Count the Volkswagen Golf GTI among a very small group of vehicles that have remained in near-constant production for over four decades without veering far from the laser-focused intent of the original. The 2022 redesign marks the GTI’s eighth generation in the States, and although the styling is comparably svelte and contemporary, its “box with an edge” attitude remains in full effect. Motivation is provided by a turbocharged, 2.0-liter, 241-hp four-cylinder mated with either a six-speed manual transmission or, for those who’d rather not bother with a third pedal, a seven-speed automatic. GTI’s come only with front-wheel drive. Drivers of all sizes will find plenty of room and a comfortable driving position, while the four-door hatchback shape allows rear passengers surprising head and shoulder room with some space for cargo behind them. Practical, yes, but it’s the baked-in sportiness that takes top billing here, the GTI serving up not-so-cheap-anymore thrills and satisfying handling at any speed. Though the GTI has a built-in fan base bordering on the obsessive, its welcoming demeanor and forgiving dynamics make it easy for new owners to slip behind the wheel and get in on the fun. The GTI and its amped-up bother, the Golf R, which we review separately, are the only way to buy a new Golf in the U.S., as the base Golf was discontinued here in 2021. The term hot hatch has been applied to numerous vehicles in the last forty years, but it was coined for the Golf GTI; that tells you everything you need to know.
What’s New for 2024?
Not much. The 2022 redesign is still fresh, though VW notes some small as of yet undefined cosmetic changes. The 40th anniversary model is gone, obviously, so the lineup returns to the S, SE, and Autobahn trims. There’s also a GTI 380 equipment package waiting in the wings with more details slated to be revealed closer to launch.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
Though the “base” GTI S comes with a limited slip differential, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 18-inch wheels and a 10.3-inch digital instrument panel, we feel the jump to the SE is a worthy move as it adds a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen (the S has an 8-incher), a 480-watt Karman/Hardon audio system, a cool illuminated grille, keyless entry, pushbutton start, and a sunroof. The standard six-speed manual is the business, and adding the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic costs $800 so let’s pretend it doesn’t even exist, shall we? (For a first-hand account of how the base S stands up to the SE and Autobahn, check out our 40,000-mile long-term test of a 2022 GTI S.) The SE can also be fitted with leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, and memory settings for the driver’s seat, but that means ditching the GTI’s traditional cloth seats and their plaid design. We’d never do that.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The 2024 Golf GTI is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated for 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. An increase of 13 horses and 15 pound-feet versus its predecessor, the output is routed to the front wheels through either a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. In our hands, the current GTI with dual-clutch automatic romped to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds–0.7 quicker than a last-gen Rabbit GTI edition with the automatic. That straight-line performance is buttressed by sharpened reflexes and heightened levels of dynamic performance, both born from its revised suspension, electronically controlled limited-slip differential, and brake-based torque vectoring. Indeed, the chassis tuning is a study in compromise, its deft handling present without the burden of an overly stiff ride in normal situations. The top-spec Autobahn model offers adjustable adaptive dampers paired with 19-inch wheels (18-inchers are standard) wearing summer tires for those willing to drop the coin on a more versatile and personalized chassis. Braking action is equally inspiring, with the GTI in Autobahn trim requiring just 151 feet to stop from 70 mph.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Twenty years ago, manual-transmission equipped cars were almost always more fuel efficient than their auto-equipped counterparts. Those days are over, and the most efficient Golf GTI has an automatic transmission. It’s EPA-rated for 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway, while the manual extracts 1 mpg in each metric. Shifting for yourself is well worth the tiny mpg penalty in our opinion. That said, the last GTI automatic we subjected to our 75-mph highway fuel economy route, which is part of our extensive testing regimen, returned 38 mpg, beating its EPA highway estimate by 4 mpg. For more information about the Golf GTI’s fuel economy, visit the EPA’s website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The Golf GTI’s interior is a mix of modern touches and some subtle and tasteful nods to its storied legacy. Bolstered front seats featuring iconic plaid inserts on the top and bottom cushions and red trim accents around their outer edges are the most obvious visual cues. along with the golf-ball shift knob. The GTI’s three-spoke steering wheel is a familiar delight, and boasts a heavily contoured rim and touch-sensitive controls. There’s a 10.3-inch gauge cluster display, but we think traditional analog meters would be more at home in this application. Unfortunately, unlike the high-quality environs of the previous generation, the new interior is marred by some chintzy finishes and hard plastics. The latest GTI grew by an inch overall and saw its wheelbase stretch by 0.6 inches, which only furthers its impressive passenger accommodations and cargo space.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The GTI’s infotainment system runs through an 8-inch screen in the S and 10-inch on the SE and up. Though the large screen is easier to see and more featureful, its touch capacitive “slider” controls for the audio functions are a headache in real-life operation. The S gets a less intensive 8-inch screen, but retains tiny volume and tuning knobs, so it’s a tossup. There are four USB-C ports, two in front for data and power and two that provide power in the rear. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also included, the familiar phone apps and menu structures helping to offset VW’s otherwise busy and potentially distracting interface.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The GTI comes with a host of standard driver-assistance technology as well as optional upgrades. Notably, VW’s IQ.Drive system is available on all trims and, in addition to traditional features such as automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist, includes Emergency Assist, which brings the vehicle to a stop and turns on the hazards in the absence of driver input. For more information about the Golf GTI’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection
- Standard lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Standard adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
VW includes an above-average limited warranty, but its powertrain protection trails behind most competitors. The company does sweeten the deal with complimentary scheduled maintenance that is similar to what Toyota offers.
- Limited warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for two years or 20,000 miles
2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI
front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
PRICE AS TESTED
turbocharged and intercooled inline-4, iron block and aluminum head
121 in3, 1984 cm3
241 hp @ 6500 rpm
273 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Suspension (F/R): multilink/multilink
Brakes (F/R): 13.4-in vented disc/12.2-in disc
Tires: Bridgestone Potenza S005, 235/35R-19 91Y
Wheelbase: 103.4 in
Length: 168.8 in
Width: 70.4 in
Height: 58.2 in
Curb weight: 3154 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 5.1 sec
100 mph: 12.2 sec
1/4 mile: 13.6 sec @ 105 mph
130 mph: 24.6 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 5.5 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 2.7 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 3.8 sec
Top speed (mfr’s claim): 155 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 151 ft
Braking, 100–0 mph: 311 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.97 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 25 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
Combined/city/highway: 27/24/32 mpg
C/D TESTING EXPLAINED
More Features and Specs