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King of Hot Hatches: 2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI Automatic

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Most car enthusiasts don’t have a sense of practicality – as long as it has a steering wheel, four wheels, and goes fast – does anything else really matter? However, in the world of ordinary; life with groceries, passengers, and traffic – sometimes a little bit of sense can ease us through these troubling times. The Golf GTI is our problem solver.

Anybody who knows anything, already knows how amazing the GTI actually is. It’s won Car of the Year through multiple channels. It’s the common dominator. Want a fun-to-drive family car that can haul the dog, get a GTI. Need a car that can carry things in the back while taking corners like Tanner Foust, get a GTI. Want plaid seats with a golf ball shifter, get a GTI.

The GTI is the answer to everyone’s wish list. In fact, our entry level base S is about everything one would need. What about Navigation? Nahhhh – it has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Our base S even had partial power seats, heated seats, rear a/c vents, back-up camera, and a G-Meter – oh yeah! It’s about the cheapest thrill on the market costing just over 26-grand. And despite our love affair for the third pedal and a golf ball knob shifter, our sampler was equipped with the $1100 six-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic that shifts faster than we can process a thought.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine found in our GTI S chugs out 210-horsepower. Opting for the next in Line SPORT does add 10-more ponies to the front wheels as well as upgraded brakes and a VAQ Differential. And if you really want something that sounds expensive, the Autobahn might be right up your alley with Dynamic Chassis Control. Despite the lack of all the bells and whistles, our base S is where it’s at and features all the typical GTI necessitates – the red lip gloss in the front, 18-inch alloys in the middle and dual exhausts in the back.

Through some clever footwork, the GTI can lay down some rubber in just over six seconds to 60 mph – no help from the launch control or the difficult to disengage traction control system. Handling that much power through the front wheels generally applies torque steer, but here, the GTI manages its power effectively and controllably. The 258lb-ft of torque pulls the GTI quickly and even in 6th gear, it manages to pull away when cruising at highway speeds. In the automatic form, the ratio between gears is long and even though it revs to 5800 rpms, it will continue past the red line in manual mode that emits a throating sound. With upshifting from the steering wheel paddle shifters, the exhaust belches a little gurgle that sounds almost as cute as a mouse coughing.

The chassis of the Golf has always been fantastic – here, it’s even better. It feels tighter with more composure. It’s stiff enough to resemble sturdy build quality, with no noticeable twist or flex when driving aggressively. Even with big rims and sport tuned suspension system, the GTI maintains a comfortable balance in its ride quality – something we don’t see from other sport inspired cars. Everything about the GTI works fluidly – the quick, nimble steering provides a connection and well-balanced control. It’s easy to park and there is sense of eagerness and engagement to where we can feel where the wheels are pointing at all times.

And then theres the sensible side of the GTI – it’s a useable car for everyday life. During our 250 mile MPG run, cruising at 75 MPH we managed to average just over 31 MPG – even after our lead foot took over in some of the twisty bits of the highway. It has a quiet cabin and at 75 mph there is no major road or tire noise. This is the kind of car you can take on a road trip and never get tired.

Inside, it’s very typical Golf – the black faux carbon fiber panels says a little different – as well our sport designed seats and red accent strip lighting. But otherwise, it’s a simple Golf with touch screen infotainment and overall comforting atmosphere. Being that it’s still a sensible hatch, passengers have adequate leg room in the rear and commodious trunk space for things.

We found it difficult to find anything we didn’t like about the GTI – however, the quality of the interior kept coming up in discussion. For its price tag, the fabric of the seats felt like the kind of fabric used on lawn furniture. Even on a mid-level trimmed Golf 1.8T, door panels, arms rest and such are covered in a leatherette or vinyl material that adds a premium feel – the GTI S uses that same rough material found on the seats that give it a cheaper feel and appearance.

Despite our small complaint, the GTI is the do-all, be-all hatch of the century. Competitors like the Kia Forte5 and Ford Focus ST aspire to be as good as the GTI, but really their just a mere spec in the GTI’s rearview mirror. The GTI is the king of Hot Hatches and no one yet has gotten close to stealing that crown.

Vehicle Specifications:
2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI Base Price w/ Automatic: $26,695
As Tested (including Options & Destination): $27,515
Performance Specs:
2.0-liter Turbocharged Four-Cylinder – 210-Horsepower, 6-Speed (DSG) Dual-Clutch Automatic Transmission – 0-60MPH: ±6.0 seconds
EPA MPG: 24/32/27 (City/Highway/Combined) – SSB Average:  22.3 MPG’s – Fuel Range: ±335 Miles


  1. A sensible hatch with a G-meter? I guess anything’s possible! I would only get one of these if I could be promised there was available apparel in same plaid those seats are wearing.

  2. Toughest job in the world, project leader for the MkVIII. Current Sport trim is the sweet spot, but sounds like the mid cycle refresh will considerably change what the trims get. I understand the tartan/plaid comments, but I would even forego the Autobahn/SE lumbar support to have them, no explicable reason. Seriously awesome car, only reason I sold mine (MKVI) was because I wanted some RWD experience. The eternal question though, is it worth getting the R instead?

    • I think the Sport trim would be perfect combo too. The extra power would really spice things up and having a few of the extra features would be nice. The seats definitely can be lived with – its not a deal breaker – just only wished they used a more premium fabric. I haven’t driven a Golf R but the few I have say that the GTI is plenty. If it’s anything like the Focus RS, I would agree – the GTI is plentiful fun for the day-to-day. But for the track, the Golf R may be the more appropriate alternative.

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