2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI First Look Review: 245-HP Of Awesome

by Jay Traugott

While the new Volkswagen Golf won't be coming to the US, the high-performance variant certainly will be. Introducing the all-new 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI, the eighth-generation of one of the best all-around driver's cars on the planet. While its general shape remains the same, the new GTI comes packed full of new technologies, greater overall refinement, and more power under its hood than ever. It's only available as a five-door hatchback as the three-door body style was previously discontinued during the seventh-gen model's run.

As Volkswagen gears up for its spirited drive towards electrification, the GTI remains an internal combustion engine vehicle. Equally important, buyers will once again have the option of rowing their own gears with a six-speed manual transmission.

A further examination of the exterior and interior designs reveals some significant advances in overall styling and some may find it hard to believe many of its features were limited to expensive luxury vehicles only a few years ago. And yes, the iconic plaid seats remain, but there's still so much more fans will find very appealing.

Is the 2021 Volkswagen Golf a good car?

  • Exterior Design 9 /10
  • Performance 9 /10
  • Fuel Economy 7 /10
  • Interior & Cargo 10 /10
  • Infotainment & Features 10 /10
  • Reliability 8 /10
  • Safety 10 /10
  • Value For Money 10 /10
9.1
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2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Models

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
2.0T S
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Manual
7-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$28,695
2.0T SE
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Manual
7-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$32,665
2.0T Autobahn
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Manual
7-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$36,945

See all Trims and Specs

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Front Angle View Volkswagen
2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Front View Volkswagen
2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Rear View Volkswagen

Sleek New Exterior

Perhaps the first thing you should take note of is the new GTI's more charismatic exterior styling. While its overall five-door hatchback shape remains, VW designers went to great lengths with more specific details. The standard LED headlights are now positioned lower and create a striking crossbar in conjunction with the grille. As your eyes drift towards the end of the hood, you'll see a red narrow line spanning the front end. When the daytime running lights are lit, a red LED strip in the headlights is activated.

Perhaps the most noticeable design aspect is the lower grille. It's huge and sports a cool-looking honeycomb pattern. The optional integrated fog lamps are located at each side. It's an interesting choice, no doubt, and we think it works very well. The rear end sports LED taillights and an aggressive sport diffuser. A pair of polished exhausted tips are incorporated within it. Another nice design touch are the C-pillars. Not only do they visually propel the vehicle body forwards, but have been styled as a tribute to the original GTI's design.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Front-End View Volkswagen
2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Rear Angle View Volkswagen
2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Wheel Volkswagen
2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Exhaust Volkswagen

Familiar, But High-Tech Interior

Step inside and GTI fans should notice a few familiarities, namely the sport steering wheel with three double spokes, the golf ball shifter knob (for the six-speed manual), and tartan GTI sport seats. However, the sport steering also incorporates a number of control functions, such as the optional Travel Assist button.

There's also something VW calls the Innovision Cockpit. This consists of a 10.25-inch digital instrument panel and a 10-inch infotainment/navigation screen. They combine to form a visual and functional blend of digitized systems. The days of analog controls are nearly over. The standard background lighting embeds the displays in a spectrum of up to 30 configurable colors. The interior boasts seating for five, though space will be tight for whoever is in the middle rear seat.

VW hasn't released exact interior dimensions, but we can confirm overall passenger and cargo space has increased.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Dashboard Volkswagen
2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Central Console Volkswagen
2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Gear Shifter Volkswagen
2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Front Seats Volkswagen

Power, Handling, And Safety

Keeping with tradition, the new GTI is powered by a direct-injected turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a total of 245 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. Compared to its immediate predecessor, this is an increase of 17 hp and 15 lb-ft. All of that power is routed to the front wheels through either a standard six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. It's important to note these numbers are for the European market GTI and it's possible they might slightly change for its US counterpart. Performance times are also not available yet.

Although this isn't a significant amount of power, the GTI is also known as a true driver's car. VW's engineers focused heavily on improving handling by developing a new driving dynamics control system called "Vehicle Dynamics Manager." This system manages the XDS electronic locking differential and optional DCC adaptive damping.

A few standard safety features include lane-keeping assist and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and an electronic locking differential. There's even a Car2X local communication system with other vehicles and traffic infrastructure.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Engine Volkswagen
2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Badge Volkswagen
2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Steering Wheel Design Volkswagen

Pricing And Competition

For now, VW has only released official images and details of the European-spec 2021 Golf GTI, but the US version will look identical inside and out, perhaps save for a few minor elements. Pricing has not been announced but we don't expect it to differ greatly from the outgoing model's $28,595 base price. Fully-loaded, it goes for about $35,000.

Because the Golf GTI is the original hot hatch, it's considered the segment's benchmark. Naturally, competing automakers have stepped up to the challenge over the years in an attempt to outdo the GTI. The Ford Focus ST will be a major rival, but it's no longer sold in the US. Perhaps the GTI's most formidable US market foe will be the Hyundai Veloster N. That's a comparison test we can't wait to see.

Volkswagen has yet to provide an official on-sale date, but we expect this to happen later this year or early next.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Volkswagen
2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI 1 Volkswagen
2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI 2 Volkswagen

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Volkswagen Golf GTI