagen deals page.

See 2018 Volkswagen GTI specs and trims »

The Final Call

As far as hot hatches go, the Volkswagen GTI is one of the best. Its fun-to-drive demeanor is a result of its lively turbo engine, sharp steering, and nimble handling. This is not just a driver's car, though. The cabin treats passengers to roomy, relaxing seats, while entertaining everyone with a magnificent infotainment system. The GTI's starting price is higher than most other cars this size, but if you're in the market for a sporty compact car, you'll spend about the same on a GTI as you will on a Subaru WRX or Ford Focus ST.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "And, at its core, the GTI is still a Golf compact hatchback offering surprising people and cargo space and everyday usability. If you love to drive, and you love a good bargain, the 2018 GTI is too good to pass up." -- New York Daily News
  • "The GTI is such a well-balanced package of usable power, agility, comfort, practicality, class and affordability that it's pretty much the ideal car." -- Autotrader (2017)
  • "Taut, agile and quick, the latest version of Volkswagen's venerable hot hatch is fun to drive and so much more. The GTI is one of the most practical, easy-to-live-with choices among sporty cars. It's quiet and civilized enough that it doesn't wear you out on a long drive. The interior is very well finished, with luxurious materials, comfortable and supportive seats, and a comprehensive yet easy-to-use infotainment system. Now in its seventh generation, the GTI has matured into a capable, refined, and sophisticated piece of machinery with the latest electronic features." -- Consumer Reports (2017)
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