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2020 Volkswagen GTI Performance

#1 out of 12 in Compact Cars

U.S. News Best Price Program

2020 Volkswagen GTI Performance Review


Performance: 8.7

The 2020 Volkswagen GTI gets the job done for your daily commute, but it can be so much more than that. The turbo-four engine feels energetic in any driving situation, and its buttoned-down handling makes it incredibly fun to drive. Ride quality suffers a bit over uneven pavement, however, and most other compact cars are better on gas.

  • "The GTI's potent powertrain, exceptional handling and well-tuned chassis make for a fun, confident ride." -- Autotrader
  • "The Golf GTI, meanwhile, remains one of our favorite cars to drive. Few vehicles combine practicality and performance as good as this one. In addition to its extra horsepower over the standard Golf, it boasts phenomenal brakes that are from the Golf R and a taut suspension; the Golf R-derived VAQ limited-slip differential improves cornering performance. Kudos also go to the GTI's manual transmission (an automatic is optional) that will make you remember why you love to find a road and just drive." -- Kelley Blue Book (2019)
  • "A true hot hatch, the GTI begs to be driven hard and rewards the driver with good grip, slight tail-slide, and predictable inputs. It's a total blast with no undue influence of engine power on the steering and awesome traction from the limited-slip front differential." -- Edmunds (2018)

Acceleration and Power

The GTI features a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 228 horsepower. With this turbo-four, the GTI feel energetic whether you're scooting off the line or weaving through highway traffic.

A six-speed manual transmission comes standard, and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is available. The automatic transmission occasionally hesitates when shifting, but both gearboxes pair well with the engine.

The GTI gets an EPA-estimated 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway when equipped with the manual transmission. Those are some of the lowest ratings in the class.

  • "There are hotter hatches out there (the … Honda Civic Type-R, for example), but the GTI offers the perfect amount of power for public highways." -- Autotrader (2019)
  • "Although the 6-speed DSG transmission will deliver slightly faster acceleration times, the 6-speed manual gearbox makes the GTI driving experience all the more engaging. The golf-ball-topped shifter snicks lubriciously with short throws through positive gates. Clutch action is on the light side and a bit long in travel but not numb and once mastered, easy to modulate." -- New York Daily News (2018)
  • "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

This VW is one of the sportiest small cars you can buy (outside of the sports car class, anyway). It's agile and composed on winding roads, and the responsive steering helps you feel in control. The ride is a bit firm, but it's not uncomfortable as long as the pavement is smooth.

You can choose between three modes (Normal, Sport, and Individual) that alter driving dynamics to your liking. The optional Autobahn package adds an upgraded suspension with adaptive damping and a fourth driving mode (Comfort). Front-wheel drive comes standard. All-wheel drive is not available.

  • "The GTI rides 0.6 of an inch lower than the run-of-the-mill Golf, so spring rates are a little stiffer, but not enough to be a deal-breaker. And anyway, the adaptive damping system in the top trim offers a range of settings. The GTI also has quicker steering than its regular counterpart, so that makes it feel more eager and direct." -- Autotrader (2019)
  • "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 S model uses conventional gas shocks, not the adaptive dampers of the Autobahn model, but tamps vertical body motions skillfully without making the car feel jouncy. 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." -- New York Daily News (2018)
  • "The chassis is perfectly on the edge of too stiff. All body motions are tight and controlled, and I only winced a few times when crossing over harsh pavement. Normal bumps are muted in the cabin, which is surprisingly quiet all the way around. There's a teeny bit of wind noise, but that can only be heard with the radio turned off." -- Autoweek (2018)
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2020 Volkswagen GTI

MSRP: $28,595 - $37,295

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