A refined pocket rocket like no other.
Few experiences are as stressful as a job interview. As the applicant, you realize it’s a brutally competitive market, so you pump up the resume with every positive point you can think of and list any big-dog schools or companies you’ve been associated with. You list references that will hopefully support your claims of trust and dependability, you answer all questions directly and without hesitation, and you dress the part.
In a way, you’re a lot like the brand-new car sitting on the dealer’s lot. It sits there under the bright sky, shining from a fresh-off-the-truck detail, sports its window “resume” boasting brand-name components, how long it’ll work without needing a break for fuel, and what it’s looking for in terms of compensation.
You, the buyer, like any hiring manager, have to compare what your needs are versus what the applicant has to offer. In the case of the 2010 Volkswagen GTI, shoppers need to weigh updated sporty styling, a rich interior, comfortable seating, unexpected utility, turbocharged driving excitement, and relative affordability against performance and handling that fail to lead the pack. After a test drive, you, like us, might find the ultimate decision incredibly easy to make.
Photos courtesy of Volkswagen
#10. GTI delivers fun without breaking the bank.
Nothing draws us in like a bargain, a concept we quickly associated with the 2010 VW GTI. There are essentially four variants: GTI 2-Door with a manual transmission, GTI 2-Door with an automatic transmission, GTI 4-Door with the manual, and, you guessed it, GTI 4-Door with the automatic. Base prices range from $23,664 to $25,369, and that includes a host of power features as well as Bluetooth capability, Sirius satellite radio connected to a central touch screen, heated front seats, and a built-in auxiliary input for your iPod. Fortifying the safety front are stability and traction control systems, six airbags, and more.
For some buyers, there may be a few greenbacks leftover for options. Among the offerings are a navigation system that is integrated with the existing touch-screen, larger 18-inch alloys, a 300-watt Dynaudio system, and a power sunroof. That last item is also included in the Autobahn Package, which delivers leather upholstery and sport seats. The 2010 Volkswagen GTI 4-Door can also be equipped with rear-side airbags, a bit of technology that we think is well worth the $350 that VW charges.
#9. Power for the 2010 GTI comes from one of our favorite four-bangers.
At the core of Volkswagen’s beloved pocket rocket is the same engine that you’ll find in rides like the VW CC and the Audi A3. It’s a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder that pumps out 200 horses and 207 lb.-ft. of torque. Delivering all the engine’s boosted grunt to the front wheels is the job of either a standard six-speed manual gearbox or the brand’s lauded six-speed DSG automatic. When equipped with the former, the 2010 Volkswagen GTI is rated at 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway; the latter delivers up to 24 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. Premium unleaded is recommended.
Take a look at the GTI’s chassis and you’ll find a sport-tuned suspension consisting of MacPherson struts up front, a four-link setup out back, and stabilizer bars for each end. Standard all-season rubber measures 225/45 and is fitted to 17-inch alloys.
#8. For the GTI, engine refinement trumps outright performance.
With our two-door GTI tester’s six-speed manual gearbox, VW estimated that we’d reach 60 mph in 6.8 seconds (6.7 seconds with the DSG). Top speed is electronically limited to 130 mph.
Those figures tell the story, as the driver soon realizes that the GTI certainly feels quick, but it’s not fast. The boosted engine is balanced and refined, but drop the pedal at a low rpm and you’ll be waiting a second for the turbo to kick in (this doesn’t happen while traveling at higher rpm). Once that’s been addressed, power smoothly rolls out and without hesitation. The driver senses linear acceleration, and not the jerky, torque-steering shenanigans of some hopped-up front-drivers.
Complementing the 2.0-liter is a standard six-speed manual characterized by relatively short throws and slick shifts. A bit more precision wouldn’t hurt, but that minor quibble is offset by a light, easily-modulated clutch.
#7. High-speed, razor-sharp handling is not the 2010 GTI’s forte.
If there’s one area – aside from superior interior quality -- that separates the 2010 Volkswagen GTI from the rest of the small hot rod segment, its handling. Around town, out on the open highway and on sweeping mountain roads, the GTI shines with a sophisticated, firm yet compliant chassis that give the car a bit of a grand tourer feeling. Steering is responsive and a little on the heavy side, and the ride character is solid and refined.
But this is a sports car, of sorts, and when pushed with enthusiasm that chassis comes up a bit short. The standard all-season tires give up some grip in hard corners, the suspension allows for body roll, and the GTI ultimately loses some of its composure. On a more positive note, the brakes performed admirably throughout our testing, whereas GTIs we’ve evaluated in previous years exhibited noticeable fade.
#6. Embrace the plaid. It’s comfortable.
Since our tester was the 2010 Volkswagen GTI 2-Door, our rear-seat passengers didn’t have the luxury of entering the car through their own doors. But even our model provided better access than you’ll find in most hatchbacks, thanks in part to the relatively high, flat roofline and front seats that tilt and slide forward. Once back there, outboard riders will enjoy ample head, leg and foot room, as well as comfortable seating. As a five-passenger vehicle, the center hump is also technically designed for an occupant, though we wouldn’t plant anyone against that lightly-padded backboard very long.
Up front are sporty buckets with noticeable bolsters that do a decent job of limiting body motion in turns. We remain big fans of the standard plaid fabric, though a few onlookers questioned its application. To each his/her own. A lumbar and height adjustment helped secure a suitable driving position, as did the tilt and telescoping, leather-wrapped steering wheel. Controls are all within easy reach, and the padded armrests, not to mention the supportive seats, kept us comfy during several extended test drives.
#5. You could fit a _______ in there.
There’s little doubt that there are plenty of sport-minded car shoppers out there whose first choice for a new car would be a fun, quick and pseudo-sexy hatch. Unfortunately, they might need to comfortably accommodate friends or kids, carry a big dog, or maybe pack in a bunch of camping gear from time to time.
While it’s not a wagon or crossover, the 2010 Volkswagen GTI addresses that need for space, and then some. Without losing its pocket rocket appeal, the GTI, with its rather square roofline and tall tailgate, offers up to 46 cubic feet with the split rear seats folded down. The cargo opening is wide, so you’ll be able to stuff in some good-size boxes, a well-fed Newfoundland (we haven’t actually tested this), or a mountain bike sans quick-release front tire.
#4. VW reliability isn’t what it once was…depending on who you ask.
Volkswagen’s relationship with reliability over the years has been a little rocky. The folks at J.D. Power and Associates don’t expect that to significantly change anytime soon, but the minds at Consumer Reports have noted improvements, and see a rosier future for Vee Dub.
So much for a consensus.
Should there be a problem for buyers of the 2010 GTI, VW backs the car with a three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, and the powertrain is backed for five years or 60,000 miles. There’s better coverage out there, but 3/36 and 5/60 is essentially the industry norm. What’s a little unusual is Volkswagen’s Carefree Maintenance Program. With this, every 2010 GTI receives no-cost scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles, including oil changes, countless system and component checks, replacement of a few filters, and some other little features. It doesn’t amount to a huge savings, but it’s something most car companies don’t offer.
#3. Another Volkswagen, another top-notch interior.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we think VW delivers some of the most refined interiors available, many times outdoing not only competitors but also so-called luxury vehicles priced thousands higher.
The 2010 GTI is no exception, as its cabin is decorated with an abundance of soft-touch materials, padded surfaces, and fabric upholstery that feels ready for years of use and abuse. Look deeper and you’ll find cubbies that are lined instead of trimmed with hard plastic, metal trim bits, and soft leather on the steering wheel.
#2. Connecting your iPod is a very simple task.
For those of you who suffer involuntary spasms at the high-pitched, often annoying voices that pass for radio disc jockeys these days, fear not, for Volkswagen has made iPod integration easy cheesy. Under the sliding and tilting front center armrest is an utter lack of usable storage, yet there’s also an iPod adaptor and cord, with a thin slot to stuff your portable music player out of site. GTI owners will appreciate the neat packaging – no cords strung over the console, or reaching into the glovebox to hook up, or having your iPod hang out on the dash with no real place to call home. The GTI’s setup is clean and simple.
Operation requires tapping the audio system’s media button, followed by a couple more prompts on the touch-screen, and then you’re off and running. No more over-caffeinated morning shock jocks for you.
#1. It’s not the fastest, but the 2010 VW GTI is still hard to beat.
Every once in awhile, a car comes along that speaks to each of your senses. In the case of the 2010 Volkswagen GTI, we, and many like us, are fond of the similar but more refined front and rear exterior styling, the hard-to-beat interior craftsmanship, the funky plaid fabric, and the hatch’s utility and quality feel. The interior is spacious, the controls are well laid-out, the smooth powertrain is efficient, and free oil changes for a few years is a nice perk.
Admittedly, there are faster, sexier sport hatches on the market that provide better handling and gobs more grunt under the hood. But for drivers willing to trade a bit of performance and handling for a genuinely fun car, one that you won’t be embarrassed to give your boss a ride in, one that won’t beat you up during that spur-of-the-moment cross-country road trip, the 2010 GTI is a choice we find hard to beat.