Daily Commuter: Volkswagen GTI

This is the start of our first Blog series. The purpose: to deliver you a car review from a commuters point of view.

The rating will be broken into 5 sections. Each scored out of 10. These sections include: Comfort, Performance, efficiency, style/functionality, and of course winter driving.

Before I get into the first review, I want to share how I qualify as a commuter.

My daily commute starts in Barrie and ends in any of the Pfaff Automotive dealerships from Orangeville, Newmarket, Vaughan, Woodbridge, or London. Usually I am at multiple location within one day. This means exposure to every major route, from Highway 400 to the 407, 401, 427, 404, etc. On top of this, I also consider myself a ‘sport driver’, enjoying the backroads where your car is the limit; this is my leisurely activity. So, between racking on 60,000km a year on my personal car, stop and go, highway traffic, and driving like I am in 24-hours of Lemans on my spare time – this commuter review should relate to the daily commuter and give perspective on a variety of cars!

 

Volkswagen GTI MK6 (2010-2013 model year)

gti

To start, this is considered a ‘hot hatchback’, meaning it is light weight, low, and just the right amount of power to keep the tires from spinning while keeping you pinned in the drivers seat.

Comfort (8/10)

The specific Volkswagen GTI being used in this article is a 2011 Volkswagen GTI with custom roof racks. It is considered as the ‘base’ model, but don’t let it fool you- it comes jammed packed with all of the creature comforts you could want!

To start off, this car sits on top of 17″ or 18″ rims with low-profile tires, and sport suspension – this means pot holes, cracks in the road, speed bumps, pretty much anything you don’t want on the road, you feel – no matter what speed you travel. However, the sport-bucket seats decorated in the ever so stylish plaid cloth seats offer full support and do a great job dampening those irritating road conditions. Seating positions are sporty but functional, with power tilt, and manual pump height – suitable for all driving positions.

From inside the car, outside noise is but a whisper, something Volkswagen is very proud of and has bragged about in the past (click here for video). The gas pedal rises from the floor (opposed to traditional drop down pedals), and all the pedals have sleek and sporty aluminum covers giving you that sports car feel. The leather wrapped steering wheel might just be the most comfortable wheel I have held, it forms perfectly to your hand at the 9&3 positions, and offers a flat bottom for those knee driving enthusiasts (you know what  I mean)!

The standard 6-speaker stereo compliment the quiet cabin perfectly, offering a nice mix of levels for every type of music. This car also comes complete with Volkswagen’s MMI (Multi-Media Interface), simply put – you can run your entire stereo from the display and steering wheel buttons, and also receive key information about your VW. This includes fuel mileage, maintenance tracker, speed, time, and much much more.

There is much more to cover, but this is a great start! The downfalls to this car from a comfort point of view are as follows:

The large rims and narrow tires are not the most practical for an ultimate cushy ride down a major highway, or poor road conditions for that matter. The seats are built for performance with comfort in mind – meaning they hug you but they aren’t the most comfortable in the world. Lastly, the sport suspension is allows you to feel more of the road then its sister car the Volkswagen Golf, however this car makes up for it in so many other ways!

 

Performance (9/10):

This is an area where this vehicle excels. Due to its compact size and weight, suspension, sporty rims and tires, and who could forget the turbo charged 2.0L, 200 horsepower engine – the Volkswagen GTI packs a punch when you need and want it.

As I mentioned before, the power-to-weight ratio is perfect. Depending on the tires and tire life remaining, you can push this car as hard as you want without spinning tires, and receive constant acceleration and great power in return. This means when you get stuck behind that dump truck, or that driver who thinks 60km/h is acceptable in an 80 zone, passing them is a breeze.

The turbo boost works perfectly with this car. Most ‘turbo’ enthusiasts are used to getting that max boost at 4,000RPM. The GTI deliveres full boost as early as 2,500RPM and provides boost all the way through to the next gear. For gear heads, you know what this means – for the every day commuter, this means you will not experience a lag when you hit the gas pedal.

The sport suspension and power assist steering gives the steering wheel that sporty feeling when you push the car or that comfortable luxury feel upon normal conditions. Regardless when you wrap your hand around that leather wrapped steering wheel, you know this one will be hard to let go of!

The reason this car receives 9/10 is because it is fast, reliable and offers constant power. It is swift, maneuverable and is not over-powered (unlike many vehicles in its class) and finally, the tuning and upgrade options are literally unlimited! If you want 300 horsepower, it is achievable. However, you do not lose that comfort level you would expect from a Volkswagen.

 

Efficiency (9/10):

Here we start the great debate. Included in this section is fuel mileage, service and maintenance, upkeep, pretty much anything that costs you money (insurance included).

To start, yes you need to run premium gasoline in this car. This means 91 octane minimum. This is because the vehicle is turbocharged. However, this also means you will get more km’s to a tank. Let’s do the math: 1 tank of gas equals 55litres. Currently (April 17, 2014) 91 Octane gas is approximately 1.49c/litre. This car cost me $70 to fill to the brim. During my commute which is 70% highway, 30% city – I went 650 kilometres and still have 1/8th of a tank before I refilled. This equates to 7.6L/100km! I believe this car is very efficient on fuel!

Maintenance: Most Volkswagen’s require full-synthetic oil every 15,000km. This means higher quality oil takes you further between oil changes, I am in! The in-between’s are as follows. New pollen and engine air filter every 30,000km (recommended), DSG (automatic transmission) fluid replaced at 60,000km, spark-plugs done at 90,000km, repeat…
When you compare this to every other car in its class, you are right on par. The bottom line, a healthy and well maintained car means reaching higher mileage. Which from a commuter point of view is a good thing!

Upkeep: The regular maintenance is a good starting point – at Pfaff Volkswagen, they provide you with an alignment inspection and complimentary car wash on every maintenance visit. On top of this – make sure your tires are balanced, your wheel alignment is true, and keep the car relatively clean- nothing else is truly required. I personally keep my car waxed, vacuumed, and clean – personally I feel it makes it more aerodynamic!

Insurance is very affordable on this car. Because it is in the hatchback class and has excellent safety features – your costs to insure should be relatively inexpensive (pending on your drivers abstract, insurance history, and age of course).

To summarize, the Volkswagen GTI is very fuel efficient. Yes it burns premium fuel, but for good reasons and it rewards you with power at 7.6L/100km on average. The maintenance is fair and ensures this car will last you as long as you require, upkeep is minimal (when you service at the right location, they do the upkeep for you)! Lastly, insurance rewards this car for being safe and reliable.

 

Style and Functionality (10/10):

Dollar for dollar, this car offers almost every feature you could ask for built into the base model version.

The style – Volkswagen has always done well with the GTI, this car features bi-xenon headlights, and perfect matched large signal lights; the fog lights come standard and work very effectively in fog and snow. Both sets of lights tie beautifully into the honey comb grill with a red stipe crossing from headlight to headlight. The aggressive and sporty stance of the car comes from well placed body lines, sporty mirrors, and rims designed just for the GTI. They all wrap into the rear where you will find tinted tail lights tied into the hatch featuring a large VW emblem used for a latch. The back of this car is neatly polished with a large diffuser and dual tip exhaust (see images below).

Inside the car you will find ‘jacky cloth’ (aka. interlagos) or plaid clothed seats. For those who have not experienced this (see pictures below), it is a must see. This is a feature which sets the GTI apart from any other vehicle. On the upgraded model you can get leather sport seats. The gear shifter is exactly what you would expect from this car. The d-shaped leather wrapped steering wheel is the perfect size for this car, and is finished with a GTI emblem built into the wheel. The gauge cluster again matches the car perfectly. Everything inside this car matches the outside perfectly!

The functionality – We often make the sacrifice of style for functionality or vice versa. In this case, the Germans got it right! The GTI is style, sport and function rolled into one perfect package! 
Starting with the outside of the vehicle, the bi-xenon headlights are mechanized meaning when you go around a corner, they will turn into the corner to provide better visibility, on top of this – they provide approximately 1km of light reflection! The windshield wipers tuck neatly away into the engine compartment where they are kept safe until required. Around the side of the car; the mirrors have built in signal lights, allowing drivers from front, side and rear to see your turning direction. The gas port locks when your car is locked, and is a simple push to open when unlocked. This car features 4-wheel disc brakes with sporty red callipers. At the rear of the car you will find that Volkswagen emblem which is also a latch, this means a seamless rear hatch with no gaps! The sport exhaust with split twin tail pipes growls when you stomp on the gas, but is not loud.

Inside this vehicle you will find power recline on both front seats. In the rear seat there is a drop down cup holder, followed with a drop down tray for access to the hatch. The rear seats fold down almost flat allowing you to fit anything up to a 60″ TV! All four windows have auto-function, meaning when you push down on the window control, you do not require to hold it. The windows will wind down automatically. Same can be said for rolling up.
At the front, you will find dual climate controls, this means my fiancee can blast the heat and I can have the A/C on! There is also plenty of air vents for air distribution. Both front seats are completed with seat warmers which radiate up your back. At night, you will notice that there is foot well lighting which is programmable. The GTI’s pedals are sporty looking with rubber nubs for traction, on top of this, the gas pedal rises from the floor (instead of the traditional drop down) meaning your foot is rested while using the gas. The steering wheel is telescopic, allowing you to pull it towards you or tuck it into the dash. You will find the touch screen stereo with a million functions which are easy to use, all of your HVAC buttons are simple and intuitive, and above you is your functions for phone, bluetooth, optional sunroof, and storage for your glasses. Within the glove box, the owners manual has its own shelf which holds everything you need to know about your GTI, along with ownership and insurance forms; the glove box also has a dial to allow cold air from the A/C (when running) to basically refrigerate anything you keep in there (hint: great to deli meats and beverages).

There is much more to discuss about the functionality and style of this vehicle, but I believe you need to see and feel it for yourself!

With the abundance of features – you have literally everything you could want in a car at the reach of your hands, and it all comes with this vehicle as built-in options! This is why the GTI received 10/10.

 

Winter Driving (7/10):

Commuting in winter can be a nightmare – the most important thing I have learned is the importance of a really good set of winter tires. In this case, the GTI I was driving had 17″ Hankook iPike winter tires, which provided exceptional traction on all road conditions. These tires also excelled at cornering, braking and acceleration on snow and ice. I highly recommend winter tires, especially as a commuter.

Naturally because this car is front wheel drive and not all wheel drive, it will score lower (7/10); don’t let that fool you though! The weight of the engine sits balanced over the front tires, it provides this car with great bite into snow and ice which in turn provides excellent traction. With the proper winter tires, the rear end of the car should follow with no problems.

This car comes with a dynamic ‘Anti-Slip Regulation’ which in short keeps your tires from spinning in any condition. There is a button to control this which is sometimes necessary in deep snow or slush.

In short, whether you are pulling out from an un-shovelled driveway, taking a back road, going through a rough Tim Hortons drive through, cruising through white-out conditions, or travelling a 400 series highway, you are in good hands. This car is responsive, easily manoeuvrable, brakes quickly, and has the ability to accelerate without tire slip. Again, the only thing it is missing is that all so mighty all-wheel-drive and it could score a 10/10 (the GTI’s bigger sister, the Golf R is the all wheel drive power house version)!

 

Summary (9/10):

Yes, this car scored an overall 9/10. Being the first vehicle I reviewed naturally it is going to score very well because I have nothing to really compare it to. However, when you look at the Volkswagen GTI through a commuters point of view and if you experience one for yourself, you will understand why every demographic drives this vehicle! From young to old, this car is truly the car for everyone. It is affordable, efficient, reliable, looks incredible, rides like a dream, has great performance on all road conditions and weather conditions, and comes with all those bells and whistles we have come to love.

If you can find the time and you are in the market, I urge you to visit Pfaff Volkswagen and try one for yourself. Pfaff Automotive partners offers a comprehensive test-drive called ‘The Pfaff Test Drive’ where you can experience almost everything I have included in this article. Generally Pfaff VW has new and pre-owned GTI’s available, and very soon the newly designed 2015 GTI!

 

Please feel free to leave comments, questions, or other vehicles you would like reviewed.

 

GTI ExteriorGTI RearGTI HatchGTI AlignmentGTI in SnowGTI InteriorGTI Steering Wheel GTI Shifter