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  • Writer's pictureAlain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld

The 2023 Volkswagen GTI is the most comfortable manual at its price point.

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

This week, we are reviewing the 2023 Volkswagen GTI. Our vehicle was assembled at the Wolfsburg in Germany with an MSRP of CAD $36,995.00.

VW Golf GTI 40th
Photo by Vince P. Szigeti

Fun Factor: 8

The last time we were in a GTI was in 2019, with an automatic gearbox and a retail price of $38,950.00. We rarely see a cost decrease with an updated version, especially during times when prices are on the rise. Sure, this one's a manual, but overall, the vehicle feels like an upgrade. We find more power under the hood, 241hp, up from 228hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, up from 258 lb-ft torque in the Mk7. In our real-life acceleration test, we achieved 0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds. With its improved chassis, handling, and ride, the GTI offers impressive performance and a more comfortable ride. It might be the most comfortable GTI ever and probably the most comfortable hatchback on the market.

VW Golf GTI stearing wheel
Photo by Vince P. Szigeti

Can it Family: 7

The bucket seats were designed to provide ample support and were quite comfortable. They were, in fact, my preferred seats due to their ability to keep me firmly in place. Even when driving with more energy, I remained securely seated. The back seats are also enjoyable for children; sporty cars often need to pay more attention to the family experience, but not this one! Of course, being a hatchback, you will find a lot of space for this segment.

Fuel-Friendly: 7

VW announces the following fuel economy for the manual GTI: 10L/100km in the city and 7.3L/100km on the Hwy and a combined fuel economy of 8.8L/100km. During our highway test, we achieved bang on a fuel economy of 7.3L/100km with some spirited driving, meaning better economy is possible. By the end of the week, our average fuel consumption was 10.9L/100km for the 400 km journey.

HWY-warrior: 9

The touch-based buttons were annoying; we accidentally turned on the heated seats several times during scorching hot summer days. Not something we needed, maybe during the winter months, but not now. Besides the inconvenience above, the GTI opened up delightfully at higher speeds. It felt more engaging, finding some of that charisma missing with the automatic Golf R we tested... We enjoyed its character more than the 2022 Golf R. Yes, the more we drove the GTI, the more we enjoyed it, especially with the manual transmission. So it comes as sad news that VW announced the discontinuation of the manual transmission inside the GTI. Finally, we genuinely enjoyed the cruise control; manual cars often come as base versions and cruise control is usually not offered, which is relaxing on long road trips.

Karaoke Friendly: 7

I'll start with what doesn't make sense, as with newer VW products like the ID4. Our grief begins with the infotainment. The system has improved in speed from the last VW model we tested with the same system. However, the touch-based volume and temperature controls make things less convenient. Especially at night, as they are not backlit, you have to guess if you're increasing the temperature or lowering the volume. Now, onto the good. The Harman Kardon premium audio with eight speakers and a subwoofer sounded good, a slight improvement over what we heard in the Mk7, but it still lacks some refinement at higher volume. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are wireless and worked like a charm during our testing week. It connected as soon as we turned on the vehicle, and it may be a blessing in disguise for the GTI as it improved the satisfaction of how we interacted with the system.

VW GOLF GTI car seat fixtures ISOFIX ports
Photo by Vince P. Szigeti

Baby-friendly: 7

The latches in the GTI are easily accessible under a removable plastic cover. Boosters and front-facing car seats will require the headrest to be removed and will fit perfectly. As for rear-facing car seats and infant seats, they will eat up the space of passengers in front if they're over 5ft6. We were relieved that the door opened wide enough to quickly move the car seats in and out.

Volkswagen GTi 40th wheels
Photo by Vince P. Szigeti

City Cruising: 6

The front sensors make parking in the city much easier; visibility is already good, but it adds to the reassurance when trying to fit into a small spot. The VW logo conceals the rear camera, which only appears when reversing to prevent dirt accumulation during bad weather conditions. If you thought a sporty Golf would remove the comfort in your daily drive, think again; we were surprised at how comfortable this sporty hatchback was during testing, and we almost forgot we were in a GTI.

Volkswagen Golf GTI
Photo by Vince P. Szigeti

Why would we buy the Volkswagen GTI, or what we liked about it?

It might be the best bang for your money for a manual-performance vehicle; it's surprisingly comfortable. The updated engine provides the perfect balance of power for this type of vehicle. Fuel economy is excellent on the Hwy.

VW GTI lights
Photo by Vince P. Szigeti

Why would we not buy the Volkswagen GTI, or what did we not like about it?

The manual gear shifter feels awkward due to its large size and hollow sensation. Europe gets the GTE, a plugin hybrid, but it is still a head-scratcher as to why they have yet to bring this product to North America. The infotainment needs more physical buttons, and some buttons, like the HVAC, have no reason not to be backlit.

VW has lent us this vehicle for one week as a press vehicle. We have no affiliation with Volkswagen Canada. The above reflects our personal opinion of the car referred to above.

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