2010 Volkswagen GTI
2010 Volkswagen GTI. Click image to enlarge

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Volkswagen Canada

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Two-door, six-speed manual

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2010 Volkswagen GTI

North Vancouver, British Columbia – If there’s one car that has defined the “hot hatch” segment over the past three decades, it’s the Volkswagen GTI. Since 1983 in North America (1976 in Europe) it’s been the car that other sporty hatchbacks have aspired to.

The GTI’s long lifecycle is all the more impressive when you look at the list of hot hatches that have come and gone in that period: Dodge Omni GLH, Ford Escort GT, Ford Focus SVT, Mazda 323 GTX, Chevy Sprint Turbo, Pontiac Firefly Turbo, Suzuki Swift Turbo, Toyota Corolla GT-S, Honda Civic Si and SiR, Acura Integra Type R, Acura RSX Type S, Dodge Caliber SRT-4 – those are the ones I can remember.

2010 Volkswagen GTI
2010 Volkswagen GTI. Click image to enlarge

A new generation of hotties has arrived to take their place – Mazdaspeed3, Mini Cooper JCW, and Subaru WRX – but in my opinion, the redesigned 2010 GTI is still the design which best expresses the hot hatch concept. Its one major drawback is the unavailability of all-wheel drive, which would make it more competitive with the WRX, but would also add substantially to the price.

Changes for 2010

Sticking to its roots, the sixth-generation GTI is notable for how much it hasn’t changed as for how much it has changed. Though different, it is unmistakably a GTI in its size, appearance, driving dynamics, and practicality. Mechanically, not a lot has changed: the new platform is a reworked version of the previous Golf/GTI unibody design and its proven 200-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-litre direct injection DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine combined with a six-speed manual or optional six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) returns for 2010 basically unaltered. With some of its competitors now offering well over 200 horsepower, it could be argued that the GTI’s engine is now “underpowered”, but I would have to disagree for reasons I will explain shortly.

2010 Volkswagen GTI
2010 Volkswagen GTI
2010 Volkswagen GTI
2010 Volkswagen GTI. Click image to enlarge

The GTI’s new styling includes a new front bumper design that eliminates the large Audi-like grille opening and replaces it with an upper honeycomb grille with the familiar red trim and a new lower air intake with integral fog lights; there are also redesigned auto-levelling, swivelling bi-xenon headlights and polycarbonate headlight covers; a new body crease below the windows similar to the third-generation GTI; new door handles; redesigned taillights and rear bumper; and dual exhaust pipes at each side of the rear bumper instead of together on one side.

Interior changes, while subtle, are numerous: the reshaped instrument panel now flows seamlessly into the centre console and a new centre 6.5-inch touch-screen provides improved graphics and easier operation of the radio and some climate and navigation functions; the small fuel and oil pressure gauges have been relocated inside the larger tachometer and speedometer gauges; the redesigned steering has new controls for audio, climate, trip computer, and Bluetooth; the heater controls for the automatic climate control have been redesigned; there’s a new shift knob; and there’s increased use of bright aluminum accents on control surfaces.

In order to reduce interior noise, the windows are now ten per cent thicker and the windshield has been redesigned; there are double seals for the windows, and redesigned ventilation outlets for the heater. As well, there a new cover underneath the engine.

One change that you may not have heard about is that the Roadside Assistance that comes with the warranty is now valid for four years/80,000 km instead of four years/unlimited mileage.

Standard equipment

As before, 2010 GTIs come in two and four-door hatchback bodystyles (which VW calls three- and five-door). Standard features on the two-door GTI ($28,675) include 225/45R17-inch all-season tires mounted on ‘Denver’ alloy wheels, front halogen fog lights, swivelling bi-xenon headlights, four disc brakes with ABS, front MacPherson strut/rear independent four-link suspension with coil springs, electronic differential lock, electronic stability control, heated power mirrors, rear intermittent wiper and washer, and heated front washer nozzles.

2010 Volkswagen GTI
2010 Volkswagen GTI. Click image to enlarge

Inside are a flat-bottomed sport steering wheel with paddle shifters on DSG equipped models, eight-way manually adjustable “Jacky cloth” front sport seats with lumbar adjuster, seat heaters, and ‘easy entry’ feature, brushed aluminum pedals, leather-wrapped shift knob and handbrake handle, dual-zone automatic climate control, premium audio system with 6.5-inch touch screen, six-disc CD/MP3 changer, SD card slot, eight speakers, Sirius satellite radio and auxiliary input; Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, cruise control, trip computer with information screen, power windows with pinch protection, power mirrors, power door locks with keyless remote, six airbags, four cupholders, and 60/40 folding split rear seatbacks with centre armrest and ski pass-through.

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