By Asian Journal Auto Editor
A pioneer of the hot hatch segment, the Volkswagen Golf GTI is one of the most revered hot hatchbacks on the planet and is still formidable competition to any car in its class. And I should know having owned a series of these jewel-like wonders in my automotive life. The Golf has largely stayed true to its mission as a well-rounded, attainable, performance hatch for over four decades. The Golf is still a looker, with its clean, purposeful, dynamic, yet restrained appearance. The gentle curves offset by aggressive front and rear fascias. The GTI’s trademark red accents, GTI grille, larger wheels and subtle badges are the only giveaways from a regular Golf. For 2019 GTI has a horsepower bump up to 228 courtesy of a turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder engine engaging the front wheels through a standard 6-speed manual gearbox, or an optional DSG 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. Also added are bigger brakes, and a limited slip differential, which were part of last year’s optional GTI performance package.
The Golf GTI ranges in price from a reasonable $30,845. We tested a beautiful looking 5-door Cornflower blue GTO Rabbit Execline edition (base MRSP $35,395) with the added dynamic chassis control with driver-adjustable suspension, steering, and engine control settings to the base GTI. It also includes black Pretoria 18-inch wheels, black mirror caps and spoiler, adaptive LED headlights, and Rabbit badging, the GTI Rabbit Edition’s standout features are the Clark plaid seat upholstery. Bluetooth connectivity, six standard airbags, electronic stability control, Sirius satellite radio, fog lights and dual-zone climate control all come standard.
The GTI comes standard with a number of safety aids. Active safety features and driving aids come in a $1,750 driver assistance plus package that adds forward-collision avoidance with pedestrian detection and automatic braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and lane assist, automatic high-beams, adaptive cruise with stop-and-go, and park assist with park distance control. The DSG transmission adds another $1,400 as well.
Inside, the materials and surfaces are of mostly high quality and the controls are straightforward to use. The 8 inch touchscreen has excellent graphics. It is a largely black interior with very nice metal accents. Supported is both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a great-sounding nine-speaker Fender stereo. There is dual-zone climate, while the rear seats are reasonably spacious for adults and the cargo area is a useful size as well. The GTI has a large cargo area and head- and legroom.
In my opinion the GTI is still one of the most fun ways to get around with its super stiff body, solid chassis and firm direct steering. It just feels so right and planted. The car is still as nimble and quick as all GTI’s have been. Drive the GTI hard and you still can’t fault its excellent handling. High speed cornering is also a revelation as the GTI grips to the road like glue and remains stable and composed. Add the traction control system, anti-locking brakes and a stability control system and it is a car that will try its best to keep you out of trouble. The DSG is a good option as a fast quick smooth auto that can shift as quickly as a manual transmission. Up and down shifts are smooth, well-spaced and happen seamlessly quickly. The Dynamic Chassis Control, standard on the Rabbit model, allows you adjust the suspension firmness along with additional settings for the engine, steering, stability control intervention, and the limited-slip differential. The sport setting firms the ride up, sharpening the car’s cornering responsiveness. The normal setting fine for every day cruising while individual mode allows drivers to tailor suspension firmness along with steering assist and throttle response. To help it grip the road, the Golf GTI also comes with a limited-slip differential, pretty essential for exiting corners quickly.
Despite the emergence of some serious competition in the hot hatch segment, with bigger power outputs, the Golf GTI remains a desirable option for those who want pure unadulterated fun in a versatile hatchback that has millions of fans. Volkswagen is selling just 900 GTI Rabbit Editions in Canada for the 2019 model year, so get to the dealership fast…like a Rabbit!
2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI Rabbit Execline: priced from $35,995. Price as tested with options: freight, PDE -$37,145. More info at www.vw.ca