Showing restraint is hell, especially for us. Whether it’s a huge amount of horsepower, more grip or indulging in myriad conveniences, there’s always a hunger for more. Not this time. When we specified our long-term (and 10Best-winning) 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI, we flipped the script.
For the next 40,000 miles, we’ll see what life is like with the lower $30,540 GTI S sports model. We’re pretty good at lip-reading because we know you just said, “Wait, $30K for a base GTI?!” Yes that’s right. These are the times we live in, when someone pays $3.6 million for a one-off Porsche 911 based on the… cars movie character Sally Carrera.
Continuing with the entry-level S trim, there’s no panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, or heated seats for the rear occupants. That is a decision we are comfortable with. It also means the electronically controlled 15-position dampers won’t find their way to every corner. And that’s okay, that’s about 12 positions too many anyway. Most important is the 241 bhp 2.0-litre four-in-line four under the hood and the six-speed manual transmission, the latter even more so as the basic hot hatch has to focus on the basics.
The biggest omission is the lack of summer tires, which cannot be added as a stand-alone option. The stickier rubber is reserved for the top-dog Autobahn trim, which carries a price tag of $39,425. However, on the test track, observations obtained by cutting through a twisty two-lane track were confirmed: this eighth-generation GTI has tremendous mechanical grip. Hanging around the skid pad is the Pirelli P Zero All Season rubber with 0.93g lateral stick and is not very far from the 0.98g we averaged with a GTI Autobahn on summer tires in our last comparison test. In the braking department, stops at 70 mph require 169 feet, and those at 100 mph, 342 feet – 19 and 38 feet longer, respectively, than with the more grippy rubber. We foresee a new set of wheels wrapped in summer rubber in the future of our GTI to keep this VW tighter on the leash.
The all-season rubber proved to be more problematic when trying to get the most out of a standing start. There’s plenty of wheelspin to manage, provided the GTI’s stability system doesn’t try to micromanage it first. Despite indicating that it’s been disabled and removed from the equation, it still lingers in the background, eager to put out a tire fire, both off the line and during an aggressive one-two upshift. With a touch of clutch slip, our GTI reached 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and completed the quarter mile in 14.3 seconds and 101 mph. That’s just 0.3 seconds from a dual-clutch GTI SE with automatic transmission that rolls on the same rubber. We gladly give up a few tenths to row our own gears.
Opting for the base Golf GTI means living with the smaller 8.3-inch touchscreen, which is free of built-in navigation. And that’s okay, because many of us prefer the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay companion apps. SiriusXM fans will be disappointed to hear it’s missing, but again, smartphones for the win. Wired connections to these multimedia interfaces are a thing of the past, but the GTI S still needs a cord. All of these issues can be solved by moving a trim level to the SE, with its 10.0-inch display, but the smaller screen’s volume and tuning knobs have already won us over over the larger screen’s finicky haptic controls.
Perhaps the GTI’s supportive seats with Clark plaid inlays and its fantastic handling will allow us to forgive the shortcomings of its interior materials. But those cheap-looking plastic trim parts stare at us every day. We still have 35,000 miles to decide if we can live with that frown.
Months in fleet: 2 months Current mileage: 4515 miles
Average fuel consumption: 27 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 13.2 gal Observed fuel range: 350 miles
Maintenance: $0 Normal wear and tear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and destruction: $0