Saturday, March 25, 2023
Reviews 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Review: 45 Years Later

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Review: 45 Years Later

This is another farewell review. This time, we say au revoir to the 7th generation Volkswagen Golf GTI

  • The Golf GTI is priced at $36,945 in Canada, from $28,695 in the US.

  • This is the final model year for the mk7 Golf GTI.

  • Not the best GTI ever but certainly an excellent and worthy GTI.

I’ve been a big fan of the Volkswagen Golf GTI for a very long time. I like to note that we were both officially born the same year and so, yes, the secret’s out: I’m not 28 despite my youthful appearance… In all seriousness, for the last 45 years, the Golf GTI has owned the compact hot hatch segment globally and it’s always really good to drive.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Like a fine wine, a GTI, when well cared for, ages extremely well. If ever you get the opportunity to drive the 1st generation GTI, as I have on multiple occasions, you’ll get it. In fact, all generations of the car still feel contemporary in the way it handles itself on the road. Despite competition coming from all sides and continents over the decades, a GTI still distinctly remains a GTI.

Flawless power-to-pleasure ratio

This is true of the now over-and-done with MK7 Golf GTI. If it won’t go down in history as the greatest of its kind, it’s only because it’s now been copied and, in some ways, bested by other hot hatches. But as I’ve just observed, the GTI still stands as the most well-rounded everyday sports car.

From the onset, the Volkswagen Golf GTI has always provided drivers with a spotlessly balanced chassis. Capable of massive amounts of grip, stability, and predictable on-road behaviour, it has also always demonstrated an incredible level of civility. The MK7 GTI’s suspension is tuned to be as comfortable tackling a high-speed corner with communicative yet reassuring lean as it is commuting to the office every day. This final GTI, offered only in Autobahn trim for 2021, includes Dynamic Chassis Control. The adjustable dampers can be as cushy or far less forgiving, as desired.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Many people think that a Golf GTI is about speed, which it is not. Certainly, the turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine with its 228 horsepower and generous 258 lb.-ft. of torque do make it quick but like most “reasonably” powered compact cars, the GTI is about momentum and the sheer pleasure of driving.

The tested Cornflower blue GTI, the best colour (followed by Tornado red) offered, featured a must-have-for-enthusiasts 6-speed manual gearbox. Very much in line with the GTI’s persona, this transmission is among the most user-friendly. The shifter slots effortlessly into gear while the clutch pedal offers nothing more than sufficient resistance. The optional $1,400 7-speed DSG is always a fine alternative.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

The 2.0T’s instant torque is most gratifying. From only 1,500 rpm, the GTI gets underway with ease. Unlike some of its competitors that suffer from varying levels of turbo lag, the GTI’s swell of power is sustained and uninterrupted. This too is in line with the car’s mostly laid-back approach to life on the road. Even so, the GTI is a serious driver’s car with its standard limited-slip mechanical differential referred to as Vorderachsquersperre (gesundheit) or better known as VAQ. The channeled power is always put to good use, encouraging the driver to get on the power a little earlier than feels right.

Premium and forever pretty

If anything truly feels right, it’s the GTI’s cabin. Completely functional and welcoming, there’s plenty of room for five occupants and a good load of gear in the boot. Included with the GTI for 2021 is an 8-inch screen with an easy-to-navigate infotainment menu, navigation, a Fender audio system, and leather seats. The latter are wonderfully supportive and comfortable, ideal for a long country drive or for a weekend track event.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

As far as hatchbacks go, the first-generation Volkswagen Golf more or less wrote the book on the body style. As such, the MK7 GTI is the epitome of the hot hatch and is beautiful. It’s not special or particularly unique but it is classically proportioned and elegant. Perhaps this is one of the Golf GTI’s, and Golf R’s, best attributes: everything about the car’s visuals are subtle.

As the 2021 model year winds down, there are few if realistically any new MK7 GTIs still available. As you read these lines, the all-new 2022 MK8 Golf GTI is already priced and configurable on VW Canada’s website. The new car promises to be a smoking hot performer in an increasingly (good news!) competitive segment.

While I’d never put the 2021 GTI down, I think I’d wait for the new 2022 car.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai


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