Essentially unchanged from 2010 to 2011, this generation of the Volkswagen Golf GTI model actually debuted in the fall of 2006.
In the 2011 version of this hatchback, power is ably provided by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that develops 200 horsepower and 207 foot-pounds of torque.
Transmission choices are a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic with a DSG/Tiptronic manual shift mode that has steering wheel-mounted paddles.
You can also find two- or four-door versions.
Premium gas is required.
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The GTI’s handling and braking are exceptional, thanks in large measure to a stiffened and upgraded suspension setup, and oversized disc brakes front and back.
It features anti-roll bars on both ends, plus a traction control system, anti-locking brakes and a stability control system.
Few of its competitors of that era can keep up when things get interesting and the GTI is more than enough for most drivers. It also has a priceless exhaust note: with every shift of the transmission, the turbocharger wastegate closes briefly and sounds like a muffled Formula One racer – music to the ears of any self-respecting gearhead.
Both configurations of the GTI come with a full roster of modern conveniences and standard equipment, including heated front seats, one-touch up and down front windows, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, fog lights and dual-zone climate control.
Standard equipment also includes very cool Jackie Stewart-inspired cloth insert bucket seats.
The four-door GTI accommodates five adults but those in the back are up close and personal, with little elbow room.
A 60/40 folding back seat reveals 413 litres of cargo space, enough to handle modest amounts of cargo. Most GTI buyers aren’t particularly concerned about its carrying capacity, anyway. Available extras include leather upholstery, navigation system and power sunroof.
During the launch of the 2010 GTI at the Mont Tremblant racetrack in Quebec, halfway through my first lap, the engine blew up in spectacular fashion. Volkswagen officials later described it as a “catastrophic” engine failure and the blown engine was sent to Germany for analysis. I never found out what really happened to it. Having an engine let go during a track session of a new model launch is hardly a ringing endorsement.
One safety recall is on file with Transport Canada and it concerns the DSG automatic transmission for the 2010 model. Apparently, it could transmit a faulty high temperature reading and cause the transmission to shift abruptly into neutral. An incorrectly crimped wire is the culprit.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has 15 technical service bulletins. These include possible issues with the steering rack, rough-running engines, the airbag warning light coming on at random and a possibly slipping timing chain.
Some complaints from owners:
- “false neutral with the DSG transmission;”
- “condensation covered all of the windows, preventing from seeing the roadway;”
- “from second day of ownership, car has had DSG transmission problems.”
The last complaint is by far the most common malfunction registered with NHTSA.
Consumer Reports was a fan but had reservations when the 2011 was new. Noting that the GTI “excels at combining everyday practicality with being fun-to-drive,” it nonetheless gave it a “worse than average” used car prediction. Areas of concern include the fuel system, squeaks and rattles, and the audio system.
The 2011 edition seemed to fare better than the ’10 despite being virtually the same car.
Some comments from owners:
- “the sport seats are VERY comfortable;”
- “a few more storage spaces would be nice;”
- “a marvel of engineering.”
From a base price of just under $29,000 in 2011, the GTI has dropped to about $7,500 to $10,000, depending on trim level and mileage. The four-door model seems to be valued at $500 to $1,000 more than the two-door.
2011 Volkswagen Golf GTI
Original base price: $28,875
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder
Horsepower: 207 foot-pounds
Transmission: six-speed manual or six-speed automatic with Tiptronic manual shift
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.7 city and 6.3 highway with manual transmission and premium gas
Some alternatives: Acura RSX, Audi A3, Mini John Cooper Special, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Scion xD, Mazda MX-5
Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He was named Canadian Automobile Journalist of the Year twice and is past president of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). For interview requests, click here.
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