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2012 Volkswagen GTI

Overview
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2012 Volkswagen GTI Review

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KBB Expert Rating: 7.6

Now entering its fifth decade, the global automotive community and, by extension, consumers are fully embracing the 2-box, compact layout first popularized by Volkswagen's Golf. And although U.S. consumers have been slower to embrace the Golf in the same way they enjoy the more conventional Jetta, new 5-door entries from Scion, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, Ford and Chevy have done a great deal to move U.S. consumers closer to this global center. Now in its sixth generation, the 2012 VW Golf continues to evolve, providing (typically) more comfort and composure than similarly priced offerings from Japan, Korea or the U.S.

You'll Like This Car If...

If you enjoy intelligent design, efficient operation, careful build quality and artful execution, the 2012 Volkswagen Golf should fit a wide range of transportation needs. Although not as entertaining as the turbocharged GTI derivative, both the 2.5-liter in-line five and 2.0-liter TDI have prodigious torque along with competitive efficiency. The GTI provides expressive performance within a practical footprint, while the new Golf R is almost explosive in its capability. The Golf design has proven timeless, boding well for long-term enjoyment and a reasonable return on investment.

You May Not Like This Car If...

At one point those shopping for a 3-door or 5-door hatch had little beyond Volkswagen from which to choose. Lately, there's been an entire catalog of new entries, from manufacturers as diverse as Ford (Focus) and Hyundai (Elantra). With an abundance of choices you may find something elsewhere closer to your needs and/or budget.

What's New for 2012

No significant changes to the base car, but option packages have been simplified. Those Golfs equipped with the 2.5-liter 5-cylinder gasoline powertrain are available in Golf, Golf with Convenience, and Golf with Convenience and Sunroof guises. Those consumers opting for the 2.0-liter Clean Diesel can spec their Golfs as Golf TDI, Golf TDI with Sunroof and Navigation, and Golf TDI with Tech Package. Making any of these choices continues to provide you with a high level – for the segment – of standard equipment. Celebrating 35 years as the world's best "hot hatch," VW's GTI receives a new variant - GTI with Convenience and Sunroof - which groups together some of the most popular stand-alone options. And for those with a penchant for spending more to get more, the Golf R, with 256 horsepower, 4Motion all-wheel drive and a $35,000 MSRP should more than satisfy.

Driving the GTI

Driving Impressions Sharing its overall architecture with VW's GTI, the Golf enjoys a level of solidity and composure relatively rare in its size or price category. The all-independent suspension delivers a composed...

ride, rack-and-pinion steering provides a direct communication with the front wheels, and the rigid body structure contributes to both handling and safety. In short, there's none of the tin-box feel often associated with cars in the compact category – the Golf feels more like a mid-size sport sedan. The 5-cylinder gasoline powerplant with 170 horsepower won't overwhelm you with either power or personality, but proves oh-so-competent in the daily commute. The diesel has power and personality in spades, but requires a financial commitment up front while providing 40-plus highway mpg in return. Opt for the 200-horsepower GTI and you have a confluence of both more capability and an almost serene driving environment – this isn't the hot hatch for a youngster, it's the responsive hatch for a youthful psychology. If you're lucky enough to secure the all-wheel-drive Golf R, plan for high-speed driving at any appropriate venue in any appropriate season. We'd recommend Montana between January and December.
Favorite Features

TDI Powertrain
With all of the discussion surrounding hybrid and electric powertrains, diesel remains the well-proven leader in efficiency and longevity. The Golf's 2.0-liter TDI is efficient, versatile and responsive. That combination should please both the enthusiast behind the wheel and the accountant keeping track of monthly costs.

5-Door Versatility
Having popularized – after a fashion – the 3- and 5-door hatch, Volkswagen continues to move the needle with some 46 cubic feet of cargo space. It isn't, to be sure, a minivan, nor does it hold the commercial possibilities of Ford's Transit Connect. But with those wanting something fun to drive, but still needing some vestige of practicality, the Golf's hatch configuration is tough to beat.

2012 Volkswagen GTI Details
Interior

Volkswagen describes the Golf interior as one that continues to "set the quality benchmark in its class." And we wouldn't disagree; the Golf employs a mixture of design and execution rarely found at window stickers fully twice that of the 2012 Golf. Throughout the Golf interior, from seat choices to the dash and center stack, you'll not be disappointed by the Golf's visual and tactile performance. And its functional acumen is underscored by an info-centric dash, form-fitting bucket seats and high-lift tailgate. The 2012 GTI and Golf R take the interior one step further, with an ergonomic steering wheel, aggressive sport seats and more comprehensive instrumentation.

Exterior

Visually the Golf was tightened for 2011, and those more athletic contours have been carried over in 2012. The crisp, shark crease running the length of the Golf add, we're told, "visual movement" to the car, while its swept-back headlights heighten the Golf's athletic look. New for 2012 on the Golf TDI Clean Diesel with Tech are LED daytime running lights that sit along the sides and base of the headlights. The 2012 Golf is an evolution of a design that worked from the git-go, and continues to work because its design team refuses to dramatically alter its innate goodness.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

At a base price of under $19,000, the 2.5-liter Golf is modestly equipped, with tilt-and-telescopic steering column; power windows with auto up/down; air conditioning, split-folding rear seat with armrest and pass-through; radio with single CD; and dual polished exhaust tips. Adding Convenience ups the ante with front center armrest, heatable front seats and Bluetooth technology. Convenience and Sunroof goes beyond the addition of the sunroof with Premium VIII touch-screen radio, Sirius satellite radio and an MDI with an iPod cable. The diesel lineup – TDI Clean Diesel, Sunroof and Navigation and Tech Package – takes a similar stair-step route, but starts at a base of just under $25,000. The GTI and Golf R receive unique fascias and badging, along with a stance - via more aggressive rubber - that conveys both higher ambition and capabilities.

Optional Equipment

Most notable among your list of choices in the VW showroom is the 2.0-liter TDI diesel. Car companies with operations in the U.S. have been uniformly slow in adapting diesel's benefits – abundant torque and high efficiency – to U.S.-based (or bound) platforms. VW and Mercedes continue to show the way, and the benefits of the diesel in a Golf-sized package are many. Beyond the diesel, we'd cite the Golf's available DSG gearbox (optional on diesel-equipped Golfs), whose efficiency and immediacy are a perfect complement to the diesel's 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque.

Under the Hood

Although the Golf's base 5-cylinder powerplant doesn't receive a huge amount of love from VW's enthusiast base, it's proven to be eminently sensible for the cut-and-thrust of daily driving, offering reasonable horsepower, smoothness and efficiency; its most damning descriptive is that it's simply not much fun. That can't be said for the 2.0 TDI, offering abundant torque, awesome efficiency and a driving experience as visceral as VW. Given the diesel's $5K premium, however, you should weigh your driving needs, and costs, carefully. You'll need to drive a significant amount in a diesel to recover its higher initial purchase price. Performance enthusiasts can enjoy the GTI's warmed-up 2.0 liter turbo-4 offering 200 horsepower, or its more boosted variation – with 256 horsepower – available in the Golf R.

2.5-liter in-line 5
170 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
177 lb-ft of torque 4,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/33 (manual), 24/31 (automatic)

2.0-liter in-line 4 Direct Injection Turbodiesel (TDI)
140 horsepower @ 4,000 rpm
236 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750-2,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 30/42

2.0 liter in-line 4 turbocharged (GTI)
200 horsepower @ 5,100-6,000 rpm
207 lb-ft of torque @ 1,800-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/31 (manual), 24/33 (DSG)

2.0 liter turbocharged in-line 4 (Golf R)
256 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
243 lb-ft of torque @ 2,400-5,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/27

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2012 Volkswagen GTI Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
9.2
Out of 10

Based on 60 Ratings for the 2010 - 2012 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    9.3/10
    Quality
    9.6/10
  • Reliability
    9.3/10
    Performance
    9.5/10
  • Comfort
    9.4/10
    Styling
    9.5/10

From Japanese to German, what a difference!

By on Thursday, February 27, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
8/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Handling, horsepower, comfort, fuel economy"

Cons: "Parts and service can be expensive"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"I had a Toyota Matrix, based on the world-famous Corolla. Very reliable but a soul-less cheap basic car that was lacking in so many ways. Funny thing, though, I had no idea how aweful the Toyota was until I drove a GTI. Perhaps aweful is not fair. The Matrix is a good car. But the VW is so much more. And you pay for it. My used GTI cost twice that of my used Matrix. And worth every penny. What a joy to drive. Quiet, refined, really quick. Everything is high quality and you can see and feel the design effort that went into it. Easily the best car I have ever owned."

1 person out of 3 found this review helpful

The GTI....

By on Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 69,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
8/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "interior, style, solid build, fun, fun to upgrade"

Cons: "factory perf rating"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"These are great cars, fun to drive and build quality is excellent. Sure the WRX and EVO may have better performance ratings, but the interior quality on those cars are sub-par. Besides, there's a quick fix to that performance 'issue'. While from the factory, the GTI has enough pep and zing to make you smile, but take a quick trip to your nearest APR store, pay $600 for a CPU upgrade and boooooom.....you can now watch the WRX in your rear view."

1 person out of 1 found this review helpful

I love this car!

By on Saturday, December 14, 2013

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 72,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "So much fun to drive, excellent build quality"

Cons: "Maintenance is a little more expensive"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"I've owned my CPO 2010 GTI for close to a year now, and I would have to say that this is the best car I have ever owned. The body styling is attractive and there isn't a week that goes by that I don't get a compliment from someone who has a nice comment for the car's looks. The United Gray Metallic paint looks great and even in the winter months where things get pretty cruddy, it still looks good. The interior, hands down, is the absolute best you can get in this price class. It's basically a poor-man's Audi. The quality of the materials are fantastic, with very few hard surfaces. Specifically to the GTI, the cloth seats with the plaid design is eye-catching without being gaudy, and I've had more than one person mention how cool they look. Switchgear is smooth and supple, with no harsh clicks or cheapness of feel. Power and performance is excellent. The TSI turbo 2.0 liter motor in this car puts out 200HP stock, and has plenty of aftermarket mods available to take that north of 300HP, should you feel so inclined. That said, the stock motor is powerful enough to put a smile on your face should you have the urge to want to put your right foot through the floor. There's some turbo lag at lower RPMs, but that is a side effect of most motors equipped with a turbo. Although I have not done so (yet), information is out there that with a chip tune (about a $600-700 investment) you can gain a significant amount of power while almost negating any turbo lag. Fuel economy is pretty good too. I do a lot of highway driving, and my average fuel economy is about 30-31 MPG. I could probably do better, but this is a performance car, and there are times where I like to drive it like I stole it, which makes those number suffer to an extent. A premium fuel requirement makes fill-ups a little more expensive, but if you're going to quibble over a couple extra bucks to fill your tank, maybe this isn't the car for you. Steering feel is acceptable, but could use a bit more road feel feedback. This is due to the car using an electric steering system, as opposed to the hydraulic system used on most other cars. I've read that this has improved with the soon-to-come-to-the-States Mark VII GTI. That being said, this car handles like it's on rails. Cloverleaf intersection coming up? This car will take that 270 degree turn at 50 MPH, no worries. Braking is also acceptable, grabbing briskly when needed. The car will come to a stop very quickly, but the brakes are prone to fade fairly quickly if you're using them for an extended period of time. I suspect that this is due to the OEM pads installed on the car, and that acceptable gains in performance would be realized if one were to install ceramic pads once the OEM ones are worn down. I've seen a lot of people say that the overall build quality of VW cars is marginal, with a lot of rattles and loose parts, but frankly I have not had that experience with my car. It feels like a solid, quality car. Overall, I would say that I am very happy that I purchased this car, and because of this, I will be considering the 2015 GDI (the turbo-diesel performance model of the Golf) once it hits our shores."

2 people out of 2 found this review helpful

Like a "tank"

By on Saturday, November 16, 2013

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 17,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "really fun to drive, easy to park, great on gas,"

Cons: "Interior center console somewhat useless"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"I know it is a compact but once you drive one you will understand. This car feels more solid than my SRT8 Challenger at speed (90+mph) on the interstate it does not get pushed around. Mine gets a average of 29mph driving the car somewhat spirited. I kick myself for not buying one eaarlier in life."

1 person out of 1 found this review helpful

Excellent Car

By on Sunday, September 15, 2013

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,600

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
7/10
Comfort
7/10

Pros: "Fun to drive, well built, practical"

Cons: "Sluggish when driven on auto (Drive) mode"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"I purchased my VW GTI new in 2012, initially with some apprehension, since it was my first VW. The car is now about 18 months old and so far, it runs very well. Fun to drive, well built and relatively comfortable. One of the features I like most, is the DSG transmission which combines the good performances of a manual transmission with the ease of use of an automatic. Probably the best car I ever owned. Highly recommended to those seeking an affordable sporty car which is not too punishing, well built and practical."

2 people out of 2 found this review helpful

Great First Car!

By on Thursday, May 30, 2013

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 13,500

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
8/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Fuel efficient, good value for money, sporty"

Cons: "Rattle in trunk"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"This is my first car ever. It is probably one of the best cars under 30k on the market. It has great performance but it does not sacrifice fuel efficiency. Had a problem with the trunk not latching and had to get the spring replaced. But all around great car."

1 person out of 1 found this review helpful

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Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

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