Behind The Wheel: 2010 Volkswagen GTI MkVI

Hot. Hatch.

As a gear and car nut, one learns to appreciate the details in life. It’s not about the shirt; it’s about the stitching. It’s not about the song; it’s the crescendo of the quartet. And for me, it’s not just about the car; it’s about how it fits you. The attitude, the experience, and the overall feel.

The 2010 Volkswagen GTI MkVI feels like it was crafted on Saville Row – of the Wolfsburg, Germany variety – and infused with a healthy dose of rebellion. Watch the video to see why I found myself impressed.

Volkswagen invited a handful of journalists to experience the new GTI firsthand in beautiful San Francisco and it didn’t disappoint.

I love hatchbacks. I do. Especially, hot hatches like the 2010 Volkswagen GTI MkVI. There really isn’t a reason behind it other. Mobile, sporty and begging to make me smile, unlike crossovers or other convoluted attempts at sporty and functional. Thankfully, this is not that hatchback. The GTI MkVI was born as a hatch, not converted. And much like a country music singer actually born in the South (e.g. no frosted tips, super-tight t-shirts or studded Ed Hardy pants… Rascal Flatts) this GTI has hot hatch in its blood. Or oil. For this sixth edition of the GTI line, Volkswagen decided to get back to the basics – taking design notes from their original GTI, created over 30 years ago, older than many of you reading this.

What You Notice

The first thing you will notice about the new GTI is the grill. The signature stylish red striping outlining the honeycomb grille coupled with new headlamp design gives the GTI’s fascia a more aggressive stance and there’s a lot of rearview mirror appeal (what other see in the mirror when you approach them on the road). In fact, there is enough red and black throughout the car to think former Chicago Bulls forward Scottie Pippen was consulted on the color theme. As you clock around the car you notice smooth doors absent of body molding that provide a clean line across both the two and four door models, culminating in a nicely bolstered hatch with split dual-exhaust and pronounced rear diffuser. The egg shaped rear lamps for the GTI MkVI have also been improved with an angular design that fits the overall package. Together it works, giving just the right amount of bad boy flavor and driveway longevity. You won’t be disappointed with your purchase three years from now.

Like most German cars, and VW, the interior is clean and modern (if not austere) with industry expected technological advances like a well-executed navigation system, trip computers and enough 3-lettered traction and safety options to look like a government dossier.


The Oomph

The 4-cylinder, 200 hp engine is exploited by your choice of six-speed manual or the dual-clutch Direct Shift Gearbox which hauls you at 60mph in 5.9 seconds yet returning 24 mpg (city) and 32 mpg (highway). Thumbs up for performance and efficiency. Living in Los Angeles changes one in many ways: bigger sunglasses, pricier haircuts and a distaste for corporate restaurants. With gas prices and parking spaces at a premium I find myself lusting less at BMW 750s and Mercedes S550s, rather more piqued at zippy, agile, sporty cars. Ones that give you a lot of bang for your buck. The GTI is a car firmly placed in that class. NO, it isn’t a car for everyone, but if any of what I’ve written or demonstrated in the video appeals to you then you understand the sentiment.

In the past, VW’s (and their counterparts at Audi) have been known for electrical bugaboos and costly repairs. As a former owner of an Audi A4, I can attest to this. Most of that has been worked out in newer models from both brands and their maintenance-free coverage for 36,000 miles is a beautiful thing. Beyond tires, pretty much everything else is covered and that’s money in your pocket. The GTI’s price tag falls somewhere between between $23,000 and $32,000 depending on how much you equip it with. There’s plenty of trunk space and forward cabin room, but your rear passengers might find things snug, especially if they’re over 6′, like this author.

On a recent episode of 30 Rock, Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin’s characters, Liz and Jack, discover that there is no middle America anymore. Luckily for cars, there are still brands who know how to put together a package that can appeal to people who want space, sport, style, and value. That’s a package that the 2010 Volkswagen GTI MkVI is all too pleased to offer. Even here in the fickle world of Los Angeles, the GTI manages to bring a smile from not only yourself as you mash the go-pedal, but also the admirers, both fiscally conservative and stylistically progressive. Add this one to the list of “I wants”.


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