The popular Volkswagen Golf heads into its seventh generation for 2016. Available in 2-door and 4-door hatches as well as a 4-door "sportwagen". The Golf 1.8T is powered by a 170-horsepower turbocharged 1.8L 4-cylinder. This is mated to either a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission.
The Golf GTI, available with either two or four doors, comes with a potent turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder that produces 210 horsepower and 258 lb-feet of torque. It's offered with a choice of 6-speed conventional manual or DSG dual-clutch transmission.
The Sportwagen, based on the 4-door Golf hatch, features 30 cubic-feet of rear cargo space, expandable to an impressive 66 cubic-feet with the rear seats down. It comes with the 1.8L engine and the same choice of transmission options.
At the top of the range is the Golf R. With 4 doors, a very impressive engine and all-wheel drive, it is the ultimate European "hot-hatch." The Golf R comes with a highly tuned version of the GTI's 2.0L turbocharged engine that makes almost 300 horsepower. It comes with only the 6-speed DSG transmission, but is packed with premium standard features that include a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels, HID headlamps, heated power-adjustable leather seats and dual-zone climate control.
Two-door 1.8T models are offered in base and S trims. The base trim includes 15-inch alloy wheels, power-adjustable and heated side mirrors, Bluetooth audio streaming and hands-free connectivity, an 8-speaker stereo with iPod hookup, 5.8-inch touchscreen and HD radio, as well as cloth seating with a 60/40 split folding rear seat. The S trim adds an upgraded radio with a 6.5" touchscreen and satellite radio, steering wheel audio controls, smartphone-integration, remote keyless entry and a leather shift knob.
For the 4-door and Sportwagens, three trims are offered: S, SE and SEL. In the SE, buyers will find 17-inch wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, halogen fog lights, a power panoramic sunroof and a rearview camera. Inside, amenities include a Fender premium audio system with eight speakers and a subwoofer and heated front seats. The top-of-the-line SEL trim includes 18-inch wheels, touchscreen navigation, dual-zone automatic climate control and front sport seats with 12-way power-adjustable driver's seat.
Available packages include a Lighting Package, with adaptive bi-Xenon headlights, which turn in conjunction with the car's movements down the road. The Driver Assistance Package features Park Distance Control with front and rear proximity sensors, as well as a Forward Collision Warning that alerts you when there's trouble ahead.
All Golfs come with standard safety features that include anti-lock brakes, traction control and engine braking assist, plus a host of airbags to protect the cabin.
The Volkswagen Golf GTI is one of the most well-rounded sporty cars you can buy today. As fun as it is functional, the GTI is the kind of hot hatchback you can wring out on the weekend but happily drive on the daily. For my money, I can't think of a new car under $30,000 I'd rather buy.
That's truer now than it's ever been, thanks to the introduction of this new-for-2019 GTI Rabbit Edition, which slides in just under the $30K mark: $29,790, including $895 for destination. More than just a nod to the Golf's heritage, the Rabbit Edition bundles what I believe to be the GTI's best attributes into one affordable package. There's a lot to like about every Golf GTI model, but none of them speak to me quite like the Rabbit.
Before I get into the specifics of this Rabbit Edition, let me tell you about a few meaningful updates that apply to all 2019 GTI models. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine now makes 228 horsepower -- 8 more than before -- though torque remains unchanged at 258 pound-feet. A six-speed manual is still the standard transmission, but new for 2019 is a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic, which replaces the six-speed DCT from last year's GTI. Not only does the new gearbox offer smoother, quicker shifts, it means automatic-equipped GTIs now have stop/start fuel-saving tech, as well as launch control.
The Good The 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI gets a new Rabbit trim that adds more features and performance to the already solid base model.
The Bad Many comfort and convenience features are only available on higher trim levels, and the seventh-generation Golf is beginning to feel old inside.
The Bottom Line For enthusiasts on a budget, the fun, frugal, functional Golf GTI is one of the most well-rounded sports cars you can buy for under $30,000.
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