Volkswagen Golf GTI (2009-2013) review

The Volkswagen Golf GTI is a talented all-rounder, and one of the best hot hatches money can buy

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

  • Polished handling, subtle styling, punchy turbo engine
  • Sensible image, disappointing reliability, expensive
Representative Example - Personal Contract Purchase: Cash Price £10,000.00, Deposit £1500.00, borrowing £8,500.00 over 4 years at 7.4% Representative APR (fixed). 47 monthly payments of £132.04 followed by a final payment of £4127.50. Total cost of credit £1833.38. Total amount payable £11,833.38. Based on 8,000 miles per annum. Excess mileage charges apply if exceeded. Finance subject to status 18+ only.

The world’s most famous hot hatch, the Volkswagen Golf GTI has a heritage that stretches back more than 30 years. It all but invented the class and has remained a firm favourite ever since. Available in three and five-door body styles, the current car blends punchy performance, sharp handling and sporty styling with a practical and upmarket cabin, plus impressive refinement and unrivalled day-to-day usability. Edition 35 models have more power, unique styling parts and extra equipment, while across the range there’s a choice of six-speed manual or DSG dual clutch transmission.

Engines, performance and drive

Great to drive in every situation the Golf GTI is honed to perfection. Body control is excellent, steering positive and grip levels high. While it isn’t as hard edged as rival Renaultsport Megane, it displays key hot hatch traits like a positive turn-in, mid corner agility and communicative controls and is hugely engaging on twisty roads. What sets the GTI apart is its refinement and comfort - especially if the optional ACC Adaptive Chassis Control is fitted, making the ride surprisingly comfortable. The 2.0-litre turbo charged engine is punchy and refined - standard cars have 207bhp, while Edition 35 models are tuned to 232bhp.

MPG, CO2 and Running Costs

For a performance car the Volkswagen Golf GTI is relatively cost effective to run. Emissions range from 170 to 185 g/km depending on whether you opt for the standard car or the more powerful Edition 35. The standard six-speed manual GTI has a combined economy of 38.7mpg and with steady driving average consumption can be surprisingly efficient. For private buyers strong residuals are a plus, while the standard car and the Edition 35 fall in the Group 34 and 35 insurance brackets respectively. Volkswagen offers fixed priced servicing and has a large dealer network.

Interior, design and technology

The Volkswagen Golf GTI strikes the visual sweet spot between sporty and stylish. The current model takes the attractive base Golf shape and enhances the look with a lowered ride height, bigger wheels and smartly executed detailing. The red pin striping around the grille and the subtle GTI badges are traditional features, while the twin tailpipes, gently blended roof spoiler and intricate tail light clusters all look great. Edition 35 models get bigger 18-inch wheels, Bi-Xenon lights and black door mirrors.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

Being based on one of the best family hatchbacks money can buy makes the Volkswagen Golf GTI a very practical performance car. Five-door models offer increased functionality but both body styles have enough space to carry adults in the back, while the 350-litre boot is class leading. Fold the rear seats and overall luggage capacity increases to 1,305 litres. Split-folding rear seats are standard, while the options list features useful day-to-day kit like parking sensors and a rear-view camera.

Reliability and Safety

The Volkswagen Golf has earned an impressive five star rating from Euro NCAP, making the GTI one of the safest hot hatches around. All models come with curtain and driver’s knee airbags, while stability control is standard. ISOFIX is standard as well, while tyre pressure monitoring is on the options list. Better still, the Golf’s reputation for reliability and solidity has been one of its key selling points for over 30 years. Nonetheless, the GTI gets a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty.

Have you considered?

Cupra Leon 245 VZ1 review
Cupra Leon 245 VZ1
Road tests

Cupra Leon 245 VZ1 review

Few Cupra Leon buyers opt for this entry-level version of the car. Is it a hidden gem, or the derivative to avoid? 
1 Jun 2022
New Cupra Born 2022 review
Cupra Born - front
Road tests

New Cupra Born 2022 review

The Cupra Born promises a sportier flavour over its Volkswagen ID.3 sibling, so does it deliver the thrills?
29 Apr 2022
Cupra Leon TSI 300: long-term test review
Cupra Leon long termer - final report header
Long-term tests

Cupra Leon TSI 300: long-term test review

Final report: we’ve got mixed emotions as the Cupra Leon hot hatch leaves our fleet
3 Mar 2022

Most Popular

New 2022 MG7 could be a cut-price Audi A5
MG 7 - side

New 2022 MG7 could be a cut-price Audi A5

The new MG7 saloon has been teased ahead of its August reveal
8 Aug 2022
“Volkswagen, SEAT and Skoda cars are just too similar”
Opinion - VW and Skoda

“Volkswagen, SEAT and Skoda cars are just too similar”

Mike Rutherford thinks Volkswagen, SEAT and Skoda need to target different audiences if they are to be successful in the future
7 Aug 2022
New 2025 Land Rover Discovery set for luxury reinvention
Land Rover Discovery - front (watermarked)

New 2025 Land Rover Discovery set for luxury reinvention

The Land Rover Discovery nameplate could spawn a family of models like the Defender
4 Aug 2022