2011 Volkswagen GTI
2011 Volkswagen GTI. Click image to enlarge

Related articles on Autos.ca
Volkswagen GTI

Manufacturer’s web site
Volkswagen Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Photo Gallery:
2011 Volkswagen GTI

Unless you’re exceedingly wealthy and have a five-car garage, you probably don’t own a different car for your every mood – an economy car for commuting, a sports car for the weekend, a minivan or SUV for family excursions, a luxury car for evenings out, and a pickup truck for cargo duties. For most of us, it’s necessary to compromise with a more practical and fuel-efficient vehicle that gets the job done, but isn’t necessarily too exciting.

But there is a vehicle that’s as sporty as a sports car, has room for a family of four or five, is easy to park, offers reasonable fuel economy, and can carry a lot of cargo – for a price that starts under $30,000.

Yes, it’s the VW GTI, voted 2010 Canadian Car of the Year by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). This German-built Golf derivative features VW/Audi’s potent 200-hp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine enabling it to sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in just 6.9 seconds (AJAC track tests) and from 80 to 120 km/h in just 4.6 seconds (with optional DSG transmission). The turbo engine’s maximum torque of 207 pound-feet starts at just 1,700 rpm, giving it excellent throttle response.

2011 Volkswagen GTI
2011 Volkswagen GTI
2011 Volkswagen GTI. Click image to enlarge

Cruising on the highway, the four-cylinder engine settles down to just 2,300 rpm in top gear, achieving up to 7.1 L/100 km, according to the EPA, when equipped with the DSG automatic transmission (7.6 with the manual transmission). Premium fuel is recommended but not required. EPA City consumption is rated at 9.8 L/100 km (auto) and 11.2 (manual). In my week with the car, my onboard fuel consumption display was showing 11.7 L/100 km in mostly city driving.

A six-speed manual transmission is standard, but we’d recommend the optional automatic six-speed DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) that includes a “Tiptronic” manual shift mode. The DSG has two clutches, one in the current gear and another which pre-selects the next gear based how the onboard computer interprets your driving patterns. When changing gears, one clutch disengages while the other engages, resulting in lightning fast shifts, whether automatic or manual. Manual shifts are done using the floor shift lever or the paddles behind the steering wheel (left to shift down, right to shift up). The paddles are fun to use, but I found myself enjoying the transmission’s crisp response to my right foot almost as much, not to mention its ease of use in urban traffic. The DSG also engages engine braking by shifting down automatically when descending a hill.

The GTI comes with a fully independent suspension (front MacPherson struts/rear multi-links), standard low-profile 225/45R H-rated 17-inch tires and a short wheelbase which combine for unusually nimble handling with minimal body lean; however, its great handling comes at the expense of some ride comfort which is noticeably firm over broken pavement and rough roads.

Connect with Autos.ca