10,000 Mile Update
Throughout one’s life, you stumble upon items being used outside of their intended purpose. A wedding ring doubles as a bottle opener. The lighter will also release frozen foam at the top. And if that fails, try locking the doors on your vehicle. The Volkswagen GTI’s ability to carve canyons is a well-known commodity. But doubles as a utility vehicle? That is beyond the expected usage.
Life with the GTI has been smooth so far, a quarter of the way through VW’s 40,000 mile test. The first oil change and inspection is free from Volkswagen. Fall came and went before we had a chance to order some better looking tires and stickier summer tires. That’s a project we’ll revisit in the spring. In the meantime, we fitted our GTI S with a set of OE-sized Nokian Hakkapeliitta R5s in preparation for the Arctic season. At $274 each, they’re on the higher end of the winter tire spectrum, but we quickly learned you get what you pay for.
Mid-November is when Michigan whitetail deer hunters migrate to their camps. Northbound I-75 becomes a parade of pickup trucks filled with Mossy Oak camouflage towing dilapidated campers ping-ponging in their lanes. With its large cargo hold full of hunting gear and a week’s worth of food and drink (and no bottle opener), our distinctly non-pickup GTI joined the exodus.
Heavy snow fell on the roads of Northern Michigan for most of the drive—in true deer camping fashion—and the Nokians performed exceptionally well. As the 4×4 pickup glides through intersections and struggles to make forward progress, the little front-wheel-drive GTI presses on, unphased by worsening road conditions, except for one caveat. The outermost LED bulb in the light assembly does not generate enough heat to melt frozen road slush, which ultimately distorts the light. Often, we had to jump out and scrape them off the debris. A minor inconvenience, but it’s something.
Of course, the side-by-side utility vehicle is the transportation of choice between camp and the hunting blind, but the GTI surprised the neighboring hunters with its off-road-like prowess as it navigated the woods, despite the weeks of snow piled up. To call it a utility vehicle is a stretch, but it’s quieter than the Polaris Ranger, and it has heated seats and a heated steering wheel—all at a lower price than most off-roaders.
When the GTI isn’t masquerading as an unlikely camp cruiser, it’s still a delight on the interstate, even if the Nokians’ smooth flower block detracts from the hot hatch’s brilliant handling touch. Our highway work to Virginia International Speedway in support of the Lightning Lap and to New York City improved our overall fuel economy to an impressive 29 mpg. News editor Caleb Miller found the GTI perfect for city life during a trip to the Big Apple over the holidays. Its compact size is just right for navigating busy streets and makes it easy to park on the street. Open winding roads, snowshoeing, whitetail hunting, and big city life. What can’t the GTI do? It is confirmed that it cannot withdraw money 30 points; we have 27,000 miles to go.
Months in Fleet: 6 months Current Mileage: 13,609 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 29 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 13.2 gal Observed Fuel Range: 380 miles
Services: $0 repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $0
To show restraint is a very bad thing, especially for us. Whether it’s prime horsepower numbers, outrageous levels of grip, or indulging in countless creature comforts, there’s always a hunger for more. Not the time. When we determined our long-term (and Top 10 Winner) 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI, we flipped the script.
For the next 40,000 miles, we’ll see how life is with the lower-end $30,540 GTI S model. We’re pretty good at reading lips, because we know you’re just saying “Wait, $30K for a base GTI?!” Yes, that is correct. This is the time we live in, when someone pays $3.6 million for a one-off Porsche 911 based on car movie character Sally Carrera.
Wearing the entry-level S trim means no panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats or heated seats for rear occupants. That’s a decision we feel calm about. It also means the 15-position electronically controlled damper won’t find its way into every corner. And that’s okay, that’s about 12 posts too many. What matters most is a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four under the hood and a six-speed manual gearbox, especially since the base hot hatch should focus on the basics.
The biggest omission is the lack of summer tires, which cannot be added as a stand-alone option. Stickier rubber is reserved for the top-dog Autobahn trim, which carries a $39,425 price tag. However, on the test track, the observations extracted from cutting the two winding lanes were confirmed: this eighth-generation GTI makes a ton of mechanical grip. Around the skid pad, the Pirelli P Zero All Season rubber is suspended with 0.93 g of lateral stick and not that far from the 0.98 g we averaged with the GTI Autobahn on summer tires in our last comparison test. In the braking department, a stop from 70 mph required 169 feet, and a stop from 100 mph, 342 feet—19 and 38 feet longer, respectively, than with the grippier rubber. We predict in our GTI’s future a new set of wheels wrapped in summer rubber to help keep this VW on a tighter leash.
All-season rubber proved more problematic when trying to make the most of a standing start. There’s plenty of wheel spin to manage, provided the GTI’s stability system doesn’t try to micromanage it first. Even when the system shows it has been turned off and removed from the equation, it’s still in the background, all too eager to put out tire fires off the line and during aggressive one-two shifts. With little clutch slip, our GTI hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and passed the quarter mile in 14.3 seconds at 101 mph. That’s just 0.3 seconds off the dual-clutch-equipped GTI SE rolling on the same rubber. We’ll gladly give up a few tenths to row our own gear.
Opting for the base Golf GTI means life with a smaller 8.3-inch touchscreen, which is independent of built-in navigation. And that’s not a big deal, as many of us prefer the guidance apps provided by Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. SiriusXM fans will be disappointed to learn of its absence, but again, smartphone to win. This wired connection to the multimedia interface is getting old, but the GTI S still needs a cord. All of these issues can be resolved by moving up the trim level into the SE, with its 10.0-inch display, but the smaller screen’s volume and tuning knob won us over over the fussy haptic controls on the larger screen.
Perhaps the GTI’s supportive seats with Clark checkered inlays and its superb driving attitude will allow us to forgive its lack of interior materials. But that cheap-looking piece of plastic stares at us every day. We have another 35,000 miles to decide if we can live with that scowl.
Months in Fleet: 2 months Current Mileage: 4515 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 27 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 13.2 gal Observed Fuel Range: 350 miles
Services: $0 Casual Clothing: $0 repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $0
2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI
Vehicle Type: front engine, front wheel drive, 5 passenger, 4 door hatchback
Base/As Tested: $30,540/$30,935
Optional: Moonstone Gray paint, $395
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, iron block and aluminum heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 121 in31984 sm3
Power: 241 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 273 lb-ft @ 1750 rpm
6 speed manual
Suspension, F/R: strut/multi-link
Brakes, F/R: 13.4-in vented disc/12.2-in vented disc
Tires: Pirelli P Zero All Season
225/40R-18 92H M+S Extra Load AO
Wheelbase: 103.6 inches
Length: 168.8 inches
Width: 70.4 inches
Height: 57.6 inches
Passenger Volume: 92 feet3
Cargo Volume: 20 feet3
Curb Weight: 3112 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS: NEW
60 mph: 5.8 seconds
100 mph: 13.9 seconds
1/4-Mile: 14.3 seconds @ 101 mph
120 mph: 20.2 seconds
The above results leave a 1 foot launch for 0.4 seconds.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 6.2 seconds
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 10.0 seconds
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 7.1 seconds
Top Speed (gov ltd): 127 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 169 feet
Braking, 100–0 mph: 342 feet
Road grip, 300 ft Skid Pad: 0.93 g
C/D OIL ECONOMY
Observed: 27 mpg
Unscheduled Oil Addition: 0 qt
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 28/24/34 mpg
4 years/50,000 miles bumper to bumper
4 years/50,000 miles powertrain
7 years/100,000 miles corrosion protection
3 years/36,000 miles roadside assistance
2 years/20,000 miles scheduled maintenance
C/D TESTS EXPLAINED