Our Take on the 2023 Volkswagen Golf GTI
The 2023 Volkswagen Golf GTI remains the cornerstone of the hot hatchback segment, delivering handsome looks and satisfying driving dynamics at a reasonable price. It's nearly perfect, save for a set of infuriating interior controls.
In place of traditional knobs and buttons, our GTI SE tester used touch-capacitive buttons on the dashboard and the steering wheel, responsible for controlling everything from climate to volume. Not only are they difficult to use, but on the dashboard, they're not backlit. That means you can't see any of the controls at night without turning a cabin light on. We're not sure how this setup made it past the drawing board at VW.
Focus on the driving and you'll have a much more enjoyable time behind the wheel of the GTI. Power delivery from the turbo-four is healthy, and the seven-speed dual-clutch is snappy and responsive. The steering and suspension work well together to deliver a high-quality driving experience, matching some cars that cost twice as much.
The 2023 Volkswagen GTI is largely the same as last year's model, save for the addition of a 40th Anniversary Edition that slots just above the base S trim. The 40th Anniversary Edition gets unique graphics along either side of the car, a trio of exclusive colors to choose from, and blacked out exterior trim.
The GTI leaped into its eighth generation for the 2022 model year, sporting new looks and a ton of new tech. The turbo-four front-drive formula remains the same, with buyers having a choice between a seven-speed DSG automatic or a six-speed manual. That choice won't be available for long, though: The GTI won't be offered with a stick after the 2024 model year.
Excellent dynamics make the GTI feel far more expensive than it is
Punchy turbo-four and DSG transmission shine as brightly as ever
Mature exterior design and plaid seats mesh well together
Nonsensical touch-sensitive controls for infotainment system and climate
Constant efficiency pop-up messages mean well, but come off as bothersome
No summer tire option save for $40,000 Autobahn trim
Performance, Engine & Horsepower
The 2023 Volkswagen Golf GTI has just one engine choice: a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four making 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. It sends power to the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Go for the quick-shifting DSG, and you'll be able to rocket the GTI to 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds, onto a top speed of 155 mph.
Those on the hunt for even more power should consider the Volkswagen Golf R. It delivers 315 hp from its turbo-four, and comes standard with all-wheel drive.
Features & Specs
The 2023 Volkswgen Golf GTI is packed with desirable features. The standard S trim gets things like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated seats with plaid inserts, 18-inch alloy wheels, a limited-slip differential, and LED exterior lighting. The mid-range SE trim adds things like a Harman Kardon stereo system, keyless entry, and a power sunroof.
Jump to the top-range Autobahn trim, and you get leather seats, a head-up display, ventilated front seats, a 12-way power adjustable driver's seat, heated rear seats, and 19-inch alloy wheels with summer tires.
With the automatic transmission equipped, the Volkswagen GTI can achieve 24 mpg city and 34 mpg highway, for a combined EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 28 mpg. Go for the six-speed stick and those numbers drop slightly, with 23 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, and 27 mpg combined, according to the EPA.
It only takes a few turns behind the wheel of the 2023 Volkswagen GTI to understand where your money is going. Smooth inputs, impressive grunt, and satisfying dynamics combine to deliver one of the best hot hatch experiences on sale today. We'd expect nothing less from the nameplate that founded the segment all those decades ago.
The 2023 Volkswagen Golf GTI is offered in four trims. The base S variant starts at $31,625 including destination. That 40th Anniversary Edition I mentioned earlier is a bit more expensive, at $34,150. Our tester was the mid-range SE model, which comes in at $36,425. And the top-level Autobahn trim starts at $40,165.
At first glance, the Volkswagen Golf GTI's interior is a nice place to spend time. There's a nice logical layout for controls and displays. A 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster sits in front of the steering wheel, while a 10-inch touchscreen controls things like entertainment, climate, and drive modes.
Like most modern Volkswagens, the GTI is the victim of the company's unfathomably bad touch-capacitive button controls, present both on the dashboard and the steering wheel. There are no knobs for volume or temperature controls, just touch sliders that are tough to use whether you're moving or stopped. Even worse, the sliders aren't backlit, meaning you can't see them at night. It's an infuriating system.
The GTI might be a small hatchback, but it has lots of comfort-minded features. There's room for four adults, along with automatic climate control, a heated steering wheel, and a telescoping steering column.
Outside you'll find automatic LED headlights, heated power-folding side mirrors, a rear wiper, and keyless entry.
Being a new German car, the Volkswagen Golf GTI is packed with nifty tech. The digital gauge cluster is customizable with different layouts and displays, including different backdrops for the user-selectable drive modes. Those are controlled by the central display, and there's even an individual mode where you can pick and choose settings.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as are a host of active safety systems like automated emergency braking and lane-departure warning.
Hatchbacks are known for their smart space solutions, and the 2023 Volkswagen GTI is no different. The rear hatch area provides for a spacious 19.9 cubic feet of storage space, enough for most grocery store runs. Fold the 60/40-split rear bench, and that space expands to 34.5 cubic feet. That's enough space for a cross-country road trip.
Our SE-level Volkswagen Golf GTI tester came with a suite of active safety features, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, forward collision warning, automated emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, and rear traffic alerts. There was also a system called Emergency Assist, which can detect an unresponsive driver and bring the car to a controlled stop.
The Volkswagen Golf GTI is split into four trims for the 2023 model year. The base S trim gets a 2.0-liter turbo inline-four engine making 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, and gets things like LED exterior lighting, a limited-slip differential, 18-inch alloy wheels, and Plaid seat inserts. Step up to the 40th Anniversary Edition, and you get a handful of unique cosmetic changes to commemorate the GTI's 40th year in the United States.
The mid-range SE trim adds keyless entry, a power sunroof, a Harman Kardon stereo system, a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen, and more. Jump to the top-range Autobahn trim, and you get 19-inch wheels with summer tires, leather seats, a 12-way power-adjustable driver's seat, three-zone climate control, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a head-up display.
The 2023 Volkswagen Golf GTI is lovely to drive, but tough to recommend considering those annoying touch controls. If you're interested in picking one up, we suggest being patient. Volkswagen announced back in late 2022 it plans to phase out its touch capacitive buttons starting this year. That means the GTI will likely get a more usable interior very soon.
You Might Also Like