The 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI, like its forerunners, promises to be all things to all people. It’s a quiet and comfortable commuter one day and a corner carving riot the next. It does both of those things without compromising either too much. It’s part of the reason that it has remained as popular as it has. It’s refined, grown up and far more than the sum of its parts.
Our test car is as basic as it comes. We have a no-option base S model, ringing up for $27,265. That means no leather, no sunroof, no automatic climate control and no upgraded limited-slip differential or brakes. It’s powered by Volkswagen’s 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four making 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission.
I’m a big fan of the interior, too. Everyone knows the seats are fantastic, but the design is clean and the materials might be the best in the class. There aren’t as many storage areas as some competitors — especially the Honda Civic — but that’s not a huge deal.
If I gave up driving press cars tomorrow, I think the first place I’d head to would be a Volkswagen dealer. It’s quick when you want it to be quick. It’s relaxed and quiet when you’re cruising. For this price, there are faster cars, there are cars that are better to drive and there are cars that are more comfortable. None of them combine those traits as well as the GTI.
The interior is mostly nice. You can’t not love the plaid seats, which also pack bolstering that keeps you secure, but comfortable. The illuminated red lines on the door trim is a nice nod to the red trim line on the grille. I’ll be honest, though, the Golf’s dash design has never really done much for me. It’s a little too boring, I don’t like the weird step down in the plastic surround on the center stack, and as both Reese and I lamented, the power button on the volume knob spins as you turn it, meaning it can perpetually be askew.