I’ve been accused of being a hot hatch lover. I thought I’d grown out of the stage in my life where I wanted to buy one, but this summer, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to drive literally every hot hatch currently offered for sale on North American shores. The Ford Focus ST was an awesome newcomer to the segment, and the Mini Cooper S was the perfect example of an oldie but a goodie. Volkswagen has been spreading a lot of buzz around their upcoming new GTI, so I decided to drive the 2013 Volkswagen GTI Wolfsburg Edition to see how the outgoing model stacks up against its competitors.
The GTI is, according to most auto enthusiasts I’ve come across, the holy grail of hot hatches. While it’s not a winner based on numbers (whether performance or price), it’s supposed to be the all-around best at what it does. It shares its 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and (optional) 6-speed dual-clutch transmission with nearly everything else in the Volkswagen lineup, but it’s a completely different animal in the GTI. I recently drove the upcoming Super Beetle with the new powertrain shared with the upcoming GTI, and while I liked it, I didn’t love it. After a week with this Wolfsburg GTI, I liked it a whole lot more.
The engine puts out a modest 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque, but it’s been rumoured around the Volkswagen world that these numbers are underrated. There’s little to no turbo lag, a pleasant change from some of the other turbo 4-pots on the market. Despite being a manual transmission purist, I can definitely see the appeal in the dual-clutch option in this car. The shifts are firm, sound amazing, and significantly quicker than I could manage with my clutch pedal. At the end of the day, even though I am writing this article on “DoubleClutch.ca”, I think I’d skip the $1,400 and row my own gears. The golf ball shifter is a nice touch; it’s easily my favourite automatic shift knob in the industry right now.
While maintaining its tradition of front-wheel-drive, Volkswagen has managed to make the GTI incredibly flat around the corners. Driving through the hilly Niagara Escarpment was absolutely effortless. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is fun to toss back and forth, and the steering itself is direct and extremely responsive. This GTI makes driving to and from work every day a blast. In fact, I had so much of a blast that I averaged 10L/100km over the course of my week. It’s important to note that this hot hatch, like the others, takes premium fuel.
Volkswagen wants $34,175 for the 5-door Wolfsburg Edition, and it’s easily the most value-filled GTI you can buy. For this price, you get the navigation system, the Dynaudio audio system, 18” Watkins Glen alloys, Bi-Xenon headlights, and the keyless access system. The Dynaudio system, while it distorts sound a little bit when cranked up to higher levels, is incredibly crisp when listened to at normal volumes. This edition is only offered with the “Jacky” plaid cloth seats, which I think are great. I have heard of people arguing that the plaid is a thing of the past, but I think it adds to the appeal of this car.
Volkswagen has provided so much value in this little hatchback that they have made their own Audi A3 completely redundant. The GTI comes so packed with features that the only thing not premium about it is the VW logo on the steering wheel. I live in the heart of downtown Toronto, where driving large vehicles can become tedious to maneuver in both my condominium’s parking garage and on the streets. One of the things about the GTI that appealed to me is that it’s roomy enough to carry a few passengers and luggage in comfort while being small enough to park in the tightest spots.
The Wolfsburg Edition on the Mark 6 GTI is essentially allowing this generation to go out with a bang. I’ve seen its replacement, the Mark 7, in the flesh, and it’s a phenomenal thing. At first glance it doesn’t look all that different from this model, but it’s supposed to be one of the most balanced vehicles on the market. It better be, because this outgoing model is definitely the most balanced hot hatch on the road right now.
There’s no denying that the Volkswagen GTI is getting up there in age. The Focus ST and the Mazdaspeed3 offer more power for your buck, but they’re not as balanced. Both of those competitors are an absolute hoot to drive on a weekend country drive, but if I had to live with one, the Volkswagen would have my money. I may have grown out of owning a hot hatch, but the GTI has brought me right back to these roots. As an unmarried guy in my mid-twenties, VW has targeted my peers and I with this car. They now have my attention; lots of it.
2013 Volkswagen GTI Wolfsburg Edition Gallery