Skip to main content

Torque News Best Cars of the Year - 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI Is A Jack of All Trades

Volkswagen's iconic hot hatch stole this writer's heart. Here's how it did it.
Posted: January 7, 2016 - 9:30AM
Author: Will Maley

Whenever someone says they are 'jack of all trades', usually an air of skepticism falls on those who have heard it before. Sure, you might think of yourself as an excellent chef, piano player, computer wiz, and photographer. But you only have a small amount of knowledge for each one. This is due to the large amount of time that is put into a new skill, and not expanding your horizon on skills you know. Hence why 'Jack of all trades' also includes 'and master of none'. Cars can also be described as a 'Jack of all trades' and for the most part, they don't live up to that. But this past year, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI proved to be the one vehicle that could seemingly do it all.

Now unlike John and Aaron's picks, I went with something a bit more practical. A Golf GTI being practical? Very much so. Even though the Golf is classified as a compact, it doesn't feel like it inside. Anyone who finds themselves in the back seat will find plenty of head and legroom. Then there is a commodious cargo space which measures 22.8 cubic feet of space with rear seats up and 52.7 cubic feet with the seats down.

Yes, yes you are saying as you move your mouse to click away from this page. But what about the performance? I thought this was a hot hatch? We're getting to that now. Volkswagen rediscovered its mojo with the fifth-generation GTI and has been on a roll since then. Consider some of the specs of the turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder: 210 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque, and 0-60 time under 6 seconds. Impressive figures to say in the least. But it gets better. The engine always seems to have power at a moments notice. So whenever you need to make a pass or get up to speed a fast rate, the engine spools up with nary a hint of turbo lag and gets you moving.

As for handling, I would put the Golf GTI as being the top of the class. Volkswagen was given a clean sheet design with the seventh-generation Golf thanks to a new modular platform known as MQB. This allowed Volkswagen's engineers to work on a new suspension setup for the Golf GTI. It is noticeable in the cornering as the vehicle provides good grip and barely any body roll. The steering has the right amount of heft when turning and the right amount of feel. After you are done playing around, then the Golf GTI becomes a comfortable cruiser with barely any wind and road noise.

But with all of this praise, the GTI does has one issue: Volkswagen's DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. Volkswagen has done a lot of work to this transmission since being launched in the fifth-generation model to improve the speed of the gear-change and make it less jerky when leaving a stop. But there Volkswagen still hasn't figured out how to make the DSG be lighting fast when it comes to downshifts. There were times when I had the pedal on the floor and the DSG take a few seconds to realize that it needed to downshift. At least, it is only an option.

The hot hatch, in theory, can be considered a 'Jack of all trades'; providing performance thrills, while being somewhat usable for day to day use. A lot of manufacturers get the first part, but don't seem to get the second. Volkswagen is able to do both with the Golf GTI.