Kelley Blue Book ® - 2002 Volkswagen GTI Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2002 Volkswagen GTI Overview

Body
The Pocket Rocket Heard Around the World

Once upon a time, there was a land filled with big, inexpensive V8-powered muscle cars. People were happy because they could zoom from place to place and spend very little money to do so. Then times became tough and almost overnight gas was in short supply. Yet people still needed the freedom to get into their cars and go where they pleased; and they still wanted to have fun doing it. Just when all seemed lost, a little company named Volkswagen—which means "people's car"—released a hot little hatchback that could out maneuver any big old muscle car, was inexpensive to own and got great gas mileage to boot. Its name was the GTI. Soon a sea of imitators dotted the land and sporty little hatchbacks were everywhere. But then gas became plentiful and a new breed of V8-powered behemoths began to fill the highways. One by one, the competitors died off, leaving only the GTI to fulfill its original mission: bring fun and excitement to the people at a price everyone can afford. And that's exactly what today's GTI provides.

The GTI is available in two forms: the 1.8T and VR6. Both cars are competent performers loaded to the gills with standard features. Each has a flavor all its own and together they serve to satisfy the two schools of performance driving; one that favors light engines and brisk handling and the other that prefers flat-out, straight-line acceleration. No matter which model you choose, you will be getting a well-built vehicle with a stellar fit and finish, a long list of safety features and a comfortable blend of daily driver and weekend road-trip warrior.

The GTI 1.8T uses a 1.8-liter low-pressure turbo charged engine that produces 180 horsepower. This is a marvelous little engine with lots of pull and power that comes on strong without having to push the tachometer needle high into the rpm band. The lightweight engine gives the front-drive GTI a nimble handling quality it does not possess when saddled with the heavier VR6 engine. The 1.8T also delivers on the fuel economy front, returning an EPA highway mileage rating of 31 miles per gallon; that is on par with some so-called economy cars.

The heavier and more expensive GTI VR6 adds an additional 20 horsepower and receives larger tires and wheels, a 6-speed manual transmission and a few upgraded features like automatic climate control, self-dimming mirrors and rain-sensing wipers. The VR6's real advantage over its 1.8T sibling is torque, and lots of it. Where the 1.8T is a bit slow off the line—it has to wait a second or so for the turbo to kick in—the VR6 grabs the pavement from the minute you punch the accelerator and never lets go. If you're the type that loves the feel of G forces on all those crazy theme park rides, the thrust that the VR6 delivers will put you on cloud nine.

Both GTI models are nicely equipped, which helps to justify their $20K plus price tags. Standard equipment on the GTI includes front side- and head-curtain airbags, height- adjustable sport seats, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, air conditioning, rear defroster, rear wiper, fog lights, onboard trip computer, AM/FM stereo with CD and cassette deck, 5 or 6-speed manual transmission (depending on the model), ABS, traction control, dual heated power mirrors, power windows and an anti-theft alarm system with keyless remote entry. You can opt for a few options like a factory-installed power glass sunroof and the Monsoon sound system. Your dealer can also add on VW supplied options like sport springs, bigger wheels and ground effects.

A drive in the GTI reveals much about the car's evolution. Like the original, the GTI is fitted with a terrific set of sport seats that hold you firmly in place while you're carving out the curves. Unlike the original, the interior and the materials used to form it are of a quality and caliber reserved for luxury cars costing tens of thousands more. Everything about the interior will delight you and your passengers, of which you can actually fit two in the rear without them having to assume the lotus position to get comfortable. The large hatch and folding rear seat means the GTI can serve double duty as a mini station wagon, hauling everything from camping gear to mountain bikes.

As for keeping true to the original GTI's road manners, the new GTI tries hard, but comes up a little short. The GTI's ride is soft and to some degree, so is the handling. Blame the mellow springs and shocks that allow the GTI to lean heavily in turns. And though it never losses control or strays from the road, you'll be glad you have those big side bolsters to keep you in place. The trade off, of course, is something the original GTI never had: a smooth ride and quiet passenger compartment. VW does offer a sport suspension package that somewhat improves things, but the current GTI lacks much of the crisp handling and flat cornering ability of the original. Look for VW to resolve this issue with the upcoming special performance edition GTI that is currently on sale in Europe.

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