The GTI is one of the foremost cars in the hot hatchback segment. Its strongest rival is the Honda Civic Si.

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The GTI has some serious performance styling, notably its honeycomb grille and air intakes. The grille gets a red pinstripe that looks good on both white or black GTIs.

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This year, the GTI is available in two- or four-door versions. The four-door GTI adds 62 pounds over the two-door version.

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Hot hatches, with their boxy rear ends, have a distinctive styling all their own, and a hint of practicality.

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Configured as shown, the GTI has no more cargo space than the average compact sedan. But take out the rear cover and fold down the seats, and the cargo area becomes much more substantial.

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Although the GTI uses quality switchgear and materials, the luxury only feels skin deep.

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We were unimpressed with the navigation system, which uses a slow processor and takes too much time to draw its maps.

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With the navigation option present, the CD changer gets mounted in the center console. The console-mounted changer, as opposed to the in-dash unit, can't play MP3 CDs.

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8
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You can operate the disc changer with the buttons lining the LCD.

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9
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The radio preset list mimics the layout of the CD screen.

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10
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We were very happy with the audio quality of the stereo system.

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11
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The Direct Shift Gearbox really makes the GTI stand out. Its sport mode is surprisingly aggressive.

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12
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The GTI's steering wheel gets a sporty flat area at the bottom. The paddle shifters on the spokes allow lightning-fast gear shifts.

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One detail Volkswagen got from its Audi make is the useful LED display in the middle of the instrument cluster. It can show trip computer data, navigation, or stereo information.

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14
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The turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder engine in the GTI makes a delightful growl.

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