The seventh-generation car is wrapped in sheet metal that is modern, yet equally unmistakable as a Volkswagen Golf GTI. The shape and design elements remain as defined as ever, with a distinctive C-pillar, roofline framing, and classic Golf GTI side windows, but the striking new front end and steeply sloped hood leave no doubt this is different from previous generations.
All 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI models feature standard LED Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) and, for the SE and Autobahn models, LED headlights with the Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS) are standard. A bright-red horizontal strip visually connects the headlights to a revised grille and bumper. Those fascias carry a strong character line that travels along the side and all the way back to the taillight clusters, only breaking for the wheel arches. Just above, another body line can be traced from the rear side window all the way back up to the headlights. These subtle body lines help create a poised yet elegant appearance.
In addition to the red horizontal highlight on the grille, the 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI has several other visual differences from its conventional Golf brethren. The lower front fascia incorporates standard LED fog lights housed within a series of horizontal strakes on either side of a unique mesh pattern grille. Red-painted brake calipers peek behind bespoke GTI wheels and subtle side skirts help to give the GTI a more planted appearance. Around back, bright exhaust tips sit on either side of a unique rear diffuser, while a roof spoiler and LED taillights further differentiate the car.
The Golf GTI has a lower visual center of gravity and a more dynamic stance than the regular Golf, thanks to a sport suspension that lowers the car by 0.6 inches. The Golf GTI is equipped with large 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels as standard equipment, wrapped in standard all-season or, exclusively optional on the Autobahn trim, 225/40 summer performance tires.
Automatic rain-sensing windshield wipers along with automatic headlights are standard across the lineup. A panoramic power tilt and slide sunroof is standard on SE and Autobahn trims.
The large, mature cabin has an emphasis on comfort and a substantial features list. There is 93.5 cu-ft of interior room, along with 16.5 cu-ft of luggage space up to the parcel shelf and 22.8 cu-ft to the roof – space that rivals even the largest midsize sedan. The versatility of the load space is enhanced by a trunk floor that can be raised or lowered, while the 60:40 split backrest can be folded to give an almost flat cargo area that can accommodate a full-size bicycle. With the rear seats folded, the 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI has 52.7 cu-ft of cargo capacity.
In addition to the spacious interior, the driver controls are positioned to help optimize ergonomics and usability. The seat position, height of the shifter and the spacing between the pedals are fine-tuned for increased driver comfort. This new driver-centric design focus is evident from the center stack, which is angled towards the driver — a trait frequently seen in premium luxury or performance vehicles.
The 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI premium performance personality is further accentuated from the regular Golf model by the red ambient lighting and illuminated door sills; black headliner and trim inserts; buttons and switches that are backlit in white; and the use of premium materials and soft-touch plastics throughout. A GTI-specific instrument cluster, sporty aluminum-look pedals, the unique shifter knob, and the flat-bottomed sport steering wheel also ensure differentiation from its less-sporty siblings.
An equal amount of attention has been paid to helping maximize comfort and convenience. The standard front sport seats, with classic GTI “Clark” plaid seating surfaces, can be heated, and there are six cup holders. Cruise control switches and media controls are housed on the leather-wrapped and red-stitched multifunction steering wheel.
The Golf GTI S includes a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, ambient and footwell lighting with LED reading lights, LED fog lights, and Driving Mode Selection. SE models add with KESSY keyless access with push-button start, a sunroof, and leather seating surfaces. The top-of-the-line Autobahn variants add standard DCC chassis control, Climatronic automatic dual-zone climate control, a 12-way power driver’s seat, and the highly-acclaimed Fender Premium Audio.
All 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI models feature the MIB II touchscreen infotainment system. The display utilizes a capacitive-touch sensor (as in smartphone and tablet technology) rather than the more common resistive touchscreens that require pressure, enabling gesture controls like swiping and even pinch-zooming.
The GTI S and Rabbit Edition are equipped with the Composition Color unit, which features a 6.5-inch capacitive touchscreen display. The infotainment system also offers SD card and USB (one port) multimedia interfaces, as well as a rearview camera and standard Bluetooth® technology for compatible devices. All other GTI models are equipped with a glass-covered 8.0-inch capacitive touchscreen display, SE models with the Composition Media unit; Autobahn models with the Discover Media system with navigation.
Both units offer one USB port, a JPEG viewer, SiriusXM radio for a three month trial period, and HD Radio. Both units also have the ability to send and receive SMS text messages with Bluetooth with compatible phones and pair two phones simultaneously. The Discover Media unit offers 2.5D navigation, featuring one-shot voice destination entry, destination entry with search and auto-complete, and predicts possible destinations based on often used routes.
In classic VW style, the 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI is powered by a compact turbocharged engine. The 2.0-liter TSI turbocharged and direct-injection unit that powers the Golf GTI is a member of the latest, third-generation EA888 engine family and is built in Volkswagen’s state-of-the-art factory in Silao, Mexico. The EA888 engine line is a masterpiece of modern engine design that provides high levels of performance, efficiency, and drivability in a lightweight, compact package.
The EA888 engine has been retuned for the 2019 model year and produces 228 horsepower (achieved on premium fuel) at 4,700 rpm, and torque peaks at 258 lb-ft, beginning at just 1,500 rpm and lasting until 4,500 rpm. It can be paired with either a six-speed manual transmission or an optional seven-speed DSG automatic transmission with Tiptronic, the most advanced such unit Volkswagen offers. The DSG transmission incorporates a launch control feature and a Start-Stop System designed to save fuel.
When equipped with the six-speed manual transmission, the 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI achieves an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 24 mpg in the city, 32 mpg on the highway, and 27 mpg in combined driving. When equipped with the optional six-speed DSG automatic transmission, EPA-estimated fuel economy of 25 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway, and 27 mpg in combined driving.
To help protect occupants, the 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI provides a combination of both passive and active safety systems. It features six airbags as standard (front and side airbags for front passengers and side curtain airbags for outboard seating positions), along with a number of electronic safety systems, such as an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC).
A standard feature on the 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI is Automatic Post-Collision Braking System. This builds on the premise that a collision is rarely a single, instantaneous action, but rather a series of events that follow the initial impact—the most significant of which can cause additional collisions. The Automatic Post-Collision Braking System helps address this, in certain crash scenarios, by applying the brakes when a primary collision is detected by the airbag sensors, thus potentially reducing residual kinetic energy and, in turn, the chance of additional damage.
The GTI also come standard with rearview camera and includes Volkswagen’s Intelligent Crash Response System that shuts off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors, and switches on the hazard lights if the car is involved in certain types of collisions.