VW GTI – The first review

My 2011 VW GTI
My 2011 VW GTI

I think it probably makes sense to talk about my current car first. For the past year, I’ve been driving a 2011 VW (Golf) GTI. In the US the Golf name is dropped for the GTI.

The 2011 GTI is powered by a 2-litre turbocharged Inline 4 engine, making 200bhp and 207lb-ft of torque (155 kW and 280 Nm), with a 0-60mph time of 6.9s and a top speed of 149mph (240km/h). Mine is a 5 door, although a 3-door variant exists. The GTI is the ‘mid-range’ hot hatch – sportier than the Golf, but sitting below the Golf R. All three cars share much of the same equipment, although the Golf R is AWD rather than FWD. My car is fitted with the 6-speed DSG automatic gearbox with paddle shifters on the wheel.

First, let’s talk about the bad. Usually people start with the good, but I feel understanding the bad parts of a car is almost of more use. I will say that I love my GTI, but it’s a 6 year old car and it rattles an enormous amount. Half the time it seems like most of the internal parts rattle. Also, as a 6 year old car, the radio is touch screen (resistive rather than capacitive) and supports Bluetooth and A2DP (Bluetooth Streaming) but does not support AVRCP (BT Control) so I cannot control my phone’s music from the car.

Finally, and by far the biggest thing, is that servicing costs are not especially cheap. It’s a German car, so things don’t go wrong often, but when they go wrong, they really go wrong in spectacular fashion. About 2 months after I bought the car (with around 65,000 miles on the clock) the engine essentially exploded. This was traced to a fault in the cam chain tensioner, which had stopped working, causing the cam chain to get out of timing sync, which essentially grenaded my engine. That was a very expensive thing to learn. PSA: get your timing chain tensioner inspected before 60k miles, and make sure your car has if you’re buying on of similar mileage.

Honestly, though, that is about it for the bad. So let’s talk about the good.

The GTI is a fantastic car to drive. 200bhp doesn’t sound like a lot in the modern era of supercars reaching 700+ and even hot hatches having more than 300, but it is plenty enough. The car is quite capable of hustling down your favourite nearby country road, glued to the corners, putting a massive smile on your face. And then if you need to cruise 300 miles on the freeway, it’s perfectly comfortable for longer journeys too. The seats are enveloping but not tight, incredibly adjustable, and remarkably comfortable. And you can fit five people in the car! The car’s DSG is one of the fastest shifting gearboxes I’ve ever used, and paddle shifters mean you don’t even take your hands off the wheel if you’ve decided to change gear manually.

So, practicality. The GTI is a hatchback, so there’s plenty of boot space – enough for a full week’s shopping, or a few small suitcases. The rear seats fold down when you need more space. Under the boot floor is a space saver spare wheel, as well as a polystyrene tray with loads of cubby holes – useful for storing stuff like a first aid kit out of the way! As mentioned, 5 people can fit in the GTI – although maybe not on a 300 mile road trip, the people in the back might get a bit cramped. There are air vents to the back seats so your rear passengers can get some air conditioning in the back. The 5 door is obviously much more accessible to passengers since the rear passengers get doors to themselves. Fuel economy is pretty good, averaging 25mpg (30mpg UK, 9.41l/100km) around town in stop/start traffic, and 33mpg (39.5mpg UK, 7.13l/100km) on the highway.

In terms of features and equipment, the GTI is relatively well equipped although not exactly by modern standards. It features manual a/c, electric windows with auto up/down on all four windows (seriously, why is this not standard everywhere? It should be universal!), a decent enough touch screen radio with support for Sirius XM, Bluetooth, a 3.5mm aux in, and the strange proprietary VW Media Port of that era, which supports iPod cables and the like. The latter is stored under the central armrest. There’s a nice trip computer in the dash that features all the standard things you’d expect. The car includes a tyre pressure monitoring system, although it will only inform you if pressure is too low, not the exact tyre pressures. The car does not have automatic headlights or wipers, and lacks parking sensors or a reversing camera. In 2017, this seems surprising, but in 2011 it was less so. It includes a sunroof that honestly is my favourite feature of the entire car. I don’t think I’d have a car without one ever again.

The car has a few electronic driving aids – ABS, and a few Traction Control systems, which can be partially disabled by a button on the centre console, although not completely disabled. For all but the most hardcore, this will be fine.

To summarise:

+Perfect mix of practicality and sportiness

+Fabulous to drive

+Relatively well equipped

-Old

Yes, that seems like an odd negative, but that really is it, in my opinion. The car is great, but as the last generation car from 2011, it suffers from the fact that there have been technological innovations since 2011 as other things have become more standard.

Please let me know what you think, reader. Your feedback is appreciated and will help me to write this blog!

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