The 2012 Volkswagen GTI is somewhat of an elder statesmen in the compact performance crowd, and like many long-serving politicians it has come to represent an almost unassailable collection of qualities, legends, and lore surrounding its capabilities and position in the hot hatch food chain. Over the course of the past few years, a greater number of car companies have elected to build their own take on the affordable, fun-to-drive compact car concept, which means that the Volkswagen GTI has seen its mandate threatened by a wide range of would-be challengers.
Resting on one’s laurels only works in a world where competition is scarce. The Volkswagen GTI’s package is certainly compelling, but on paper it’s starting to seem a bit quaint when stacked up against the gaudier specs posted by some of its new rivals. Can the GTI’s intangibles carry the day, or is its time at the top of the performance hatchback segment nearly finished?