2020 Volkswagen GTI Review

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2020 Volkswagen GTI Overview

If you like driving and can have only one car, the 2020 Volkswagen GTI might be just the machine for you. It’s a four-door hatchback that specializes in both performance and practicality and—even on paper—executes both roles with grace. Building on 37 years of heritage, the 2020 model is based on Volkwagen’s versatile MQB platform, which is the foundation for the seventh-generation Golf. Though Volkswagen promises the eighth-generation car for 2021, the current GTI still holds its own among today’s crop of outstanding sport compacts.

Under the hood is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine good for 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It drives the front wheels through either a 6-speed manual transmission or an optional paddle-shiftable 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. An advanced electronic limited-slip differential, which applies torque to the drive wheel where it’s most effective, is standard on every GTI. The original hot hatch rides 0.6-inch lower than a standard Golf and uses thicker anti-roll bars front and rear to further limit body roll relative to the base Golf. All GTIs share their oversize brakes with the more powerful Golf R.

For 2020 the GTI is available in two trims, S and SE. Both come standard with forward-collision warning with automated emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. In classic GTI tradition, S trims come standard with plaid cloth seats, which are heated. Other standard equipment includes a leather steering wheel, automatic windshield wipers with heated washer nozzles, Bluetooth, and a 6.5-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system. Outside, there are 18-inch wheels and LED fog and taillights. SE models add leather seats, push-button start, and satellite radio. Opting for the SE opens the option for adaptive dampers, a suite of driver-assist tech (lane-keeping assist, parking-distance sensors, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control), and no-cost summer tires.

Among the GTI’s strengths is the roominess of its interior, which it shares with the base Golf. There are nearly 53 cubic feet of cargo space when the 60/40 split-folding seats are folded. But with an additional 81 horsepower and sharper handling responses than the base car, it’s a machine with much livelier moves on the road. It also comes with a 6-year, 72,000-mile transferable warranty, which is better than many of its competitors. Fuel-economy ratings strike the same balance as the rest of the GTI, landing at 24 mpg city, 32 highway, and 27 combined with either transmission.

Other considerations if you’re shopping for a GTI should include the Honda Civic Si, Hyundai Veloster R-Spec, or the all-wheel-drive Subaru WRX. But perhaps the biggest consideration should be the new eighth-generation GTI coming next year.

Updated

Josh Jacquot is an automotive journalist who has held positions at both enthusiast- and consumer-based automotive publications for more than 20 years. With a far-reaching knowledge of all things automotive, his career has put him behind the wheel of everything from snowplows to 600-horsepower rallycross cars. His driving resume includes wins at the national level in NASA Rallysport competition and the California Rally Series in addition to one regrettable night at the inaugural 25 Hours of Thunderhill. Though he likes most anything that can be driven, he has a particular affinity for box flares, Campagnolo wheels, and gratuitous wings and ducts. Someday he will own an Renault R5 Turbo.

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