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  • 2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI Sport

    Posted on March 10th, 2017 ninarussin

    Four-door hatchback delivers the goods

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI

    If you’re looking for a car that’s cool, yet affordable, with peppy performance plus good fuel economy, take-a-look at the newest Volkswagen Golf. The current version that debuted for 2015 is the first constructed on the automaker’s new modular global architecture, giving the chassis more torsional rigidity for better steering feedback.

    The sporty GTI comes with a two-liter turbocharged block that delivers 210-horsepower while averaging 32 miles-per-gallon on the highway. The Sport grade comes standard with a performance package including brakes from the Golf R, a limited-slip differential, 10-horsepower boost (when using 91-octane fuel) and 18-inch wheels. Base price is $26,695 excluding the $820 delivery charge.

    Options on the test car add red exterior paint, plaid cloth interior, six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission and summer performance tires, all at no cost. Final MSRP is $27,515.

    A car for all seasons

    2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI

    2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI

    People unfamiliar with the Southwest think of the area as having perpetual summer. In fact, the area has four seasons, most obvious in high-altitude mountainous areas but present in all. In southern Arizona, all four seasons come into play during the month of March, when temperatures can range from the mid-30s to the upper 90s, with strong winds and outbursts of rain and fronts make their way across the country.

    Variations in climate together with elevated traffic from seasonal tourists make for some challenging driving conditions, in other words, the perfect scenario for a test drive.

    During the past week, I drove the Golf through sections of Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley on surface streets and highways as well as the two-lane Bush Highway that skirts the Superstition Mountains east of town. The Golf GTI proved a willing partner weaving through a Friday night rush-hour, and was a hoot to take over the pitchy hills and off-camber turns on rural two-lane roads.

    2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI

    2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI

    Now that engineers have solved problems such as turbo lag and oil coking, the blower technology seems the best way to go for small engines. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine on the Golf GTI delivers 258 pound-feet of torque at 1500 rpm: a tip of the throttle. As-a-result, the pint-size Golf offers robust acceleration off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into high-speed traffic.

    The stiffer body structure enabled engineers to tune the car’s electric power steering system for performance, with plenty of assist at lower speeds and a pleasantly heavy feel on the highway. There’s a slight lag in off-center performance, but it is so minimal that most drivers probably won’t notice it. A four-wheel independent suspension consists of struts with coil springs up front and multi-links with coil springs in back. Stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat while cornering.

    Ventilated disc brakes on all four wheels stop the car in firm, linear fashion.

    Engineers did a good job of minimizing engine, road and wind noise intrusion to the interior so occupants can converse or enjoy the Golf’s eight-speaker audio system.

    Versatile interior

    Volkswagen Golf GTI Interior

    Volkswagen Golf GTI Interior

    The Golf’s interior feels more spacious than one might expect, given the car’s small dimensions.

    Manual seat adjustments are easy to use, giving the driver enough fore-aft range and capable of raising the seat high enough to accommodate smaller individuals. A dead pedal reduces leg fatigue on long drives.

    I discovered that the car’s ignition wouldn’t fire until I had secured my seatbelt. It sounds like a good safety precaution, but in a part of the country where car interiors reach 140-degrees in the summer it’s not. I often find myself turning on the air conditioning before attempting to touch and secure metal seat belt latches that can cause severe burns at those temperatures.

    The Golf’s four-door configuration makes it easier to rear-seat passengers to enter and exit the car. Legroom in back is quite good, assuming the driver hasn’t pushed his or her seat too far back. Vents behind the center console circulate air through the back of the cabin.

    Second-row seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor. The Golf is too small to fit a bicycle inside, but it’s easy enough to install a hitch mount in back.

    Standard safety

    The Volkswagen Golf GTI comes with six airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, rearview camera, tire pressure monitoring and VW Car-Net that includes emergency assistance.

    The factory warranty includes three years of 24-hour roadside assistance, up to 36,000 miles.

    Volkswagen builds the Golf GTI at is Puebla, Mexico assembly plant.

    Like: An affordable, peppy hatchback with a versatile interior that should appeal to active urbanites.

    Dislike: Seatbelts must be secured before the driver fires the ignition- something that could be a problem in the hot Southwestern summers.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Volkswagen
    Model: Golf GTI S
    Year: 2017
    Base price: $26,695
    As tested: $27,515
    Horsepower: 220 Hp @ 4700 (with performance package)
    Torque: 258 lbs.-ft. @ 1500 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Towing: No
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 24/32 mpg city/highway

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