The 2019 Volkswagen GTI is one of our highest-ranking compact cars. Athletic driving dynamics, appealing technology, and a luxury-like cabin are among its standout qualities.
The current design of the GTI is somewhat long in the tooth, as we’re nearing the end of the model generation. Regardless, the MK7 GTI finally strikes a balance between aerodynamics and the traditional hard lines of a Volkswagen exterior. This is what gives Volkswagens their personality, and it’s what Volkswagens lost in their unimaginative bubble-like exteriors and interiors of the mid-to-late 2000s.
In the Mk7, ystill get the trademark red lines across the grill and front fascia, extending across the bottom of the headlights. A sportier suspension sits the GTI a little over a half inch lower to the ground than its Golf brethren, and when combined with now standard limited slip differential and larger brakes means you’ll be able to drive this car aggressively without fear of body roll or losing control.
On the inside, while we miss the trademark GTI Clark Plaid seats in the SE (this previously was an option), the leather seats are comfortable and of good quality, accented with red stitching. The interior makes good use of a small space, and in this smaller interior the 8” touchscreen looks sizeable – although the 6.5” screen found in the Rabbit Edition we also got a look at was underwhelming, especially in a car this expensive.
The 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI constantly monitors your surroundings.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, and the infotainment system sports an easy-to-use menu system navigable via steering wheel controls, with select information including navigation displayed in the center display so you’ll be able to keep your eyes in front of you.
While the interior might feel a little cramped, especially in the backseat, it’s because you’re getting an expansive cargo area in the rear for a hatchback.
The rear seats fold down nearly flat, offering plenty of storage space.
The decision to make driver assistance tech standard (or a cheap option for S buyers) is a great call. This is not just limited to a rear backup camera: the car constantly monitors your surroundings, applying the brakes if you appear to be heading for a collision, and warning you if you’re drifting out of a lane or if a vehicle is in your blind spot.
These alerts are both auditory and visual, either in the center dash display or illuminated alerts on your side mirrors for the blind spot detection.
But the car’s tech is not only limited to improving your driving, the infotainment system with integrated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allows you to use select apps right from your car radio, and Car-Net allows you to lock and unlock your car via VW’s app, and automatic crash detection will have help should you end up in an accident.
The Car-Net app is certainly a low point – it isn’t well designed and is often laggy. But in a pinch it works.
What can we say about driving the GTI other than it will put a smile on your face. In an aggressive test drive, we whipped the car around some of Pennsylvania’s windy roads, and at no time did we feel like the car was getting away from us. While certainly a bit of a stiffer ride than the Jetta or the Golf (you’ll feel those Pennsylvania potholes more, too), it’s not uncomfortable by any means.
In highway driving, you’ll appreciate the responsiveness when making a quick pass, and those driver assistance features come in handy in traffic and busy city streets – although you’ll enjoy this car much more out on the open road, that’s for sure.