The term “hot hatch” is thrown around so much nowadays that it’s sometimes difficult to remember the origin of the term. Every few years or so, Volkswagen reminds us by releasing a new GTI, like the seventh generation version of the famous hatchback initially introduced this time last year.
I wouldn’t fault you if at first glance you can’t discern the differences between the redesigned Mk VII and the one previous. The great thing about Volkswagen is that the majority of their vehicles retain an identifiable family lineage as you look at the offerings throughout the years, rather than choosing to reinvent the wheel each time. The hood is more raked, and it’s
grown in size a little (53.3 millimetres in length, 12.7 mm in width), but the car has still managed to shed some weight – approximately 37 kilograms – a commendable feat in today’s automotive world.
My press car was the 2015 GTI Autobahn 5 Door in Carbon Steel Metallic, which includes some extras like a big panoramic sunroof. There are several references to past GTI glory like a red stripe that runs across the bi-xenon headlights and red accent stitching in the interior. The rooftop mast antenna didn’t make the cut, unfortunately, replaced by a stubby “diversity” antenna. My vehicle came with the Leather Package ($1,095) black sport seats and, while nice, don’t hold the same kind of emotional appeal as the “Clark” plaid covering.
The whole thing about the original hot hatches was their ability to be pedestrian and practical when you needed those qualities, and then turn around and put a grin on your face when the road opened up. The current GTI does that, and in an elegant, grown up manner – at night, soft ambient lighting greets you when you open the door to sit inside; there’s plenty of legroom to go around: 1,046 mm in the front and 903 in the back; a 5.8” touchscreen handles your entertainment and route-planning needs ($695 Technology Package). The graphics look dated, but the system is intuitive and quick compared to units found in other makes.
Now for the good stuff. Power delivery comes by way of a 210-horsepower TSI engine with 258 lb-ft of torque, greater than the Mk VI by 10 hp and 51 lb-ft. The seventh-gen is built
on an all-new platform, making it stronger, lighter and more rigid than ever before. Throw in the lowered sport suspension and bigger anti-roll bars that the GTI receives over standard Golf models, and you have one quick, well-handling machine.
The GTI was never about overwhelming, raw performance, but the plain ol’ fun driving experience. You’ll understand when you sit in the supportive bucket seat, place your hands on the D-shaped steering wheel and downshift into a corner by giving a quick tug on the six-speed DSG’s paddle shifter. The substantially increased torque that this 2.0-liter turbo mill makes comes on at a low 1,600 rpm, causing quick, full-on acceleration.
Long live the hot hatch. The 2015 Volkswagen GTI Autobahn 5 Door starts at $34,295.
Price as Tested: $34,295 (base)
Engine: 2.0L four-cylinder TSI
Power: 210 @ 4300 rpm
Torque: 258 @ 1600 rpm
Gearbox: Six-speed DSG
Layout: Front engine,
Fuel Consumption: 9.3L/100 km city/highway combined (observed)