Performance – Over the last few years, the performance has definitely come back to the GTi. With 200hp and 207lbs-ft of torque from the 2.0L turbocharged direct injection engine, the GTi is no slouch. The model that I had the opportunity to drive had the 6 speed DSG dual clutch gearbox which is like a double-edged sword. I say that because when the car is moving the shifting is superb, honestly I can’t blink faster than the transmission can shift no matter how hard I try. That’s the good. The bad is that off the line, the transmission felt like it really didn’t know what to do until the turbo could built up some boost so it was just waiting around…. twiddling its thumbs…. checking its mail… and then when the turbo spooled up, the transmission could finally send all the power to the front wheels. Maybe this is more of a problem with the engine rather than the transmission but automated manual transmissions are known for not being the smoothest off the line. Around town in rush hour traffic it feels jerky when setting off from a stop, and I’m not talking about setting off like your pants are on fire, just casually setting off. A proper manual with a smooth left foot can do a much better job.
The handling of the GTi is very good. There’s minimal body roll and the suspension is responsive but also comfortable when going over bumps. If you’re more of an aggressive driver (like myself) and you throw the car around from corner to corner around a mountain pass, you can start to feel that the back end of the car want to step out of line rather than understeering towards the outside of the corner. I personally prefer a FWD car that has more of an oversteer characteristic rather than understeer because it makes the car feel more “lively” and the sound of screeching understeering tires to a driver sounds like nails on a chalkboard.
Comfort – Although the GTi is geared towards a more sporty driving experience, it is actually a very comfortable car to be in. The semi-bucket seats are supportive in the corners but comfortable enough not to give you back or butt pain. The driver and passenger seats have plenty of leg and head room, even for someone who is 6’5” like myself, but the leg room in the back seats (even in the 5 door model) is still a bit too tight for taller people. I would imagine that in the 3 door model your legs would be around your chest. For being a sporty car, the suspension is very comfortable, obviously it’s not a Rolls Royce but it’s not a Lamborghini either in terms of harshness.
Odds and Ends – The fit and finish of the interior trim has a high quality feel that you’d expect to see in a Lexus with double the price rather than a Golf. The styling of the Mk.6 Golf is an improvement over the previous generation, the whole car looks more “aggressive” from changes of the headlights, taillights, and bumpers.
Overall the Mk.6 Golf GTi is a good car for those who are looking for practicality and fun all in one package. However having said that if I had $31,000 to spend on a new car, I’d be walking towards a…. Mazda dealership. In my opinion, the Mazdaspeed3 offers more fun with the same level of comfort and slightly more cabin room for the same price.