Volkswagen Golf GTI (2013-2020) Review

It’s faster and more advanced than ever, but the Volkswagen Golf GTI hides beneath a sober design

Strengths & weaknesses

  • Fun to drive on any road
  • Practical enough for the daily commute
  • Well-built and comfortable for a hot hatchback
  • The petrol engine isn’t very efficient
  • Slower than rivals
  • Not the car to buy if you want to make a statement
Volkswagen Golf GTI prices from £14,000.
Finance from £252.80 / month.

Hot hatchbacks might have been linked to tearaway teenagers screeching round car parks in a cloud of tyre smoke and tacky-looking bodywork.

But for 41 years, the Volkswagen Golf has been the subtle face of these high-performance family cars, Like a habanero pepper, its innocuous exterior hides a fiery heart: performance and agility that can add spice to any journey, even if it is the school run.

And that’s the point. It doesn’t just look sensible, it is a pragmatic choice. With the same sizeable 380-litre boot, passenger space and solid build quality as the rest of the Golf range, it will fit in with everyday life. There might be a few clues as to the car’s performance - such as the red line that runs through the headlights and some extra bodywork but no-one will think you’re going through a mid-life crisis - unlike with other hot hatchbacks, such as the Honda Civic Type R, or Ford Focus ST.

In 2017, the GTI was updated along with the rest of the Golf range, with minor design tweaks and a small power increase to 230hp. That’s the same as earlier Golfs from this generation, which were fitted with the Performance Pack upgrade.

The changes allow Volkswagen to boast of improvements, but they make very little difference to the way that the car drives. And that’s excellent news. Whether you buy a brand new car or a Golf GTI from 2014, it will feel alive as soon as you press the start button from the tartan-covered driver’s seat, and the engine starts with a growl from the exhaust.

Push hard on the accelerator and the tyres scrabble for grip before the Golf darts off. Sharp and responsive steering lets you flick the car from one corner to another and the car stays stable throughout, with very little leaning in corners and a smooth ride that means you’re not bounced about by bumps in the road.

The manual version is good, but the automatic is better: you still get the option of changing gear with paddles and the instant, electronically controlled shifts suit the responsive turbocharged engine, which delivers a smooth surge of power.

There’s plenty of grip so you can scoot through corners at speed, but fitting the Performance pack makes cornering noticeably more precise, thanks to the limited slip differential that’s fitted, maintains power to a wheel with grip if another one loses traction. It also brings better brakes and a small power upgrade (15hp in the latest cars), which is barely noticeable.

Performance pack or not, the Golf GTI has less power than a Honda Civic Type R, Mercedes-AMG A45, or its faster four-wheel-drive sibling, the Volkswagen Golf R. But none switch to being calm and collected in the same way as the Golf, particularly if you pay for the optional advanced suspension, called Dynamic Chassis Control. Select Comfort mode (there are five driving modes that adjust the feel of the car) and the GTI feels almost like a standard Golf. The ride is fairly smooth, and the car is quiet, like in a Peugeot 308 GTI.

In fact, it feels underpowered if you’re not pushing on because the car is programmed to change gear early (or tell you to change up a gear if you have the manual gearbox) to save fuel. You can expect around 33mpg in real-work driving, and that will drop further if you use the car’s full performance.

It also comes well-equipped, with sat-nav, a digital instrument display behind the steering wheel; climate control; and, for when you’re bored of driving, adaptive cruise control that maintains a set distance behind the car in front. Earlier cars were less well-equipped: sat-nav, for example, was an option.

There's also Isofix in the back for securely fitting child seats, the same five-star Euro NCAP safety rating as the rest of the range and useful options, such as headlights that can use main beam without blinding other drivers.

It’s all seems very sensible - until you press the Start button.


Key facts

Warranty 3-years / 60,000 miles
Boot size 380 litres
Width 1823mm
Length 4268mm
Height 1442mm
Tax £200 in first year, £140 thereafter / Pre-April 2017 cars: £145


  • April 2013 The current-generation VW Golf GTI goes on sale. A Performance option adds 10hp and offers more precise cornering, thanks to a limited slip differential.
  • May 2016 A high-performance limited edition version, the VW Golf GTI Clubsport S, goes on sale to celebrate 40 years of the VW Golf. Only 400 are built worldwide.
  • April 2017 An updated version of the Golf GTI goes on sale, with a little more power, a minor redesign and better interior technology
  • May 2017 A Performance option for the Golf GTI is launched, with 15hp more power, better brakes and improved cornering with its limited slip differential.
  • January 2019 TCR version released.

Understanding Volkswagen Golf GTI names

Engine 2.0 TSI 245PS

The size of the engine is shown in litres (all Golf GTIs have 2-litre engines) and the horsepower is shown too. Volkswagen tends to abbreviate this to PS

Performance pack Performance

The Performance version of the Golf increases power and cornering ability.

Body style 5 Door

The Golf GTI is available as a three-door or more practical five-door hatchback.

Gearbox DSG

DSG indicates that the car is fitted with an automatic gearbox.

Volkswagen Golf GTI Engines

2.0 TSI

At first glance the Golf GTI seems to match performance with a reasonable fuel economy of almost 45mpg. However, that’s the official mpg figure. You can expect around 33mpg.

That discrepancy isn’t unusual - the test used to generate the official figures is notoriously unreliable - but does mean that the Golf could cost more to run than you expected.

GTI Performance cars have an extra 15hp and marginally worse fuel economy, but you’re unlikely to notice much of a difference.

Progress is swift, with a surprising amount of pace gathering the moment the right foot is buried to the floor, and like the classic hot hatch that it is, power is delivered to the front wheels, as opposed to all-four as favoured by some rivals.

In fact, the performance on tap here is more than enough to give some dedicated sports cars a run for their money but the engine is flexible enough to serve as an excellent daily drive.

So when you just want to relax, it’s quiet and smooth on motorway journeys. That may bother drivers who want speed and noise wherever they drive, but it’s not that sort of car. The engine note feels a little muted, even when the drive mode selection switch is flicked to its most aggressive 'Sport' setting, but it does make it very easy to live with.

TCR cars use the same engine, but tuned to develop 286bhp. 0-62mph comes up in 5.6 seconds. The TCR sits 5mm closer to the ground, and the steering is also sharper than regular GTI cars.




Official fuel economy


Acceleration (0-62mph)

Top speed

2.0 TSI






2.0 TSI Performance














Volkswagen Golf GTI Trims


Just one trim level is available here but because this is one of the more expensive models in the Golf range, the current car comes generously equipped as standard.

The exterior receives the 'GTI styling pack', which adds new shape front and rear bumpers, large 18-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and the honeycomb grille with GTI badging. Bright LED headlights are also a standard feature, while tinted glass is added for the rear windows.

Inside, there is tartan ‘Jacara’ cloth upholstery, heated seats and piano black inserts on the dashboard that helps raise the interior to a more premium level over lesser Golfs.

New for the updated version is a 12.3in screen behind the steering wheel that replaces analogue dials. Because it is purely digital, it can be customised to give a variety of read-outs, including navigational directions and infotainment information.

Adaptive Cruise Control is standard in post-2017 cars, while the large 8in dashboard touchscreen, offers ultra-clear 3D mapping of European roads, as well as digital radio and the ability to connect a smartphone for online app access.

Dubbed Car-Net, this service enables users to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto software for simple control of apps on their smartphone, as well as use some of Volkswagen's own apps, which can do things like pull in a local weather report or advise on fuel prices in the area.

Customers can specify the GTI to an even higher standard by adding things like an optional leather interior and the new 9.2in dashboard screen called Discover Navigation Pro, which eliminates many physical buttons. You can also use gestures to control it (waving a hand in front of the screen to answer calls, for example) which is largely a gimmick.

The Lane Assist Plus pack, including Dynamic Light Assist is a worthwhile addition, despite its £1,225 price, as it includes a range of hi-tech equipment, including the intelligent headlights that can operate on main beam and screen out some of the light to avoid blinding other drivers - enabling you to see further. Traffic jam assist, which enables the car to accelerate, brake and steer in slow-moving traffic, is included too.

Volkswagen Golf GTI Reliability and warranty

Despite Volkswagen recently hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons, it remains a builder of safe and reliable machines and the standard Golf is still the fourth best-selling car in the UK.

It’s reliable too, finishing 12 out of 75 in this year’s Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey with a high 94.6% reliability score.

Its 3-year warranty, which has a limit of 60,000 miles, is fairly standard across the industry now, and there’s an extensive UK dealer network should something go wrong.

Used Volkswagen Golf GTI

The Golf GTI is a car that’s much in demand, and so you’ll pay a premium for it as a used car - just as you do for it when new.

Prices for the current model, which first appeared in 2013, are approaching £15,000, so you’ll pay less than £250 a month, based on representative finance quotes.

Pre-update cars came with less standard equipment - notably sat-nav - but the driving experience is barely different, which is what matters to most GTI buyers. It’s also worth looking for a model fitted with the Performance Pack, which has better brakes and a limited slip differential that maximises grip when cornering, increasing precision.

Other Editions

Golf (2013 – 2020)

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Golf Estate (2013 – 2020)

The VW Golf Estate is a practical and versatile estate that delivers low running costs, plenty of luggage space and a high-quality feel

Golf SV (2013 – 2020)

A bigger and more practical version of the Golf. It’s a sensible choice but lacks the desirability of SUV-inspired crossover rivals.

Golf R (2014 – 2020)

Few cars combine driving thrills with everyday hatchback usability and reasonable running costs in the way the VW Golf R does

Golf GTE (2015 – 2020)

The green VW Golf GTE can run on electric power, but has a petrol engine for long-distance journeys

Golf (2020)

The VW Golf is a popular medium hatchback that looks and feels like a high-quality product

Golf Estate (2020)

Like the Golf hatchback, this medium-sized estate is a high-quality car that’s available with a variety of trim levels and engine choices

Golf GTI (2020)

The Golf GTI balances performance and driving fun with practicality and running costs - find out why it's the default hot hatchback for many