Volkswagen introduced the eighth-generation GTI last year with fresh styling, more interior space, and 241 horsepower, making it the most powerful GTI in its 40 years on U.S. roads. It is one of the few new models available today that comes standard with a six-speed manual gearbox. The GTI is an absolute joy to drive when pushing hard through a twisty mountain road; even with front-wheel drive, it puts the power down smoothly and confidently. At the same time, this sporty VW works perfectly for routine driving: The ride is comfortable and quiet, there’s plenty of cargo space for luggage or other gear, and a rating of 34 mpg on the highway is certainly respectable.
The GTI features a high-tech interior with a configurable driver display and a large central display screen. Higher trims get a larger screen, but volume and tuning knobs are eliminated, making interacting with the infotainment system a bit tricky. The interior is surprisingly roomy and comfortable, and the plaid sport seats are a nice throwback to the original GTI. The front seats provide good support, even on a long drive. Rear seats are larger than expected but would be cramped for three passengers. Competitors to the Golf GTI include the Honda Civic Si, Hyundai Veloster N, Subaru WRX, and the Mini Clubman John Cooper Works Classic.
The Volkswagen Golf GTI remains true to its legacy, combining the versatility of a four-door hatchback with excellent performance and handling. In addition to its sporty driving characteristics, the GTI excels as an everyday driver with a comfortable interior and excellent fuel economy. After a complete redesign for the 2022 model year, the Golf GTI remains unchanged for 2023. A 40th-anniversary GTI is added to the lineup, slotting between the entry-level S and SE trims.
The 2023 Volkswagen Golf GTI is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired to a six-speed manual or optional seven-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. This is more power than the previous generation, and it makes the Golf GTI an even more immersive drive. It’s aggressive, with no hesitation when you hit the gas. The automatic transmission shifts smoothly, but those who prefer the control of a manual will find the six-speed a joy. Handling is crisp and responsive with minimal body roll, especially on tight, winding roads.
This car is designed for people who like to drive. Also of note is the 10.25-inch instrument cluster with three views and 21 viewing options that let the driver organize the display. Comparatively, the Subaru WRX offers two engines, both with more horsepower than the Golf GTI. The Hyundai Veloster has less horsepower except in the Veloster N trim. The Honda Civic also provides less horsepower, except for the Type R model.