$19,357 - $26,205

2018 Volkswagen GTI Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 9.0

The Volkswagen GTI has a well-earned reputation as a sporty hatchback. For 2018, VW dials up the fun by increasing the horsepower rating of the base engine while continuing to offer both a manual and automatic transmission. Handling is sharp and nimble, but fuel economy is low.

  • "The 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI, especially in base S model trim, is for a driving enthusiast one of the best new-car propositions on the market today. It's an outstanding performance car value, delivering a truly engaging, organic driving experience." -- New York Daily News
  • "Overall, the driving dynamics of the 2018 GTI are very similar to those of the 2017—which is to say, excellent. It doesn't have the spastic turn-in and puppy dog eagerness found in, say, the Ford Fiesta ST, but performance is hardly lacking." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The 2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI lives up to its hot hatch heritage with sharp handling and steering, brisk acceleration, and a rather burly engine and exhaust note. These are all best exploited on a tight and twisting mountain road, where the GTI playfully bounds from curve to curve while instilling plenty of driver confidence. Though all GTIs are great fun to drive, it's worth upgrading to at least the Sport if you're planning to take on challenging roads or the occasional track day." -- Edmunds (2017)

Acceleration and Power

Under the hood of every 2018 GTI is a turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 220-horsepower, up from last year's 210-horsepower rating in the base trim. This engine is lively and quick, with no noticeable turbolag holding it back. It isn't very fuel-efficient, though. With a fuel economy rating of 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway, this is one of the thirstier compact cars in our rankings.

The standard six-speed manual transmission delivers fast, smooth shifts and is the best choice for driving enthusiasts. A polished but sometimes slow-to-respond six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is an $1,100 option.

  • "The bump in power found in the 2018 GTI is small enough that you won't likely notice a difference if you've spent any significant time in a previous MkVII version. Don't be let down, though: the GTI was already a close-to-perfect everyday performance car, and the 2018 lives up to that standard with aplomb." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Premium fuel is required to get the 220 ponies, although the car will run fine on unleaded regular. Mat the accelerator from rest and with reasonably crisp shifts, 60 mph is achieved in less than six seconds. The 2.0-liter turbo produces just enough organic intake moan and exhaust burble to sound interesting without becoming monotonous or intrusive. The GTI's rich well of low- and midrange torque provides satisfying response over a broad plateau, making the car as satisfying to drive around town or in traffic as it is when unleashed on a winding back road." -- New York Daily News
  • Either the slick-shifting manual or the well-executed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission is a good choice. Especially compared to traditional automatics, the DSG is quick and smooth, and its downshifts are perfectly rev-matched. However, we've found that DSG can be frustratingly slow to respond to gas pedal inputs when you want to accelerate quickly from a stop or when you're trundling along in heavy traffic." -- Edmunds (2017)

Handling and Braking

The front-wheel-drive GTI has exceptionally sharp handling, enhanced by precise steering and strong brakes. The suspension system is taut but not uncomfortably harsh, and the GTI feels planted in the corners. The standard drive mode selection comes with three settings – Normal, Sport, and Individual – and models outfitted with the optional adaptive dampers get an added Comfort mode.

  • "On the road is where the GTI's lively chassis and engaging dynamics immediately make friends with you. Despite the 0.6-inch lowered chassis compared to a standard Golf, ride quality is remarkably pliant. Upsized anti-roll bars tame body roll in hard corners without the side-to-side head toss of some other cars. … The variable-rate steering is quick but never tiring on long stretches or nervous on-center, and it offers precise control with natural effort buildup in turns. It delivers about as much feel as you can get in an electrically assisted system." -- New York Daily News
  • "Handling is agile and precise, but this generation feels less edgy than the previous GTI. The ride is firm, but it doesn't pummel you like competitors such as the Subaru WRX." -- Consumer Reports (2017)
  • The GTI rides much stiffer than the Golf, which degrades the car's ride quality some, but the payoff is heroic stability and grip around turns." -- Edmunds (2017)

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