Others are faster or more practical, but the GTI is the best all-arounder.
Of all the vehicle types on the market - sedans, crossovers, trucks, coupes - it's the humble hatchback that makes the most sense to us. Back in 1975, Volkswagen added some sporty flavor to the Golf, creating the first 'hot' hatchback, the Golf GTI. The rest is history and the GTI has been with us ever since, acting as the ultimate hot hatch benchmark.
We recently had the opportunity to test a 2019 Golf GTI before the next-generation model is likely revealed next year. Even though the seventh-generation GTI has been on the market since 2015, we still believe it is the best all-around hot hatch on the market. In fact, we believe the GTI is so outstanding, it would be our answer to the question "what car would you drive if you could only have one for the rest of your life?" Here are five reasons why we say the Golf GTI is the only car you ever truly need.
In fashion terms, a little black dress is meant to be a long-lasting, versatile, and affordable outfit that all women should have in their wardrobe. In the car world, this is the Golf GTI. Depending on what color you opt for, the GTI can completely blend in with the mundane sedans and econoboxes of the world or stand out like a high-dollar sports car.
Our tester was sent to us wearing a rather mundane paint called Dark Iron Blue Metallic but if you opt for the cheaper Rabbit Edition, you will gain access to the bold shades of Cornflower Blue and Urano Grey (pictured below). Like a little black dress, the Golf GTI is fit for all occasions - we just wish it was available with the incredible Spektrum colors found on the Golf R.
We love hatchbacks because they are far more versatile than sedans and they don't suffer from the poor handling characteristics associated with SUVs. The GTI boasts 17.4 cubic feet of storage, which increases to 53.7 cubic feet with the seats folded down. But since humans aren't great at visualizing storage space based on numbers alone, we measured the GTI's storage space as one queen-sized mattress (with a bed frame) plus ample room for a few smaller items.
Our GTI loan fell on the same week I moved into a new apartment after the GMC Yukon we had originally scheduled needed to go in for service. Though nowhere near as large as the Yukon, the GTI did not shy away from the challenge of carrying the mattress I'd just ordered. It was able to carry the mattress without issue and the same could not be said for pretty much any sedan on sale today.
Perhaps the most under-appreciated aspect of the Golf GTI is its premium feel. For many years now, the GTI has punched well above its price class in terms of interior materials. Especially on the higher trim levels, like our Autobahn tester, the leathers and plastics would not feel out of place on an entry-level luxury model from Audi, BMW, or Mercedes-Benz. We prefer the lower-trim GTI models because they come with the plaid seats but if you prefer leather, the higher-trim models include it.
The GTI may just be a humble Volkswagen but it is filled with all of the driver assists you could ever need in 2019. Its adaptive cruise control works flawlessly, even bringing the car to a full halt in traffic without having to touch the pedals. Our Autobahn tester will even parallel park itself. Opt for the lower-trim models without all of the driver assists, and you still get Apple Car Play and Android Auto, giving you access to the best voice command and navigation on the market right now.
The biggest argument we will likely hear about why the GTI is not the perfect car to last a lifetime is that it simply isn't fast enough. Having driven everything from a Toyota Yaris to a McLaren 720S Spider, we can assure you that the GTI offers the perfect level of performance. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder develops 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual or a seven-speed DSG. These are German horses though, and the GTI seems more powerful when you drive it in the rear world.
The numbers seem to bear that out as well because the GTI hits 60 mph in under six seconds, which is quicker than several more powerful competitors. If you need more performance, the GTI is one of the most easily tuned cars in the world and the pricier Golf R offers up 292 hp and all-wheel-drive grip.