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  • Writer's pictureAlain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld

2019 VW GTI Rabbit Edition

This week we are reviewing the 2019 VW GTI Rabbit Edition. Our vehicle was assembled at the Puebla plant in Mexico and has an MSRP of $38950 CAD.

Fun Factor: 7

Can it Family: 7

Fuel-Friendly: 6

HWY-warrior: 7

Karaoke-Friendly: 7

Baby-Friendly: 7

City Cruising: 6

Testing the GTI brought back lots of memories, starting from those times sitting in the back of the Audi 80, Audi A4 and the VW TDI and then later being behind the wheel of one. These cars were simple, effective and brought satisfaction to the driving experience, especially when twisting around Austria's mountainous regions where I grew up. The GTI Rabbit edition, brings back a little bit of that, to a time where cars were still simple and didn't have an overly complicated interior to please the masses. The GTI knows exactly what it is and assumes it fully, without needing to imitate the competition. Although the GTI variant was first introduced by Maserati with the Maserati 3500 GTI, the Golf GTI was the first hot hatch as we know them today. But what does the GTI nameplate actually mean? First, the acronym stands for "Grand Tourer Injection," this means it's a car designed for high speed and long-distance with direct injection to be more precise it's a Gasoline direct injection engine. Since 1976 the VW group uses this nameplate on its performance-oriented Golf never losing its original mission. Our GTI was equipped with a 2L turbo inline 4-cylinders with 228hp and produced 258 lb-ft of torque. Our vehicle was equipped with the 7 speed DSG, we felt that even in sport mode, it could have shifted more aggressively or revs up higher in RPM range before shifting. And in our real-life test from 0 to 100km/h, we achieved that time in 6.95 seconds. Our vehicle was equipped with Pirelli's Cinturato P7 all-season tires. These tires are ideal for curvy roads as they stick to the pavement; however, for straight-line acceleration, we felt the tires a little too grippy. The current layout of the GTI in a FWD configuration shows the limitation of the car that has propulsion coming from the front wheels only. The GTI was never the fast car to begin with, it was a car that brought joy in corners and through the engine note. The GTI likes to be pushed hard; when driving smoothly, you can hardly notice the 228hp. Once you floor it, the GTI accelerates and then thrusts away like a rocket once the turbo kicks in, at that point it is impossible to hide the heritage that makes the VW GTI the car it is today. However, on the other side, we started questioning ourselves why VW didn't get an alternative version of the GTI, such as the VW GTE in North America. The GTE is a plug-in hybrid that is offered in Europe to be an alternative to the GTI, we tested it last year in Germany, and we felt it be quicker off the line compared to the GTI especially for those driving in the city a lot. What we are trying to say, is that to have the full potential of the GTI, it needs to be pushed to nine-tenths of its capacity. Smiles are guaranteed on twisty roads, and that is where the GTI feels most at home, however, stuck in traffic makes this experience less engaging. Finally if you really want to get a GTI with an automatic and don't need the extravagant power of the Golf R, we would suggest looking at the Audi A3 that is almost the same price, however, as a manual the GTI is still the holy grail of affordable hot hatches.

Now how was the GTI as a family car during our one week test. We found that the cloth seats provided in the GTI were comfortable and offered great support for long-distance, the side bolstering also keeps you nicely in place. The material used all over the car felt appropriate for a vehicle in this price range. Some may take judgement on the cloth seats; in all honesty, these felt top-notch and will resist better with time. Not only did they feel more comfortable than some of the competition's leather seats, the tartan design also gives it that traditional/retro GTI look. Those seats were originally designed by Gunhild Liljequist, and she was the first woman working for Volkswagen within the colours and fabrics department in 1964. The back seats provide enough seating for 2 adults, 3 adults would be pushing it a little a child could squeeze in between 2 adults. As for children the rear seats offer appropriate seating for 3 children. The trunk is decent and will fit the average stroller, while still having space for a little bit more. The hatchback does help to store items on top of each other, making the trunk more practical compared to traditional sedans. Once those seats are pushed down in a 60/40 fashion, more stuff can fit in the car. We were even able to fit a couple of hardwood floor boxes while having one of the seats pushed down. We still had a functional car seat, to pick up one of the littlest members of Driving Fun & Family Car Reviews without any hassle.

Now how is the fuel consumption? In our test, we averaged 8.9L per 100km over a 400km test route, on the HWY we averaged 7.9L per 100km, while in the city we achieved 9.7L per 100km. These results are very close to those announced by Volkswagen, and we couldn't believe that driving the way we did brought us this close to the published figures. The announced numbers from VW are as follow 9.8L per 100km in the city and 7.3L per 100km on the HWY. For a car that produces 228hp, these results are very acceptable, as mentioned above it would be amazing to see a GTE on our side of the pond or may the VW ID will help satisfy the electric wave of hot hatches in the future.

On the HWY the GTI feels very stable, even when we last tested it on the Autobahn, it could easily get to the 200km/h mark without any effort. The seats are appropriate for longer drives we had no issues being in the cabin for several hours in it. As for overtaking the DSG always finds the right gear to downshift to make it seem effortlessly for the GTI's engine. While driving normally on the HWY, it should be possible to achieve over 650km before needing to refuelling. Our car was also equipped with the optional driver assistance plus system, which includes features like autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring. This option also gave it blind spot detection and lane assist. We found that the lane assist was acceptable; however, steering inputs were still required to put us back into the lane. The adaptive cruise control works great. One thing we did notice with the adaptive cruise control is that in certain instances the braking was overly aggressive when it didn't have to be, and a small braking intervention would have sufficed. Over bump the suspension felt stiff; however, this is expected from a sports car-like itself. Sound insulation at higher speed could also be improved; however this does let the exhaust sound enter into the cabin even if some of it pushed into the speakers.

As for the sound system, it's nice to see that the Fender sound system comes standard when choosing the GTI in the Rabbit edition. As with past VW reviews, we found that the sound system is tuned to sound great for music that is rich in instruments. Even live recording will sound extremely rich, something other audio systems don't always get right. The infotainment offers standard access to Android Auto and Apple Car Play and works as designed and is fast enough to take all the commands you can throw at it. The touch screen works quick enough and is quite responsive. What we disliked on the setup was all the gloss black around the screen, it is a pure fingerprint trap and needs to be cleaned almost after each use.

Someone would expect that car seat installation in a car like the GTI would either be hard or not user-friendly. It's not that complicated really, the doors open wide enough to install a car seat easily; the ISOFIX ports are covered by a plastic cover that takes some force to lodge out of place, once they're off the ports are very visible, and latching is simple. No need to fiddle around to attach the car seat, and in our case the latches were even painted in the same colour as the exterior. This could mean that these were painted at the same time as the whole chassis. The plastic covers don't have any specific place to be stored while a car seat is in place. With experience, people will lose these covers and will not replace them when it is the time to sell the car. Younger kids will not have any difficulties opening the rear doors and for them to enter the rear cabin will be a breeze as the lower stance of the car makes it easy for them to get in and out of the car. Even the belt buckles are ergonomically placed for them, and they will be able to buckle themselves.

Finally, how is the GTI, in an urban environment? After testing the GTE it is hard to come back and say that the GTI is the best hot hatch VW has to offer for city dwellers. Nevertheless, our Rabbit was equipped with start and stop technology while stuck in traffic. The way the system is set up is fine for traffic with lots of still standing traffic; however, when it comes to driving in the city with lots of stops, the experience becomes more of a nuisance. We know from other products in the VW portfolio that mild-hybrid system offers a smoother transition from when the engine turns off and turns back on. Parking the GTI is simple, and you can always be sure that your camera is clean since it's hidden underneath the VW logo and only shows itself when needed. The steering wheel is a little heavier than what we would like it to make the full parallel parking experience a breeze. Suspension can be a bit stiff over potholes, as mentioned above, it is a little trade-off for the wonderful chassis the GTI is build on, which permits it to zip through traffic enthusiastically.

Why would we buy the VW GTI and what we liked about it: Great maneuverability, fun to drive, lots of standard equipment, very versatile vehicle, well-thought interior/ergonomic, great sound system. Rabbit version offers a nicely packaged car.

Why wouldn't we buy the VW GTI and what we didn't like about it: No hybrid version available in North America, DSG not as fun as the manual GTI, Rabbit edition version doesn't get a sunroof.

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