By KBB.com Editors
Costing well under $25,000, the 2008 Volkswagen GTI returns to its roots by infusing razor-sharp handling with spirited acceleration. Thanks to the GTI's clever hatchback design, drivers can enjoy true German-engineered performance without having to sacrifice comfort for four people or a roomy cargo hold. Although now larger and heavier than the original car, the GTI remains a manageable size and features its most powerful engine to date: A turbocharged 2.0-liter unit pumping out 200 horsepower. Drivers can choose between a slick-shifting six-speed manual or Volkswagen's marvelous Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) automatic, which is without question the best auto-manual transmission money can buy.You'll Like This Car If...
A powerful, flexible engine combined with flat, responsive handling, a lot of grip in the corners and front-wheel-drive predictability make the 2008 Volkswagen GTI a joy to drive enthusiastically wherever appropriate.You May Not Like This Car If...
While the 2008 Volkswagen GTI out-muscles the new Civic Si, MINI Cooper S and Mazda3 s, it's also 400 to 600 pounds heavier than those competitors. In fact, this biggest GTI ever weighs as much as Volkswagen's Passat midsize sedan. The extra weight isn't readily apparent, but it's certainly no advantage, either.What's Significant About This Car?
Changes for 2008 include a 15mm suspension-height reduction, the addition of SIRIUS Satellite Radio as standard equipment and the removal of the Climatronic automatic climate control from all models.Driving It Driving Impressions
The 2008 Volkswagen GTI drives as true to the original as a 3,300-pound, turbocharged car can be expected. It's on the heavy side, but steering is razor-sharp and cornering grip is tenacious and flat (a mid-corner bump can startle the GTI, but it recovers quickly). It's turbocharged, but turbo lag is virtually non-existent, boost is silky, there's plenty of torque available almost immediately and torque steer has been all but eliminated. Like the best GTIs before it, the newest is fun around town and confidence-inspiring on even unfamiliar mountain and canyon roads. The six-speed manual works like a charm, but it doesn't take too long to be won over by the six-speed DSG gearbox that shifts quickly and smoothly at the push of a button. The highway ride might be stiff for some, but anyone expecting this level of performance might find it downright comfortable.Favorite Features
Six-Speed Direct Shift Gearbox
In stop-and-go traffic it's a smooth-shifting automatic transmission. On your favorite road or track it's a quick-shifting, no-pedal manual. You won't miss the clutch pedal as much as you may think.
Well-bolstered cloth seats and even deeper leather ones provide plenty of support to keep you from having to fight the lateral forces you're having so much fun generating. They're also comfortable.
The interior of the GTI is crafted with a level of materials and build quality that outclasses some very good competition. Highlights include aluminum pedals and trim, leather steering wheel, handbrake and shift knob and a cooled storage compartment under the front armrest. At night, controls are illuminated in Volkswagen's now-familiar blue and red scheme. In back, passengers get their own heating, ventilation and air conditioning vents, while a 60/40 split folding seatback extends the car's hatchback functionality. Did we mention the fantastic sport bucket seats? They are arguably the best in this class.Exterior
In homage to first- and second-generation GTIs, the newest model features a thin red grille surround and original-style GTI logos. Other highlights include a honeycomb mesh grille, low-set fog lights, mirror-integrated turn indicators, discreet rear spoiler and red brake calipers visible through 17-inch wheels. Last year's introduction of North America's first ever four-door GTI expands the car's appeal to enthusiasts who now have kids.Notable Standard Equipment
Standard equipment on a base GTI includes a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, six-speed manual transmission, HID xenon headlamps with washers, fog lights, power locks with remote keyless entry, one-touch power windows, heated power mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control, multifunction trip computer, 10-speaker AM/FM/6CD-MP3 sound system, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, cloth seats, tilt and telescoping leather steering wheel with audio and telephone controls (plus paddle shifters on DSG-equipped models), leather shift knob and 17-inch wheels. Standard safety equipment includes front, front-side and two-row side-curtain airbags, plus electronic stability and traction aids. Summer performance tires can be swapped for all-season performance tires at no cost.Notable Optional Equipment
Equipment not included on a base GTI includes a six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG), the Autobahn Package with power glass sunroof, heated leather sport seats with power-adjustable lumbar, premium sound system and heated windshield washer nozzles, 18-inch wheels and a navigation system that relocates the six-disc CD changer to beneath the center armrest.Under the Hood
The GTI's 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine benefits from FSI direct fuel injection that helps to counteract turbo lag and provide more of the low-end torque that's long been a GTI calling card. The optional six-speed DSG transmission adds just over $1,000 to the price but provides slightly quicker zero to 60-miles-per-hour runs (just 6.8 seconds, according to VW) and marginally better combined fuel economy.
2.0-liter in-line 4
200 horsepower @ 5100 rpm
207 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/29 (manual), 22/29 (automatic)
The 2008 two-door Volkswagen GTI's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts just over $23,000, while the four-door model stickers for about $500 more. When fully loaded, the GTI will top out just over $31,000. Our Fair Purchase Prices show real-world transaction prices just below MSRPs. Comparing base prices, the GTI is more expensive than the Civic Si, MINI Cooper S and the more powerful Mazda MAZDASPEED3. As for resale value, we expect the GTI to perform exceptionallyas well as or better than anything else in a category that includes some very depreciation-resilient automobiles.