That means this performance compact isn't for everyone; it's for enthusiasts who measure its appeal more by how fast, rather than how far, it goes.
GTI was a finalist, along with the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Buick LaCrosse, for North American Car of the Year honors in judging by 49 members of the nation's automotive press, this scribe included. Ford, and its broad appeal, won, as it should have. GTI is for those who communicate in shorthand with their thumbs and are too busy to worry about the price of fuel.
New for 2010, GTI Gen 6 is offered in two- or four-door hatchback. Only one engine: a 2-liter, 200-horsepower turbo 4, with a choice of 6-speed manual or automatic.
We tested the four-door with Tiptronic automatic for faux-manual shifting. The traditional 6-speed manual is probably more in character with the performance image of this compact than the wannabe.
Actually, the two-door is probably more in keeping with the image as well, though the four-door makes it easier to bring the family and friends along.
The 2-liter has decent pep. Response is pleasant despite the turbo lag between standing on the pedal and leaving the light. GTI boasts zero to 60 in 6.8 seconds with manual; 6.7 with automatic. Perhaps automatic isn't out of character, just awaiting an attitude adjustment.
The automatic earns another tip of the hat for mileage. GTi is rated at 21 mpg city/31 highway with manual and 24/32 with automatic. Top speed is 130 mph — manual or automatic.
The suspension is tuned for agile, sure-footed handling, with good response to steering input. Stability control and anti-slip (traction) control are standard. Seventeen-inch all-season radial tires are standard, with 18-inch summer tires ($890) and 18-inch all-season radials ($750) optional. The summer tires provide optimal handling until the car has to be garaged in the winter; the all-seasons provide very good handling any time.
While most will find the power and performance to their liking, the cabin is what makes the GTI an acquired taste. It doesn't set the benchmark for room or comfort unless pant and hat size are the same. The test vehicle came with optional Autobahn package and its narrow sports bucket seats with large, stiff side bolsters to hold occupants in place during aggressive motoring.
Wider, softer seats and slimmer, softer side bolsters would help upfront if age is larger than pant size. Comfort takes a back seat in back too. The rear cargo hold has decent room for luggage or gear and rear seatbacks fold, though a little short of flat, to hold more stuff. A cargo cover hides it all.
The four-door GTI starts at $23,890 and includes such goodies as AM/FM/CD player with auxiliary and iPod plugs, power windows/mirrors/locks, side-curtain air bags and height adjustable (manual) seats.
Options are limited, and you'd have to add all of them to break the $30,000 barrier. Automatic added $1,100, Bluetooth $199 and the Autobahn package $2,795 for the uncomfortable seats with leather trim and a power sunroof. Get sunroof with regular seats and save $1,795.
Only other options available are a navi system for $1,750 and Bi-Xenon headlamps for $700.
Doc fee rises
The maximum documentary service, or DOC, fee that Illinois dealers can charge customers in 2010 has risen to $154.38, up $2.73 from 2009. The DOC fee covers the paperwork on the purchase of a new or used vehicle. Under Illinois law, dealers don't have to charge a DOC fee, but if they do, they have to charge all customers the same amount — and the tax on that amount.
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Rides. Contact him at email@example.com.