Willis Kuelthau
Automotive Editor - January 23, 2018

2018 Volkswagen GTI OVERVIEW

Still the quintessential hot hatchback, the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI is back with a mild but tasteful update. The GTI continues to be a car for all people: it’s a workhorse for the grocery runs and a go-kart for the S-bends. With a base model costing well under $30,000, it’s also something of a bargain. The GTI may not be the quickest hot hatch out there, but it’s likely the most polished.

What's New for 2018

The most mouth-watering change for the 2018 GTI is under the hood, where the 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder gains 10 horsepower to bring its total to 220 (as long as you use premium fuel). Enthusiasts will also appreciate the limited-slip differential and the stronger brakes, both standard on the upgraded SE and Autobahn trims. The GTI finally catches up to the competition by adding large infotainment screens on every model. Safety technology continues to become more accessible on all trims, and the upper trims can now add LED headlights. The 2017 model’s “Sport” trim has been erased in favor of the current three-trim lineup. Of particular interest to buyers, all GTIs will now be covered by VW’s six-year or 72,000-mile limited warranty.

Volkswagen GTI

Choosing Your Volkswagen GTI

No matter which GTI you pick, you’ll be getting a capable car. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is the same on all trim levels – producing 220 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque – as are the six-speed manual or dual-clutch automatic transmission, which is an $1,100 option. At best, the GTI should hit 60 in around six seconds. LED running lights, a leather steering wheel, a rear-view camera, and automatic post-collision braking are also standard on all models.

With the Sport model gone, the GTI lineup new features three trim levels: S, SE, and Autobahn.


The cheapest, most minimalist version of the GTI will set you back at least $27,265 (including desination fee) for the manual-trans model. The S trim has halogen headlights instead of LED, and features cloth seat surfaces with classic the GTI's traditional plaid inserts. Cruise control and ambient LED lighting are still included, as are heated front seats. The sound system is a basic eight-speaker unit, and the infotainment screen is the smallest of the bunch at 6.5 inches.

Other than those basics, there aren’t a lot of bells and whistles on the S trim, and what you see is what you get – buyers can’t add any optional extras. That may seem like a tough lot, but it helps keep the cost of the GTI S a whopping $4,055 cheaper than the next cheapest trim.


That trim would be the SE, which adds quite a few luxury features for a starting cost of $31,320. Standard on this trim are a tilt-and-slide sunroof, the new LED headlights, and an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen that comes with a limited subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio (and a CD player, for the old-fasioned).

For drivers who feel that turning keys is for plebeians, the SE features keyless access and push-button start. The safety features get a boost as well, with the SE adding blind-spot monitoring, rear traffic alerts, collision warnings, and automatic emergency braking.

The only optional extra is leather seats. Not only is it a $695 option, but it means missing out on the GTI's iconic plaid chairs, and that's just sad.


The flagship trim for the GTI starts at $35,920, which is starting to encroach on luxury-brand territory. To compete, the Autobahn trim adds the most luxurious features available on a Golf. These include a power-adjusted driver’s seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and automatic dual-zone climate control.

A premium Fender sound system replaces VW’s setup, and the eight-inch touchscreen now features navigation along with goodies like weather alerts and traffic updates. Adaptive cruise control is now standard, along with all the safety features of the SE trim. Just like the base model, there are no optional extras – what you see is what you get.

CarsDirect Tip

Every GTI is fun to drive and offers a good amount of standard equipment. If you're looking for a taste of luxury, the SE and Autobahn are probably your best options. Whichever model you choose, the Driver Assistance package will ensure your safety on the road and is reasonably priced for what you get.

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