2021 Volkswagen GTI Debuts With More Power, Two Additional Variants

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Based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Joel Patel is an automotive journalist that hails from Northern Virginia. His work has been featured on various automotive outlets, including Autoweek, Digital Trends, and Autoblog. When not writing about cars, Joel enjoys trying new foods, wrenching on his car, and watching horror movies. 

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, Automotive Editor - February 27, 2020

Volkswagen unveiled the 2021 GTI, ushering in the eighth generation of the hot hatchback before its official reveal at the 2020 Geneva Motor Show. As we expected, the sporty GTI gets the same sharp styling as the non-GTI models, a lot more tech, and more power. Two new variants have also been announced for the GTI lineup, but those are just for European consumers.

Starting with the design of the new GTI, the hatchback undergoes an evolutionary change. Things aren’t radically different on the outside, but noticeably sharper. The headlights and front grille are slimmer than before, while the fog lights have been repositioned lower in the front fascia and are now directly integrated into the honeycomb grille. In keeping with the sporty motif, a thin red LED strip separates the hood from the grille, the hatchback gets red badges, and a unique bumper with a rear diffuser also included. It wouldn’t be a GTI if it didn’t have two exhaust tips and a roof spoiler, so those are also in the mix.

Things are more noticeably digital on the inside. The old instrument cluster has been replaced by a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and a new 10-inch infotainment screen now dominates the dashboard. If you’re worried VW forgot about all the little touches that made the GTI special, don’t worry, it hasn’t. You’ll still find a golf ball shift knob, plaid seats, and red elements in the cabin. It’s just that the touches are now surrounded by nicer things, like a chunkier steering wheel, sportier seats, and a cleaner design with fewer buttons.

Volkswagen GTI

Changes have also been made to the GTI’s powertrain. The eighth-gen hatchback comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that’s good for 245 horsepower. That’s an increase of 17 hp from the current GTI. Torque is up, too, from 258 pound-feet to 273 lb-ft. It’s important to keep in mind that these figures are for European models and could change for vehicles that come to the United States.

In traditional GTI fashion, consumers will still be able to spec their GTI with a six-speed manual. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission will also be available and will be controlled through a tiny shift knob.

Coinciding with the bump in power, the new GTI’s suspension has been retuned to sit an extra 0.6 inches lower. VW claims that 17-inch wheels are standard, but we expect 18-inch alloys to be standard for the U.S. market, as that’s what the current GTI comes with. The automaker will also offer a set of 19-inch wheels as an option. Technical things, like a limited-slip differential and adaptive dampers, haven’t been announced yet, but we expect them to be on the car.

Volkswagen will also introduce two new variants to join the GTI lineup for the 2021 model. A new Golf GTE will feature a plug-in hybrid powertrain and have the same output of 245 hp as the regular GTI. There’s not a lot of information on the trim, besides that it will have a range of 37 miles and perform similarly as the regular GTI. The other new variant is the GTD. It’s a diesel-powered version of the GTI and will have 200 hp. We expect both trims to come with the same performance components as the regular GTI with different powertrains. Either way, don’t hold your breath to see these two come to the United States.

At the time of writing, Volkswagen has only confirmed that the U.S. will get the new GTI. With Dieselgate still fresh in consumers’ minds and plug-in hybrid powertrains not being popular, we don’t expect VW to offer the new variants in America.

With the changes, the sharper-looking GTI will take on rivals like the Toyota Corolla Hatchback, Hyundai Veloster, Mazda3, and Honda Civic Si. The GTI has more technology than any of those options and more power than the majority of them too. And because the GTI still retains its versatile hatchback body, we expect things to remain just as spacious as before. We’re still waiting to get information on all of the GTI’s specs to provide a full comparison on how it stacks up to the competition.

VW hasn’t confirmed pricing or when the vehicle will go on sale in the U.S., but we expect to get this information at the auto show in Geneva next week. Consumers in Europe will be able to purchase a GTI this fall.

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Pictured: 2021 GTI

, Automotive Editor

Based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Joel Patel is an automotive journalist that hails from Northern Virginia. His work has been featured on various automotive outlets, including Autoweek, Digital Trends, and Autoblog. When not writing about cars, Joel enjoys trying new foods, wrenching on his car, and watching horror movies. 

Follow On: Twitter

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