At Latino Traffic Report (LTR), we continue to root for the manual transmission, so whenever we get a test model delivered with one, it’s always a good day. Such was the case when the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI 2.0T SE arrived, equipped with a six-speed manual transmission (standard equipment) and lots of pep.
What makes a manual transmission so preferable, especially on a compact car, is that it ramps up the fun-to-drive experience of an otherwise lackluster model—most five-door hatches are built for efficiency and convenience, not fun. As a result, the GTI has received more than a dozen awards since its redesign in 2015.
Described by VW as its “hot hatch,” the GTI debuted in 1983 and since then has transformed the hatchback from a utilitarian car and into a sporty compact. Redesigned for the 2015 model year, the seventh generation of the Golf GTI included three available trim levels—S, SE, and Autobahn. They remain for 2018 but with a few improvements.
The four-cylinder, 2.0-liter TSI turbocharged direct-injection engine, built in Silao, Mexico, returns but it’s been improved in 2018 to produce 220 horsepower (achieved on premium fuel), and a torque peak of 258 lb.–ft. Paired to the six-speed manual transmission, it can achieve an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 25 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. During the test it achieved an average fuel economy of 27 mpg.
The available six-speed automatic transmission incorporates a launch control feature and a new Start-Stop System designed to save gas, earning an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.
While not the top-of-the-line model, the GTI does sits above the Golf S and SE, expanding its list of standard features to include heated front seats, a sunroof, a blind spot monitor, rear traffic alert, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, and keyless access with a push button start.
For those who can’t step up to the GTI, standard features on all Golfs include cruise control, air conditioning, VW Car-Net App Connect, a rearview camera, LED headlights, and daytime running lights and taillights.
Known for sportiness, the Golf GTI is still a hatchback and as such, versatile, offering cargo carrying room of up to 52.7 cu. ft. with the rear seat folded flat. The infotainment touchscreen has also increased to 6.5 inches for 2018 on the base model. It measured eight inches on the test model.
Like other brands, VW has taken to using a warranty to tilt car buyers in their favor. The Golf GTI is covered by a transferable, six-year or 72,000-mile (whichever occurs first) bumper-to-bumper New Vehicle Limited Warranty.
Pricing for the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI with a six-speed manual transmission starts at $27,265. The price as–tested, including black leather seating with red accent stitching ($695) and red ambient lighting came to $32,015.
Sí: The Golf GTI was fun to drive and included nice creature comforts like heated seats and a blind spot monitor.
No: While VW likes to call the GTI an affordable performance vehicle, it’s a little pricey, especially compared to the competition.