Dreaming of the Autobahn
There's something to be said for German engineering. I've mentioned it before and I'll say it again: The Germans know what they're doing. From cars to kitchen appliances to schnitzel, if it's German-made, chances are it's going to be pretty good.
The Germans have not disappointed with their latest iteration of the well-known and loved Volkswagen GTI.
Slated as the odd-man-out in our latest sports coupe comparison drive (Comparo 2.0 which you'll, undoubtedly, want to check out), the 2012 Volkswagen Golf GTI proved to be a powerhouse in a lineup of equally capable vehicles. As the only front-wheel driven vehicle in the bunch, the GTI was different from the beginning, but it was the time behind the wheel, not the specs, that truly set it apart.
It's all in the drive
Usually, I would start with the outside look of the car and work my way in behind the wheel, however, this time I feel I need to start with the drive of the 2012 Volkswagen GTI. And here's why:
Equipped with a 2.0L TSI turbocharged engine that pushes out 200 hp, coupled with VW's ever-capable 6-speed DSG automatic transmission and this little hatch virtually flies. As competent on the track as it is on open country roads, the GTI is responsive, lively and oh-so fun to drive -- especially when "S" is selected on the gear shifter.
Generally, automatic cars disappoint me, especially sportier models. I'm a manual-driving kinda girl, but the DSG in the VW GTI is so sublime, if I was going to purchase a GTI I wouldn't have it any other way.
Case in point: During our comparo drive we took some seriously long and isolated country roads. On one such road, in the middle of nowhere, I decided I need to use the little girl's room after downing an entire extra-large coffee and a bottle of water (not the best idea). Well, being the only woman on the drive, I decided to wait till the next town instead of squatting in a bush on the side of the road -- and I was handed the keys to the GTI.
With urine floating round my eyeballs, I thought I'd never be able to enjoy the GTI. However, after that first shift with the steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters, exhaust barking out the back (what a sound from such a little car!), I completely forgot that my bladder was bursting and I felt I could have driven the car for another 12 hours straight, no bathroom break needed.
Das is good, very good
Since I'm working my way from the inside out, it's time to mention the oh-so German interior of the GTI. Well-stitched, well laid out and well-appointed, the interior of the VW GTI is pleasant from any and all of the 5 seats available.
Of all the comparo vehicles we drove that day, the GTI's seats were by far the most snug and sportiest. (Read: Anyone with a larger rear end is going to feel extremely self-conscious, or perhaps not fit at all.) Around sharp corners and in spirited driving situations, the driver seating position is fantastic.
I absolutely love the red-on-black stitching across the seats and steering wheel, and the centre console is concise, clean and easy-to-use. Add the golf-ball-like shifter knob and it's near perfect -- near.
The only complaint I have about the GTI's interior is the size of the paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Thanks to my small, girlie hands, I found my fingers barely reached the paddles when I was gripping the wheel at 3 and 9. I had to swivel my hands further around the wheel to reach them, changing my grip on the wheel. Not so hot when I was on the track.
GTI goodness, at a cost
From the outside, the Volkswagen Golf GTI is just as appealing. In 5-door trim, as we had for the week, the GTI isn't just a capable family car, but also quite good looking.
Despite being "cute" and rounded, the GTI is anything but soft and cuddly, especially when seen in a rearview mirror, fast approaching. A red-lined front grille hugs the massive VW logo up front with the ever-so-subtle "GTI" letters off to the side, just to remind you what's coming your way.
Clean lines hug the car from all angles, and the 18" Detroit alloy wheels are, perhaps, one of the prettiest on the road today and suit the car perfectly.
For all the refinement and high-quality build materials, the only downfall of the GTI becomes its price tag. German engineering comes at a cost, unfortunately. Starting at a hair over $30k, the GTI was also the priciest of our comparo bunch.
Is it worth the pennies required to purchase the 2012 Volkswagen GTI? If you want a well-made, fun to drive, practical (as far as small cars go), German-engineered vehicle, then yes it most definitely is.
This 2012 Volkswagen Golf GTI Review was originally published on Auto-Venus.com.
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