Review and photos by Brendan McAleer

2013 Volkswagen GTI
2013 Volkswagen GTI. Click image to enlarge

If you don’t have an ounce of patience, this is the car for you – but don’t buy one. No, really, plonk your butt firmly in your comfiest chair, crank up the Tom Petty, and croon along to The Waiting (is the hardest part) – it’s only for about a year or so.

Why? Because the next one’s better. We’ve driven the 2015 GTI in Euro-spec trim, and while there will probably be a slight softening of the car for North American tastes, the seventh-generation GTI is lighter, more powerful, slightly nimbler, and has a nicer interior.

But you can’t wait. Your lease is coming due. You’ve got a kid on the way and your old tin-can VW project car is about as safe as a high-speed garden shed. Somebody wrote off your cherry VR6 Mark IV GTI. The bottom rusted out of your college beater. You need a car now, not next year.

Well, fine. If you can’t sit on your hands until the fall of 2014 (plus whatever lag time the pent-up demand creates), then the 2013 GTI demands a look. Apparently there’s a lot of you doing more than looking as VW reports that their dealerships are expressing concerns about running out of the things.

2013 Volkswagen GTI
2013 Volkswagen GTI. Click image to enlarge

VW Canada is doing something slightly different than its counterparts in the good ol’ U S of A. Rather than selling the same-old model as a 2014 without updates, they’ve simply ordered an extra-large batch of 2013 editions and plan to sell them right through next year until the new car arrives.

While the new GTI is slightly better in pretty much every measurable dynamic, it’s very much a case of improving on near-perfection. The sixth-generation GTI is now in its fifth year of production and comes off a half-decade of winning or at least placing on the podium in every comparison test it’s been entered in.

Here, in Tornado Red (which I prefer to call, “Yes, Officer?” Red), shod with 18-inch multi-spoke alloys, the GTI shows why it’s pretty much the only hot hatchback a grown-up can get away with. Despite the shiny colour and the biggish wheels, this is a nice, sensible four-door city car – no snorting Mazdaspeed or Subaru hood scoop, no gawping-catfish Focus ST grille. It’s understated and, especially in silver or white, blends into traffic to the point where you’d probably keep forgetting where you parked it. In a car that’s to be driven spiritedly, an invisibility cloak is a good thing.

2013 Volkswagen GTI
2013 Volkswagen GTI
2013 Volkswagen GTI
2013 Volkswagen GTI. Click image to enlarge

Also understated, the power levels. Here, Volkswagen’s venerable aluminum-head/iron-block, 2.0L four-cylinder turbo purports to make a nice round 200 hp and a gutsy 207 lb-ft of torque. On paper at least, these figures are roundly thumped by pretty much every single one of its competitors.

Somewhat bemused by the mild exterior and ho-hum spec sheet, step into the interior and find at least something a bit special with the plaid cloth sport seats. I love these: VW calls the base-trim upholstery Jacky Cloth, and it’s a great homage to the GTI’s near-30-year history. It also looks like it’ll hide stains well.

Excellent, as this car is about as Dad-spec as you can get. Four doors? Check. Spacious trunk? Check. Rear seats big enough to handle the rear-facing child seat? Check. Dual-clutch gearbox to handle the dreary stop-and-go commute? Check.

Less than six months of child-carrying duty, and this growly little hatchback would have a back seat just as strewn with Cheerios and dropped toys as any minivan you choose to name. It’s safe (an IIHS Top Safety Pick), it’s comfortable enough to load up the stroller and drive the two hours to the grandparents’ house, it’s innocuous enough to park at the PTA meeting without looking like you’re having a mid-life crisis, and it’s nice enough inside to impress the office carpool.

Let the nitpicking commence. First, even though the somewhat-spartan look will appeal to long-time VW fans, the unrelentingly bleak blackness of everything could depress a Tigger into an Eeyore. Some of the hard plastic feels – dare I say it – a bit cheap.

Connect with Autos.ca