Volkswagen’s Golf GTI hatchback has a 40-year history of feeding the appetites of driving enthusiasts everywhere, with its lively acceleration, sporty handling, and cool good looks. At the same time, it offers the practicality of a common car suitable for daily driving and cargo carrying.
The 2023 Golf GTI is available in four trims: S, SE, Autobahn, and a limited-production 40th Anniversary Edition. The latter is positioned between the S and SE price-wise.
A 241-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine does an impressive job of propelling all GTI models, sending the energy to the front wheels. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a seven-speed automatic is available for an extra $800.
EPA ratings for a GTI with manual transmission are 23 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, and 27 mpg combined. The seven-speed automatic increases efficiency to 24/34/28 mpg.
GTI pricing starts at $31,625 for an S model with manual transmission. The top-spec Autobahn with automatic transmission goes for $40,965. These figures include a $1,095 destination charge.
I drove a 2023 GTI Golf Autobahn equipped with a manual transmission.
Manual gearboxes are the traditional dreamboats of sporty-car driving fans, but the appeal of shifting manually has been decreasing steadily in proportion to the increase in traffic congestion. The ongoing proliferation of automotive touchscreens hasn’t done manual gearboxes any favors, either. New cars without automatic transmissions are not easy to find.
Those of us fortunate enough to live in Snohomish County have the great advantage of many miles of twisty backroads at hand, often with little traffic, where cars like the GTI can be fully appreciated. So that’s where the better part of my time inside the GTI was spent, letting it show off its handling mettle, and it sure did.
GTI’s seats include plaid inserts on the top and bottom cushions, an appealing and longstanding GTI characteristic. Driver and front passenger seats are well-bolstered for comfort and support; padding is on the firm side, but not too severe. Legroom and headroom are provided in generous amounts.
The test car’s infotainment system is in a class by itself, and not in a good way. The absence of physical controls in favor of capacitive-touch sensors, overly complicated operation, and other shortcomings too painful to report added up to a disastrous infotainment system on the score sheet.
An actual user-friendly infotainment system is available on less-extravagant models in the GTI lineup.
The hatchback configuration that contributes to GTI’s practicality provides 19.9 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seats. With rear seats folded, the space yields 34.5 cubic feet. That beats many cars in the GTI’s compact class.
2023 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTI AUTOBAHN
Base price, including destination charge: $40,165
Price as driven: $40,560
Mary Lowry is a member of the Motor Press Guild and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. She lives in Snohomish County. Vehicles are provided by automotive manufacturers as a one-week loan for evaluation purposes only. Manufacturers do not control content of the reviews.