Overview

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Overview (Final Score: B)

The Golf GTI is the benchmark used to gauge every other hot hatch on the market. This loosely defined arena of vehicles has several manufacturers competing (usually on and off) to find the winning formula of performance, versatility and handling characteristics.

The 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI continues to set the base standard for the category. Its larger engine, better handling and higher performance metrics are what set the GTI apart from the standard Golf models it is otherwise nearly identical to. Where the standard Golf offers sensible usability, a good daily drive and reasonable fuel economy, the GTI model brings a faster pace and a little more visual excitement to the field.

For the 2018 model year, the VW Golf GTI sees several changes. The first is the consolidation of trim points down to three, more horsepower and added standard features toe the top-level trims. The 2018 Golf GTI is otherwise the same as the 2017 model.

The 2018 VW Golf GTI is a five-door hatchback with seating for five and three trim levels (S, SE and Autobahn). Also in the Golf family of hatchbacks are the standard Golf, the even more performance-oriented Golf R and the wagon-styled Golf Alltrack.

What We Love About the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI:


  • Really fun drive without a "first born" requirement to buy

  • Versatile and useful as an everyday vehicle, like the standard Golf models

  • Strong heritage of goodness with plentiful standard features


 

What We Don't Love About the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI:


  • Not as roomy as some competitors

  • Reliability concerns could be a problem

  • Fuel economy not as good as it could be


 

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Exterior View (8/10)

The no-nonsense, sleek look of the 2018 Golf GTI is shared with the rest of the Golf family. The GTI has a ready stance and casual almost "sleeper" design keeping it from being in your face about its capabilities. The Golf GTI is visually differentiated from the standard Golf models by the GTI badging, the grille's performance coloring, the bright-colored brakes and its aggressive air dams.

Not as obvious are some aerodynamic tweaks aimed towards improving the Golf GTI's road-hugging and slipperiness through the air. Changes to the lower front fascia, undercarriage covers and rear air spoiler are more subtle indications that the Golf GTI is a performance hatch.

The overall style of the 2018 Golf GTI is similar to the other Golf models, which are less wagon-like, and more square and uniquely Volkswagen than other hot hatch options available on the market. The more squared-off rear of the Golf also means better headroom in the rear seats and more cargo space as well.

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Interior Comfort, Quality, Ergonomics (9/10)

The interior of the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI is similar in layout to other Golf models, but has a higher level of materials quality than the lower-end offerings and better design than most in the compact segments. The Golf GTI features a more upscale than the average compact hatchback.

Getting into and out of the Golf GTI is easy thanks to wide-opening doors and a high roof. The rear doors are a bit smaller than those up front, but they swing out to a near-90-degree angle for wider access. Narrow door sills also make step-in easier.

In the front, seating is sporty with thicker bolstering, especially at the sides, than is normally found. This is part of the 2018 Golf GTI's more performance-minded design and doesn't impinge on the good comfort levels and roominess found in the Golf. There is plenty if adjustability and lots of headroom and legroom for a car of this size. The upholstery in the Golf GTI is nicely done, feeling more premium than what is found in the base level Golf models.

Rear seating in the 2018 VW Golf GTI is compact but usable by most adults. Legroom is at a bit of a premium, but is no worse than most of the Golf's compact classmates. There's plenty of space for child safety seats and boosters. Headroom and shoulder room are good for adults sitting two across. The rear seats are split-fold as standard, giving more cargo space when needed.

Cargo space in the Golf GTI stands at 22.8 cubic feet behind the rear seating and 52.7 with them folded. The rear seats do not fold completely flat, thanks to their thicker side bolsters, but close enough that most things will fit anyway. The hatch on the GTI is wide and tall, giving ample access to the cargo area.

Technology (9/10)

Two things about the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI make it feel more usable than its lower-priced Golf counterparts: better technology and available advanced driver's aids. The standard touchscreen display in the Golf GTI is a 6.5-inch unit that has basic infotainment inclusions plus Apple CarPlay, MirrorLink and Android Auto. The rearview camera is grainy and this doesn't change with the screen upgrade.

The SE and Autobahn models of the Golf GTI have an 8-inch touchscreen replacing the smaller screen. This screen is easier to read when on the go and Car-Net AppConnect for further smartphone integration.

TheĀ user interface for the VW's infotainment is not as robust or easy to use as we'd like. Others on the market are far more user-friendly. An up-side is that, unlike most vehicles on the road, the Golf GTI allows two smartphones to be paired simultaneously.

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Fuel Economy (8/10)

The EPA has lowered the fuel economy ratings for the 2018 VW Golf GTI versus last year, thanks to testing changes. Most vehicles in this class weathered the storm without much mpg change, but the Golf lost two points on the highway, making it much less economical than many rivals.

The EPA rates the 2018 Golf GTI at 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. That's a bit low for a compact vehicle, even in the performance classes.

Predicted Reliability, Initial Quality Ratings (7/10)

The 2018 Golf GTI continues to receive "About Average" on the J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study results. It's consistently received that rating from the survey for several years in this generation of the GTI.

Safety (10/10)

The 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI has been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) with a total score of 5-Stars out of five. The Golf GTI received four stars each for frontal and rollover results and five stars for side crash test results.

Similarly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2018 Golf GTI top scores of "Good" on all crash tests given. It received a second-best "Acceptable" rating for the small overlap-front test from the passenger's side, as opposed to a Good rating on the driver's side. The Golf GTI also received a Good rating for child seat anchors.

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Performance (10/10)

The 2018 VW Golf GTI is a very performance-oriented vehicle, with an eye toward everyday use and comfort built-in. The car uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine turbocharged to produce 220 horsepower. This is up 10 horsepower from the 2017 model year's base model. The previously-optional boosting upgrade for the GTI is now standard.

A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the Golf GTI and makes it fun to drive. It shifts smoothly and quickly with a solid feel about it. It's a great option for this sport-oriented little car. The GTI hot hatch can also be fitted with a dual-clutch automatic six-speed transmission.

The 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI is available in front-wheel drive only, but has precise steering and strong braking to go with its sharp handling and tight chassis control. We also recommend the optional adaptive dampers if long bouts of driving are your norm, as these cushion into Comfort mode to give more road absorption on the highway.

The 2018 Golf GTI is engaging and fun and feels far faster than it really is. Unlike most in the hot hatch segment at this price point, the Golf GTI doesn't beat you to death with its stiffness, making it a great daily driver.

Pricing and Value (8/10)

The 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI has a higher price than many competitors, but offers far more for the money spent than they will. The Golf GTI should be compared directly with other sport hatches and its pricing is on par with any of those which are similarly packaged.

The Golf GTI set the standard for the hot hatch category years ago and continues to hold the bar for others to meet or exceed. This gives it a solid fan base and lots of resale potential on the used market.

We recommend spending the money to get into the Golf STI SE model, as it contains features that match most everyday needs plus a few bonuses. It's expensive, but with the upgraded brakes, brighter LED headlamps and driver assistance features, it becomes a much more usable daily car. We do not recommend leather upholstery unless children or pets are going to be in the car regularly. The expense does not justify upgrading from the already well-done fabric.

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Total Score and Competitive Comparison (69/80, 86%)

Competitors in the hot hatch category are few, but mighty. The most-often cross-shopped options are the Subaru WRX, Ford Focus ST and BMW MINI. We'd also recommend looking at the all-wheel drive Golf R.

Of these, the WRX has a lot going for it and is more performance-centric with a less forgiving ride quality. The Focus ST offers a more wagon-like design and similar amounts of performance. The MINI is heavier and more cumbersome to drive compared to the GTI. The R is more expensive, but otherwise very similar to the Golf GTI in terms of usability. It also comes with a higher performance expectation.

The 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI still creates what is expected in the persona of the hot hatch category, and it offers an excellent balance between everyday driving needs and sport driving fun. The fun times to be had in this car are endless and we like the Golf GTI for that. It's more mature than some in this segment.

Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
Hatchback - FWD
S 2.0T S Manual 4 Cylinder FWD 26415
S 2.0T S DSG 4 Cylinder FWD 27515
SE 2.0T SE Manual 4 Cylinder FWD 30470
SE 2.0T SE DSG 4 Cylinder FWD 31570
Autobahn 2.0T Autobahn Manual 4 Cylinder FWD 35070
Autobahn 2.0T Autobahn DSG 4 Cylinder FWD 36170

Comparison of 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI with Similar Cars

2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI MSRP Invoice
2018 Volkswagen Golf Gti $26,415 $25,357
Similar Cars to Consider MSRP Invoice Compare
2018 Honda Civic $18,940 $17,610 2018 Volkswagen Golf Gti VS 2018 Honda Civic
2018 Ford Focus $17,950 $17,323 2018 Volkswagen Golf Gti VS 2018 Ford Focus
2018 Chevrolet Cruze $16,975 $16,890 2018 Volkswagen Golf Gti VS 2018 Chevrolet Cruze
2018 Mazda Mazda3 $18,095 $17,319 2018 Volkswagen Golf Gti VS 2018 Mazda Mazda3
2018 Volkswagen Beetle $20,220 $19,411 2018 Volkswagen Golf Gti VS 2018 Volkswagen Beetle

Car Rankings

Interested to see how the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI ranks against similar cars in terms of key attributes? Here are the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI rankings for MPG, horsepower, torque, leg room, head room, shoulder room, hip room and so forth.

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