First Drive: 2015 Volkswagen GTI volkswagen first drives
First Drive: 2015 Volkswagen GTI volkswagen first drives
First Drive: 2015 Volkswagen GTI volkswagen first drives
2015 Volkswagen GTI. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Brendan McAleer

Originally published September 11, 2013

Napa Valley, California – Naturally, it’s the Scirocco R that’s getting all the attention. Here in Napa, at a Volkswagen full-line drive event, VW brought over some of what they call “VW Candy”. Chief among the attractions is this bright blue two-door, one of the hottest vehicles Volkswagen currently makes. With 261 hp connected to the front wheels by a quick-shifting six-speed dual-clutch gearbox and a clever electronic differential, it’s no wonder there’s a lineup to drive it.

But who cares? They’re never going to bring this car to North America.

What they are going to start selling to Canadians (eventually) is a version of the other two pieces of forbidden fruit here. One is a diesel version of the latest Golf, the other is the seventh generation GTI. Somehow, despite its bright red paint-job, this last is proving to be a bit of a wallflower.

Not wanting us to rot our teeth, VW has provided an extremely short test route for any of its sugary Euro-specials. “Just ten minutes,” they say, and the prescribed course is as dull as dull can be: two right-hand turns and about as many curves as Saskatchewan. Seeing as nobody’s queuing up for the GTI, perhaps no one will object to me blazing my own trail. Five minutes behind the wheel and I don’t much care if they do or not. In fact, I might not ever give the keys back.

We’ll be getting the seventh generation Golf – known as the Mk 7 to the Vee-Dub crowd – as a 2015 model, probably available fall of next year. The car is all over the place in Europe already, but VW’s doing something a bit odd over here. While you’ll be able to get a 2014 Jetta, VW Canada increased their order of 2013 Golfs and GTIs, and intends to sell down until they run out. There won’t be a 2014 GTI here, though the US will have one.

According to the sales figures shown, that means they’re going to run out, and folks are going to have to sit on their hands for a few months until the new one shows up. For the love of Pete, don’t buy something else until you’ve at least had the chance to try this thing out.

Let’s start ticking off the good news. First, it’s lighter, down by about 100 kilos (200 lb) on average so that models hover right around the 1,400-kg (3,000 lb) mark depending on equipment. Granted, that’s still one porky rabbit (lay off the Trix already!), but it’s lighter than the Focus ST or the Mazdaspeed3, and within a Barrel of Monkeys–worth of a BRZ.

It’s also better looking. There wasn’t much wrong with the old GTI, but this new one is somehow righter. The tidy little side strakes down low on the front valence, the pinched, angry face, the trim way the rear diffuser envelops the dual exhausts – pretty much the only way VW can screw this up in translation is by bolting on a set of the wrong wheels. Remember those fat, curb-magnet, five-spoke Monza affairs? Let’s not have a repeat of those.




About Brendan McAleer

Brendan McAleer is a Vancouver-based automotive writer, a member of AJAC and a ginger.