Which VW hot hatch would you buy?

Review and photos by Jacob Black

Volkswagen is in the enviable position of having two uber-fun and exciting little rigs on the road. Both are iconic in their own way, and both have a unique draw to a passionate fan base. The Volkswagen GTI is the quintessential (and some say original) hot hatch. The Wolfsburg Edition takes it up another notch with some nice add-ons that harken back to the GTI’s rich heritage. The Beetle is its own style icon, but only enthusiasts really ever saw it as a sporty car. This GSR model has a rich heritage too – there was one back in the ’70s, it too was yellow, with black stripes, and packed a little bit more punch than the standard Beetle.

2014 Beetle GSR vs 2013 Volkswagen GTI
2014 Beetle GSR vs 2013 Volkswagen GTI

2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR vs 2013 Volkswagen GTI. Click image to enlarge

This time around there are plenty of options to choose from in the Beetle lineup, and it was my waxing lyrical over the more understated, 2013 Volkswagen Super Beetle that inspired me to check out this edition alongside the GTI – especially given some of the claims I made in the original Super Beetle story!

Both these cars have Volkswagen’s excellent dual-clutch automated manual mated to a 2.0L turbo four – though the Beetle’s is an updated version. They work out to about the same price too, $37,620 for the GSR, and $35,670 for the GTI as tested.

So, if you want a German-engineered sporty hatch with plenty of fun and character, which is best? The GTI or the Beetle GSR?

1. It’s Saturday night, you’re headed to a hot lounge bar with some friends, and dressed in your favourite threads:
A: Brown corduroy, tweed jacket, thick-rimmed glasses, and a tie. I would tell you what type, but it’s an obscure one we’ve probably never heard of.
B: Something tight, something bright, and something that makes me feel happy.

If you answered A: You might just be a hipster. You like to know that you’re different, and cool. The GTI Wolfsburg Edition is like a regular GTI, only better, because it’s more obscure. And you will definitely appreciate the exclusive tartan seats. They match your tie. Besides, it’s called a Golf!

If you answered B: You make your fashion choices for yourself, and without taking anything too seriously. For you, the vibrant yellow GSR with the black stripes looks incredible, and you can’t wait to get into those black and yellow leather seats.

2. I live with:
A: Me, myself and I.
B: My wife and two pre-schoolers.

If you answered A: Two doors is likely to be fine for you – and frankly the longer door opening made the Beetle easier to get in and out of anyway. The Beetle GSR will suit you just fine. And you don’t need the 260 L of extra interior volume found in the GTI; after all, your cat just sits in her box the whole time anyway.
If you answered B: You will enjoy the convenience of four separate doors. Not that it’s hard to load a child into the Beetle, there is plenty of room to get behind the seats. There is an extra four litres of cargo volume in the Beetle, but both cars carried a grocery load just fine. If the back seat sees any regular use at all though, four doors are always easier to live with than two. And it’s always easier to get children out through a back door then via a crawlspace behind a seat.

2014 Beetle GSR vs 2013 Volkswagen GTI2014 Beetle GSR vs 2013 Volkswagen GTI
2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR vs 2013 Volkswagen GTI. Click image to enlarge

3. My ideal Friday night is…
A: A couple of drinks at home with a friend or two.
B: Party time! Let’s go out and dance and flirt with a million people and drink and oh my God let’s go let’s go!

If you answered A: To say the GTI is an introvert’s car is inaccurate. After all, it still commands a bit of attention, but it is the introvert’s hot hatch. Like to have a nice dose of attention and activity in your life without going overboard? Get the GTI; it says, “Hey, I’m fun!”, but also, “But I’m quite okay having my own fun thanks.”

If you answered B: Like your writer, you are probably a wild extrovert, getting most of your fuel from the people around you and the attention thrown your way. The Beetle is the extrovert’s hot hatch. It oozes fun, and invites other people to get involved.

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