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Volkswagen golf gti 2012 review

You drive VW 's GTI with your fingertips. Both the Focus ST and Mazdaspeed3 demand a firm grip, but the GTI rewards a light touch and precise line. After almost 37 years and six generations of GTIs, the personality established by the 1850-lb. naturally aspirated original carries over in its current 3062-lb. turbocharged namesake. There's a lot to be said for consistency of character.

While the Focus ST and Mazdaspeed3 come only as 5-door hatches and share a common heritage in the Ford C1-platform, the straight-out-of-Wolfsburg GTI is available as both a 3- and 5-door. The car that showed up for this test was an option-free 3-door running $24,765 including a $770 destination charge.

It's no surprise that the GTI, a noticeable 5.8-in. shorter overall than the Focus ST and a stunning 11.7-in. less lengthy than the Mazdaspeed3, is the lightest car of the group. And its 101.5-in. wheelbase is more than 2 in. shorter than its combatants. So the proportions of the GTI are different as well; more upright and close coupled. You slide over into the GTI, you lower yourself into the MS3 or Focus ST. And the GTI is more austere, even plain, in both its boxy outward appearance and Spartan interior design. Hey, the Mk I GTI still looks good, and maybe this one will too in 2050.

The GTI's Hungarian-made 2.0-liter turbo TSI engine is used in an ever-widening range of VW and products and its age is belied by its iron block. But with that age comes literally decades of careful development so that while it's rated at a modest 200 bhp, those horses know how to pull.

The GTI's modest 207-lb.-ft. of peak torque occurs at a stunningly low 1800 rpm and then never seems to trail off as it runs past its 6000 rpm redline and toward its 6900 rpm cutoff. No, the GTI engine doesn't have the same gut punch of the ST's or MS3's, but every poundfoot seems to make it through the brilliant shifting 6-speed transaxle and out to the contact patches of the all-season Pirelli P Zero Nero 225/40R-18 tires. The torque curve of this engine is flatter than Kim Kardashian's electroencephalogram.

Sweet-natured as the engine is, there's only so much 200 bhp can do. The 6.4-sec. 0–60 performance is a 10th better than the Mazda, but a half-second behind the thundering Ford. And the 15.0 sec. run through the quarter mile trails by 3/10ths and 4/10ths, respectively. Out on the open road, however, the friendliness of the torque curve means the GTI pulls through corners with authority even with inattentive throttle modulation. The GTI is the most forgiving and easygoing car here.

The GTI's slalom speed is a third-best 64.9 mph and it only matches the MS3's 0.90g skidpad orbit. But steering feel is exceptional and only amplified by the perfect diameter of the button-free steering wheel. And the GTI's ride is forgiving; it soaks up road divots that have the Ford and Mazda slamming up their drivers' coccyx. There's some road roar from the tires, but the GTI is the most comfortable commuter of the bunch.

Another GTI compensating virtue is fuel economy. Rated by the EPA at 21 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway, the GTI's 22.7 mpg during R&T's hard-driven test easily bests the 20.8 mpg turned in by both of its competitors.

A seventh-generation Volkswagen was shown at the Paris Auto Show in late September and that means a new GTI is coming right behind it. That shouldn't, however, detract from how lovable this current sixth-generation GTI is. And it only emphasizes the challenge VW faces in making sure the next GTI is at least as good, and as consistent in character, as the first six have been.