2021 Volkswagen GTI Review

Get one while you can. This is the last year this generation of GTI will be available before the newly-redesigned and questionable-looking 2022 model hits dealerships. I have no doubt that like with every other controversial design, our brains will adapt and get used to it but for those who can’t fathom liking the new look now is your chance to get one of the remaining 2021s.

The current GTI’s looks are classy and understated which explains their appeal to a wide variety of potential buyers. Compare that to the boy-racer styling of the Honda Civic and it’s easy to see why the GTI is adored to this extent. It’s been a pillar of the hot-hatch segment that can give thrill rides rivaling a go kart.

The 2021 GTI has slightly different cues which will set it apart. A bright-red horizontal strip visually connects the headlights to a revised grille and bumper. In addition to the red horizontal highlight on the grille, the 2021 Golf GTI has several other visual differences from its conventional Golf brethren. The lower front fascia incorporates standard LED fog lights housed within a series of horizontal strakes on either side of a unique mesh pattern grille. Red-painted brake calipers with “GTI” lettering peek behind bespoke alloy wheels and subtle side skirts help to give the GTI a more planted appearance. Gloss black mirror caps underscore the sporty nature of GTI. Around back, bright exhaust tips sit on either side of a unique rear diffuser, while a gloss black lip spoiler and LED taillights further differentiate the car.

Can we also talk about how striking the test vehicle’s Cornflower Blue is? In the sun it’s even more vibrant and turns heads everywhere you go. I’ve never even been a fan of the color blue for a car but this would automatically be my choice. It makes you want to stare at the car and never look away.

Sit inside in the GTI and the car rewards you with an energizing and sporty aura that’ll make you feel ten years younger. Volkswagen has done an excellent job making the interior ultra user-friendly with proper knobs for climate controls and well laid out buttons for most other cockpit operations. My only issue is that the little lights to indicate fan speed are quite dim and almost invisible during daylight. The conveniently located push-button start next to the shifter is in the perfect place. The steering wheel is perfect, with all the controls properly placed. Ergonomically, the GTI is about as good as it gets.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto make life easy and the layout of the VW infotainment system is intuitive and easy to use. I was able to quickly set favorites, change system language, browse satellite radio and switch inputs without even having the think about it. A larger screen would be welcome and will be an addition to the next generation model.

I was disappointed that the test subject didn’t come with the amazing plaid seats but rather the optional leather seating. The plaid seats are a must-have. I’ve even seen owners of the more expensive Golf R voice displeasure and not having the option to put plaid seats in their cars.

What makes the GTI a hot hatch is primarily how perfectly balanced the car is to drive. The output of the 2.0-litre engine is 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque sent to the front wheels unlike the Golf R which is all-wheel drive. Surprisingly, the GTI has little to no torque steer and the power is readily available from a low RPM of just 1500. It’s just a remarkable package that provides so much fun that the $10,000 extra you might shell out for a Golf R should be seriously questioned.

I’ve driven plenty of Golf Rs and the thrill I get from driving the GTI is just about as good. Granted there is less power and less push-you-back-into-your-seat acceleration but don’t think that just because you didn’t get the R that this vehicle can’t give you the same fulfillment. I’ll also point out that having the 6-speed manual transmission really accentuates the whole driving experience in a way that the automatic DSG cannot.

There is only one trim level called the Autobahn available for this final generation and it starts at a very reasonable $35,995. I highly recommend grabbing one if you’re in the market for a hot hatch while they’re still available.