It’s no secret that the Volkswagen Golf GTI is and always has been one of our favorites. The hot hatch has the perfect combination of power, handling and practicality that makes it one of the best cars to own, if you want a fun to drive car that you can also fill up with your latest garage sale finds.
Open the door and you’re greeted with funky plaid seats, unless you opt for the more expensive leather option. Press the start button and the GTI comes to life, just like the family dog that’s ready to play fetch. While the GTI isn’t necessarily the fastest hot hatch you can buy, that doesn’t really matter in everyday driving.
For the 2019 model year, the GTI’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine now has 228 horsepower, which is up 8 horsepower. Buyers can choose either a 6-speed manual or the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. If you opt for the manual it’s rated at 24 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, while the dual-clutch transmission is rated 25/31 mpg.
It’s hard to imagine anyone being in a bad mood behind the wheel of the GTI, since it’s so fun to drive around town, on windy roads or even just zooming down the highway. The engine is responsive and acceleration lacks any significant amount of turbo lag. The exhaust also sounds great and there are different driving modes to appease your current mood. On tighter roads, the GTI simply hugs the road and its steering provides good feedback.
Inside the GTI feels a bit more luxurious than you might expect in this class – something that VW is known for. The layout of the dashboard is simple and clean. In the center of the dash there’s an optional 8-inch touchscreen display with a sleek glass display, which looks a lot better than the standard 6.5-inch screen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included. If music is your thing, a 400-watt Fender audio system is available. We do wish that the Golf GTI came with the cool Digital Cockpit, like the pricier Golf R.
In the front there’s plenty of room and the seats hug your body nicely, but taller rear seat passengers might whine a bit since there isn’t a lot of legroom back there. With the rear seat up there’s 17 cubic feet of space, but it enlarges to a nice 53.7 cubic feet if you fold the seats down.
While the GTI is fun to drive, it also cares about your safety, since it features several driver assistance safety features, like forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane assist, park assist and a blind spot monitor. NHTSA also gave the Golf GTI a 5-star safety rating.
The good news is that the Golf GTI also won’t break the bank, since it starts at $27,595, but it does get a bit pricey once you add on the options. The top-spec GTI Autobahn starts at $35,995, which is pretty close to the starting price for the more powerful and definitely more over the top Honda Civic Type R.
While the MK7 generation is about to be replaced (VW has already unveiled the 8th generation Golf), the 2019 GTI is still easily one of the best all around cars you can buy. It’s fun to drive, packed with the latest tech features and is just as practical as a small SUV.