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2014 Volkswagen Golf GTI First Impressions

Napa Valley, CA – Perhaps one of the most important vehicles in the hot hatch segment, the recently redesigned MKVII Volkswagen Golf GTI has Vdub fanboys the globe over salivating at the bit to get behind the wheel. They have every right to be excited.

I got the chance for a quick romp in the seventh generation VW GTI, and I was left wanting much, much more. Sometimes, when something is done right the first time, so few changes need to be made along the way to keep it up to date; such is the case with the latest iteration of the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Full disclosure: The particular GTI I drove in California was a European-spec model currently on sale in Europe. However, we won’t see the GTI on North American shores till 2014 as a 2015 model year car.

What is the Volkswagen Golf GTI?
Essentially, the GTI is a pumped up version of the Golf (not as beefed up as the R, but just enough to get the juices flowing). With more horsepower and a racier suspension and handling set-up, the GTI is the granddaddy of hot hatches, and with good reason. In the mid-1970s when the first GTI emerged -- an MKI GTI to be exact -- the idea of a hotted up hatchback with fire under the hood and a need for speed was unheard of. Practical and fun to drive? Who knew? Volkswagen did.

This, now seventh, generation of the Volkswagen GTI furthers the hot-hatch status with plenty of power under the hood and practicality throughout. VW stayed true to its roots and engineered a vehicle that will appeal to enthusiasts and daily drivers alike.

2014 Volkswagen Golf GTI Price and Specs
As this was a European-spec model, I wasn’t provided pricing for the new GTI. As the launch date approaches in North America, we’ll be sure to announce pricing.

Now, the fun bits: specs for the 2014 Volkswagen Golf GTI. Again, while this was a Euro version, the model that ends up on our shores will no doubt carry the same engine specs and performance numbers, which are as follows.

The 2014 Volkswagen Golf GTI is equipped with a 2.0L inline 4-cylinder turbocharged engine good for 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque delivered at 1,500 rpm. Handles via a 6-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission, the GTI’s grunt is superb for a vehicle its size and stature.

Driving the 2014 Volkswagen Golf GTI
I can’t say it enough: This is one hot hatch. Sure, it’s larger than the previous generation, but it’s also lighter thanks to the ultra-high-strength, hot-formed steel used in 28% of the unibody construction. Yes, it’s wider and longer, but it also sits lower for added aerodynamics, which I was sure to test out.

How can you not push a GTI? It’s always so happy to comply, and with the quick-to-respond DSG transmission, swapping gears is such a joy. The torque in the 2014 Volkswagen Golf GTI is palpable, in a good way (I love a little bit of torque steer in a hot hatch, gives the car a bit of ‘tude, of which the GTI has plenty).

My only niggle with the 2014 Volkswagen Golf GTI was this: The steering wheel is humongous. It makes the car feel like it’s large to drive, but it’s just the bus-like steering wheel that throws you off. Otherwise, driving position is stellar, cornering is spectacular and acceleration and braking are effortless.

Oh, and the sound of that 2.0L TSI and exhaust burble is enough to make anyone smile.

Inside and out of the 2014 Volkswagen Golf GTI
As mentioned above, the Mk VII Golf got a bit bigger, but not fatter, and that’s OK in my books. The new look is one of sophistication and class. I love the clean front end and mean-looking front grill. The pinched grille (with that subtle GTI red line) and angular headlights are exactly what you’d expect a hot hatch fascia to look like.

Inside, the 2014 Volkswagen Golf GTI is all grown up. Shades of Audi have trickled into VW, and it’s easy to see in the seventh generation of the Golf. As I mentioned in my Golf TDI review, this interior is roomy and classy; a great place to be.

Comparing the 2014 Volkswagen Golf GTI
While it may be the granddaddy of hot hatches, the GTI has some serious competition at the moment. Ford’s Focus ST is steeling hearts and dollars at the dealerships, and the MINI Cooper S continues to do so despite a lack of a major facelift in quite some time. Despite that, Volkswagen has a loyal fan base and the GTI has built much of that. This latest generation will not disappoint the diehards or the newbies.


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