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2006 Volkswagen GTI Review

Four Stars out of Five

In Tune With Your Fast

In short: A very quick and sporty three-door hatch.

Back in 1976, “the” car to drive in Europe was the Volkswagen Golf GTI. This original “hot hatch” was also a phenomenon in the United States when it was launched as the Rabbit GTI in 1983. You had to get it in black with red trim and plaid cloth seats. As you can see here, it’s back, and it’s as fun now as it was back then.

In its fifth generation, the GTI is more aerodynamic than ever. A sporty honeycomb grille with red trim announces the car’s sporting intentions, and is flanked by fog lamps and xenon lights with pop-up washers. Our tester came in scintillating Black Magic paint with optional 18” horse-shoe-looking wheels and summer tires. This combination is definitely the way to go if you desire maximum nostalgia and performance.

Power is generated from a 200-horsepower turbocharged inline-4, and thanks to Volkswagen’s Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR), the car doesn’t slip too much on rocket-like take-offs. There is no noticeable turbo lag, but you will have to deal with some torque steer. Our tester came with the awesome optional DSG automatic transmission that snaps through gears seemingly in nanoseconds. It utilizes two clutches to speed up changes whether in regular auto mode or using the Tiptronic steering wheel paddles and console shifter. With its exotic alloy pedals, it all adds up to a pure-bred racer.

Inside, the front cabin is spacious with ample head room, but things get a little cramped in the back. The 60/40 rear pass-through combines with a fair-sized trunk for decent utility. Instrumentation is clean and the DVD navigation system is somewhat user-friendly with crisp graphics. We loved the thick, Ferrari-like leather steering wheel with its secondary control buttons and paddle shifters, but would probably opt for black leather in lieu of the out-of-date Interlagos plaid seats.

A more serious complaint is the severe wind buffeting created when the sunroof is open. It didn’t go away when the windows were cracked, and we would hope that in this day and age Volkswagen would be able to eradicate such a nuisance. Perhaps the dealer could throw in an exterior wind deflector.

Today, there are other comparable choices in the hot compact car market, but if you’re feeling somewhat nostalgic, we suggest seriously considering the car that helped create that market in the first place. Whether you can remember the first version or not, this “original” GTI is guaranteed to put the “fast” back in you.

Read a review of the 2009 Volkswagen GTI
and the 2006 Volkswagen Rabbit

Warranty/Service: Four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty; five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Base Price: $21,990 / As Tested: $27,615

Technical Specifications

Performance Data

Vehicle type: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 3-door hatchback

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
Horsepower: 200 bhp @ 5,100 rpm
Torque: 207 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed double-clutch automatic (6-speed manual standard)

Curb weight: 3,352 lbs
Wheelbase: 101.5 in
165.8/69.3/58.4 in
Turning circle: 35.8 ft

Brakes: four-wheel disc with ABS
independent front and rear
traction control, vehicle stability control

Safety: front air bags, front side air bags, side curtain head air bags

0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds

Top Speed: 141 mph

EPA City: 25 mpg
EPA Highway: 32 mpg

Likes: extremely sporty; outstanding DSG Tiptronic transmission; good gas mileage providing you don't mimic a NASCAR driver

Dislikes: awful wind buffeting noise from the sunroof; Euro-econobox feel; out-of-date plaid interior; iPod hook-up optional

Check out other Volkswagen models
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Visit the Volkswagen website

Photography: AlphaMedia

(Updated 01/23/09 SV)

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