The VW Golf is one of the most popular cars in the history of the automotive industry. It’s been with us for well over 40 years now and is perhaps the most versatile car on the planet. Refined, practical, economical and affordable. It represents the main form of transport for millions of people around the globe, fulfilling various roles as a daily driver, a family hauler, and more. To make it fast and please the performance crowd, VW decided to introduce the GTI version back in 1976, based on the first-gen A1 Golf.
Although they were not aware of that back then, VW practically pioneered the small performance hatchback segment with the original Golf GTI. It earned a lot of monikers, including Rabbit and Pocket Rocket. All of them were addressing the car’s main characteristics: it was small, light, and offered good power. It was more than the sum of its parts though, because it completely revolutionized the segment of small front-wheel drive hatchbacks. Fast forward several decades and we arrive to the latest 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI. While it’s now bigger and more modern, VW claims it hasn’t lost any of its trademark GTI DNA.
Visually, the 2018 Golf GTI is as gorgeous as it is understated, which has always been the VW way. Just enough detail to separate it from the rest of the ordinary models, but not enough to put it over the top. Comparing the GTI to a vehicle like the Focus RS or the Civic Type R, you will be sorely disappointed if you’re a fan of big wings and aftermarket style body kits. In most people’s book however, those understated qualities are exactly why this is one of the most desired compact sports hatchbacks on the market.
The 2018 GTI is based on the new restyled 2018 VW Golf, so the GTI naturally gets the same visual cues and overall shapes and curves. Because it’s the performance version however, VW has made sure to give it some traditional GTI properties. The bumpers are new, both front and rear. The front fascia houses new intakes in the lower portion of the front bumper. Volkswagen makes the car appear wider than it actually is, giving it a nice square-ish stance.
The taillights of the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI have been tweaked as well, and feature a more modern design with new LED technology. Wrapping up the entire package are a set of bespoke GTI wheels, filling up the wheel arches nicely. If you’re a Mk1 or Mk2 fan you may disagree, but I think this is the most stunning Golf GTI ever made. It’s every bit as accomplished as the originals, in its own way of course. Thankfully, VW ditched the Mk5’s bulky body a long time ago.
Volkswagen was once criticized for giving the GTI a far too ordinary interior, but I think that that’s a bit harsh. Take a look at BMW M’s or AMG’s cabins and you’ll realize they’re just slightly tweaked ordinary cars (cabin-wise at least). It’s unfair to expect a drastic change in a car which costs, effectively, half as much, but VW has somehow delivered on that promise.
As such, the 2018 GTI gets a really unique cabin, immediately making it clear why they’re at the top of the segment. The Golf’s cabin has always been its crowning jewel, as it was easily the most sophisticated and refined hot hatchback on the market. The 2018 Golf takes that one step further by offering several interesting upgrades, including the integration of gesture control. That’s a first on any production VW model.
It goes without saying that the quality of the materials and the build quality are top notch and the GTI model incorporates subtle racing cues. Both the supportive racing seats and the golf ball shift knob pay tribute to the original VW Golf GTI, and I think remembering where your roots are is one of the most important aspects in the automotive industry. Evolve the concept to stay modern by all means, but never forget what made the original so great!
ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE
Like the previous Golf GTI, the 2018 version is powered by a 2.0L turbocharged four cylinder engine, now producing 220hp. Opting for the performance package increases this to 240hp, which is a rather hefty upgrade. Power is naturally sent to the front-wheels, via either a six-speed manual or the brilliant six-speed DSG. If you’re keen on changing gears yourself I can’t recommend the manual enough. It’s slick and precise, without a doubt one of the best-feeling manual transmissions in the business at the moment. The DSG is so clever and smooth though, that it’s hard to make a case against it. Whichever transmission you decide on, you can’t go wrong.
The 2018 GTI’s crowning jewel is its chassis. Front-wheel drive cars are often criticized for exhibiting too much understeer or not enough adjustability, but the 2018 GTI completely debunks that myth with a neutral chassis that not only refuses to understeer, but will provide plenty of oversteer when provoked in the right way. The clever new front differential is constantly at work putting the power where it needs to be. It’s seamless in motion but the results it produces are astonishing.
The 2018 VW Golf GTI truly delivers an inspiring performance with responsive and powerful accelerations, stiff yet precise handling and sturdy seating for passengers all while the engine and exhaust plays a subtle yet beautiful rumble.
Volkswagen has been on a roll with the entire Golf GTI range and throughout the years and the various upgrades, the GTI badge has always brought drivers excitement and fun. As a daily driver, a family car, a weekend toy – you name it – the 2018 VW Golf GTI will fill in the role. The 2018 Golf GTI truly showcases German engineering at its finest, from the precise and sporty performance all the way to the quality materials and overall build. Take a 2018 GTI for a test drive to see this truly unique driving experience for yourself!