By KBB.com Editors
Costing well under $25,000, the 2009 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 2009 Volkswagen GTI a joy to drive enthusiastically wherever appropriate.You May Not Like This Car If...
While the 2009 Volkswagen GTI out-muscles the Honda Civic Si, MINI Cooper S and Mazda 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 New for 2009
The Cold Weather package, which features heated washer nozzles and heated seats, is now standard equipment on every 2009 GTI.Driving It Driving Impressions
The 2009 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 heated 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 supremely comfortable.