Being restrained is a hell of a thing, especially for us. Whether it’s the sheer amount of horsepower, the outrageous levels of traction, or the indulgence of countless amenities, there’s always a desire for more. Not this time. When we specified our long-term (and top 10 wins) 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTIwe flipped the script.
Over the next 40,000 miles, we’ll see what life is like with the $30,540 base model GTI S. We’re pretty good at lip reading because we know you just said, “Wait, $30K for a base GTI?!” Yes, that’s for sure. These are the times we live in when someone pays $3.6 million for a one-of-a-kind Porsche 911 on the basis of art Cars Sally Carrera’s movie character.
The entry-level S trim means there won’t be a panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats or heated rear seats. This is a decision we feel comfortable with. It also means the 15-position electronically controlled dampers won’t find their way into every corner. And that’s okay, it’s about 12 positions too many anyway. Most important is the 241-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four. and a six-speed manual gearbox, the latter all the more so as a fundamental hot hatch needs to focus on the basics.
The biggest omission is the lack of summer rubber, which cannot be added as a separate option. Stickier rubber is reserved for the top-trim Autobahn, which costs $39,425. On the test track, however, the observations made when cutting the twisty two-lane track were confirmed: this eighth-generation GTI packs a ton of mechanical grip. Around the protective pad, the Pirelli P Zero all-season rubber sticks with 0.93g of lateral stick and isn’t too far off from the 0.98g we averaged with the GTI Autobahn on summer tires our latest comparison test. In the braking department, stops from 70 mph require 169 feet and stops from 100 mph require 342 feet—19 and 38 feet longer, respectively, than with the higher-grip rubber. We foresee a new set of wheels wrapped in summer rubber in our GTI’s future to help keep this VW on a tighter leash.
The all-season rubber proved more problematic when trying to get the most out of a standing start. There’s plenty of slip to manage, provided the GTI’s stability control system doesn’t try to microsteer first. Although the system shows that it has been turned off and removed from the equation, it still lingers in the background, trying to put out the tire fire both on the line and during aggressive downshifts down a gear or two. With a hint of clutch slip, our GTI hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and ran the quarter mile in 14.3 seconds at 101 mph. That’s just 0.3 seconds off the dual-clutch automatic GTI SE, which rides on the same rubber. We’ll gladly give up a few tenths to row our own gears.
Opting for the base Golf GTI means living with a smaller 8.3-inch touchscreen that lacks built-in navigation. And that’s okay, because many of us prefer apps with directions from Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. SiriusXM fans will be disappointed to learn of its absence, but again, smartphones for the win. Wired connections to these multimedia interfaces are a thing of the past, but the GTI S still requires a cord. All of these issues could be solved by stepping up to the SE trim level with its 10.0-inch display, but the smaller volume screen and tuning knobs already won us over over the fussy touch controls on the big screen.
Perhaps the GTI’s supportive seats with Clark checkered inserts and its fantastic handling manners will allow us to forgive the cabin’s material shortcomings. But these cheap-looking plastic parts stare at us every day. We have another 35,000 miles to decide if we can live with such a grim outlook.
Months in the Navy: 2 months Current Mileage: 4515 miles
Average fuel economy: 27 mpg
Fuel tank size: 13.2 gal Observed fuel range: 350 miles
Service: 0 dollars Normal wear and tear: 0 dollars Repair: 0 dollars
Damage and destruction: 0 dollars