17 Mar 2010

2010 Volkswagen GTI: The perfect mashup of price and performance

Every year over a dozen new car models are released in the US. Very rarely does one stimulate the the mind, body, and wallet all at the same time. All too often it’s a choice between performance, fit/finish, and economy. Almost never do you get more than one of these at the same time. Never do you get all three, let alone in a base model. Well, that was until this year, when Volkswagen introduced the heavily redesigned 2010 GTI. Prepare to be impressed.

17 Mar 2010

Every year over a dozen new car models are released in the US. Very rarely does one stimulate the the mind, body, and wallet all at the same time.  All too often it’s a choice between performance, fit/finish, and economy. Almost never do you get more than one or two of these at the same time. Absolutely never do you get all three, let alone in a base model. Well, that was until this year, when Volkswagen introduced the heavily redesigned 2010 GTI.  Prepare to be impressed.

Specifications as-tested

Model: 2010 Volkswagen GTI 2-Door
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L 16-valve producing 200-horsepower @ 5,7000rpm & 207 lbs-ft @ 1,800rpm
EPA Fuel Economy: 21-mpg city / 25-mpg combined / 31-mpg highway
Observed Fuel Economy: 27.44-mpg
Total Miles Driven: 655 miles
Base MSRP: $24,414
As driven MSRP: $24,414
Transmission: 6-speed manual

Driving Dynamics & Performance

2010 Volkswagen GTI 2-Door

The new GTI takes advantage of Volkswagen’s turbocharged and intercooled 2.0T engine.  It delivers an amazingly refined 200-horsepower with very little noticeable turbo lag.  Volkswagen claims a 0-60 mph time of 6.8 seconds in their press material but after a week of pounding the back-roads of New England we’d say it felt a smidgen faster.  You have the choice of 6 gears in either manual or an optional DSG configuration for $1,100. We’ve always been partial to rowing our own gears but if you have to go the automatic route you can’t get much better than DSG (which is basically an automated manual anyways).

Despite looking like a Golf, the GTI handles more akin to Mazda MX5 on steroids. Volkswagen’s electro-mechanical steering is divine, offering just enough feedback to promote confidence without tiring the driver.  The entire chassis is well sorted out no matter the situation.  You can lay back and cruise the highway or have a little fun on a back-road and the car feels at home and confident in both situations.   Even with the hot 2.0T engine the GTI is EPA rated at 31 MPG on the highway.  During our week behind the wheel we averaged 27.44 MPG;  impressive considering we didn’t spend much time cruising down the highway.

Some argue that the GTI can’t compete with the new Mazdaspeed 3, which brings 60+ more horsepower to the table. Sure, we’d all like more power, but the GTI isn’t plagued by the same issues that the Mazdaspeed 3 is; torque steer and a cheap interior.

Design Execution, Appearance, Fit & Finish

2010 Volkswagen GTI 2-Door

So we’ve covered that the GTI has a great price, drives like a dream, and gets great fuel economy. Completing the picture is world class fit and finish. The GTI defies common sub $30,000 car logic.  We were most impressed by the steering wheel. Covered in soft textured leather, red stitching, and metallic bits, it’s a feast for the eyes and hands.  The flat bottom wheel is also functional, providing a gripping point for tight maneuvers and more leg-room.

The rest of the interior also impresses.  It’s obvious the quality of materials used best anything else in the segment and by miles. Volkswagen (and counterpart Audi) have always been known for their interiors and the GTI is another fine example.  Metallic trim, soft touch plastics, and multitudes of different textures and colors add depth and class.

Exterior styling is understated considering the sports hatch you’re buying and that’s a good thing. Only two horizontal red stripes on the grille and red brake calipers give a hint of the sleeper within.  Volkswagen has taken great care updating the body work from the previous generation GTI. While exactly the same in dimension, some visual tweaks (more angles, dual exhaust pipes) trick the eye into thinking this GTI is wider.  We’re usually ones to like a little flair in our sports car but in this situation it’s highly appropriate and well done.  There’s no reason to draw too much attention to the fact that you’re having a great time driving to work.

Audio, Electronics, & Technology

2010 Volkswagen GTI 2-Door

Hop into a sub $25k 2-door hatch and the last thing you’d expect to see is a high-resolution LCD screen, but there it is in the GTI as standard equipment. Also included is an SD card reader, USB/iPod interface cable (either/or not both), WMA/MP3 CD capability, and satellite radio. Optional upgrades include a touchscreen navigation system with integrated 30GB hard drive and a 300 watt Dynaudio sound system.  Our base tester didn’t come with either the navigation system or the upgraded audio package, yet still impressed us.  Audio quality was crisp, clean, and well beyond what we expected.  If you’re a true audio enthusiast, the Dynaudio upgrade at $476 is a must have option.

Integrated with the audio system is a slick black and white, high contrast, driver information center within the gauge cluster.  It allows you to quickly access song/artist information, a digital speedometer, average fuel economy, and other features/settings related to the vehicle.  Not many vehicles, even at a higher cost, have a driver information center that looks this good, is as readable, and provides as much information.

The GTI comes with an impressive list of standard safety features to mitigate any fear you may have about driving a small and lightweight vehicle. Inside you’ll find six airbags; dual front, dual thorax, and dual curtain. Stability control, three-channel anti-lock brakes, an electronic locking differential, and a tire pressure monitoring system are all standard.

Comfort & Ergonomics

2010 Volkswagen GTI 2-Door

Surprisingly, despite it’s compact size, the 2-door GTI is snug in a comfortable sort-of-way. It’s no people hauler, however.  Yes, it does have two rear seats but any friends daring enough to ride along with you will have to squeeze past the folded front seats to get there and that’s not always an easy task. VW does offer a 4-door version of the GTI but we only drove the 2-door.

Should you be using the GTI for what it’s great at, as a fun daily commuter you’re in for a treat. The front seats, styled in controversial plaid decor, feel great and are heated.  They give just enough lateral support to keep you in place during hard cornering but don’t go so far as to numb your rump on long stints behind the wheel.  Should you opt for even more grip, Volkswagen has leather clad sports seats avaliable in the optional $2,815 autobahn package which also includes a sunroof.

360 HD Video Walk-around


Volkswagen is up against a tough crowd of competitors in this segment, some of which best the GTI in horsepower.  It’s clear however, that none of them can match the refinement Volkswagen as baked into this two door barnstormer.

Looking for a hot hatch to satisfy the inner-enthusiast but can’t sacrifice on fuel economy and price? Let me introduce you to your next car.


  • The best steering wheel we’ve ever seen or felt
  • It’s hard to get a better price to refinement ratio than this
  • A class above the competitors in this segment


  • The cloth plaid seats get a good 50/50 reaction of love/hate
  • A great starting price can quickly rocket up with just a few options
  • 200-horsepower won’t quite keep up with a Mazdaspeed 3/Cobalt SS

Check out our 2010 Volkswagen GTI photo gallery

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    • Zane Merva March 18th, 2010 6:26AM

      I’m not sure I understand what you’re requesting…

  1. Rob Watson March 21st, 2010 5:34PM

    I like the walk around video, can’t wait to see the Lotus footage.

  2. Alfredo Suarez June 2nd, 2010 10:33PM

    3 Weeks into my new 2010 GTI. I love the interior, p-zero tires, overall outside look. Yes, it is not the fastest, but… It feels way better than any other $25k car.


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