Volkswagen Golf GTI hot hatch delivers more heat for 2018!

Some of us are old enough that, when you say Volkswagen, we immediately conjure up images of the iconic Beetle for fun, venerable Passat sedan for families, legendary VW Bus for recreation and the value-priced Golf and its GTI model (since 1983) delivering affordable performance for the everyday driver.   The VW Bus is long gone and the Beetle is soon to go, but the Passat and Golf GTI remain.

2018 VW Golf GTI SE

The Golf GTI – referred to often as the ‘hot hatch’ – returns in 2018 heated up with more power, new styling and more features, continuing to deliver driving excitement at an affordable price.

The front-wheel drive 2018 Golf GTI comes in three trim levels: GTI S ($26,415), GTI SE ($30,470) and GTI Autobahn ($35,070).

2018 VW Golf GTI SE

All are powered by the 2.0L EA888 turbocharged and direct injection power plant tuned to now deliver 220 horsepower with 258 lb.-ft. of peak torque from 1,500 to 4,500 rpm.  All are mated to a six-speed manual transmission standard.  The VW DSG six-speed automatic transmission – with a launch control feature and a new Start-Stop System – is available for another $1,100.

A Drive Mode Selection feature provides three driver selectable modes – NORMAL, SPORT, and INDIVIDUAL – that adjust the throttle and steering responses to match driver performance preferences.

Not widely known, but for those experienced in closed track driving, there is also an ESC Sport Function. When enabled, it deactivates the traction control function and can switch the Electronic Stability Control to an ESC SPORT mode to allow for more agile handling at high speed.

  • Note: Rest easy folks, we did not test this feature.  Our local track was closed.
2018 VW Golf GTI SE
As Tested: Golf GTI SE w/6-speed MT

Our nicely equipped mid-level GTI SE was in White Silver Metallic with Black interior and powered by the 2.0L TSI turbo mated to the solid performing 6-speed manual gearbox.

We would note that the pedal arrangement in the GTI is a bit tight for those of us with big feet and/or big shoes.  One needs to be careful in moving between brake and clutch to be sure the foot is engaging only the intended pedal.  Shifting is easy and clutch engagement is good, but not quite the level of the Golf R high performance model.  Still the Golf GTI moves quickly enough through the gears for spirited every day and highway driving.

2018 VW Golf GTI SE

Built on the VW MQB modular platform, the GTI combines a slightly lowered sport suspension, progressive (speed variable) electric power steering, torque-sensing limited slip (VAQ) differential with XDS+ Cross Differential System, 18-inch ‘Austin’ style wheels mounted with all-season tires, single piston vented 13.4-inch front and 12.2-inch rear disc brakes and Electronic Stability Control ton deliver a solid ride with very satisfactory cornering and handling performance.

2018 VW Golf GTI SE

Exterior features included the GTI signature red strip beneath the unique mesh grille, red-painted brake calipers, automatic LED Headlights with Cornering Lights, LED Daytime Running Lights, LED Taillights, fascia integrated Fog Lights, rain-sensing windshield wipers with heated washer nozzles, heated exterior mirrors, roof spoiler and panoramic power tilt-and-slide Sunroof.

2018 VW Golf GTI SE

The rather spacious interior of the Golf GTI handles five passengers and their gear very nicely.  A well-conceived parcel shelf and adjustable-level trunk floor behind the 60:40 split rear seat provides 16.5 cubic feet beneath and 22.8 cubic feet above of storage.  With the seat down, Golf GTI hauls up to almost 53 cubic feet of cargo.

The cockpit is driver-oriented with the center stack angled slightly to the driver for ease of access. The dash includes unique GTI styled elements – with buttons and switches smartly backlit in white and a unique instrument cluster. A flat-bottomed leather-wrapped sport steering wheel (with driving and media controls) and aluminum-look sport pedals complete the sporty look.

2018 VW Golf GTI SE

The heated sport seating up front is manually adjustable but does include a nice power recline feature. We found the mechanical adjustment was easy with a wide range of movement up and down and front to back in order to get the seat position ‘just right’ – which is important in a manual transmission equipped vehicle.

Other features included dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, keyless access with push button start and six well placed cupholders.   Of note is the subtle red ambient lighting in the cabin and illuminated door sills.

2018 VW Golf GTI SE

The infotainment features were anchored by an 8-speaker audio system with the VW Composition Media 8-inch touchscreen.  Included were AM/FM/HD radio, USB and Aux-in connections, CD player, Bluetooth connectivity, SirusXM Satellite Radio and VW Car-Net applications.

  • Note: Navigation and a Fender Premium Audio system are available on the Autobahn top trim level.
2018 VW Golf GTI SE

Safety features included the Rearview Camera, Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Traffic Alert, Automatic Post-Collision Braking and Intelligent Crash Response Systems, dual front and front side airbags and front and rear curtain airbags, 3-point safety belts all positions and Hill Hold Control.

  • Note: Adaptive Cruise Control, High Beam Light Control, Lane Departure Warning, Park Pilot and Park Assist all are included on the Autobahn top trim level.

The optional Leather seating package ($695) replaced the distinctive Clark Plaid cloth seating surfaces.  Frankly we would have preferred the Clark Plaid (inserts) seating for its style and comfort – remember we are in Texas where leather surfaces can get pretty warm.

Our test 2018 Golf GTI SE priced – with delivery – at just $31,165.

2018 VW Golf GTI SE
2018 VW Golf GTI SE
2018 Golf Family

The Golf family of vehicles includes six models and multiple trims priced from $19,895 to $39,375 with something for everyone in its wide range of versatility, dynamics and value.

So much so that Car and Driver awarded the lineup a 12th consecutive “10Best” award saying – about Golf – that “It’s almost a luxury car -refined, well-equipped and tastefully appointed.  It just happens to be small, practical, and relatively affordable.  Its road manners are impeccable, its handling balanced in a way that now escapes most cars”.

We would agree and we think the 2018 GTI – in the SE trim – best typifies the Golf family in earning that honor.

Get more information on the GTI by going to the website here:


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