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MotoringFile Review: MKV Golf GTI (w/DSG)

05

The MINI Cooper S vs The New MKV Golf GTI (w/DSG)

I have to admit I haven’t been a big fan of the most recent GTI. It’s looks and packaging I loved. However every time I got behind the wheel I felt let-down by the driving dynamics. Of course this wasn’t always the case with older VWs. The MK2 GTI, the 80’s Sciroccos, and the gorgeous early 90’s Corrados I was always fond of. It’s the more recent cars that wore the VW badge (like the MKIV GTI) that have kept me away from the brand as a whole. Unfortunately this means just about every car VW has made since I’ve been legally able to drive.

And it would seem that I’m not the only one. If you haven’t noticed VW isn’t doing so well these days. If it’s not poor sales of the $80,000 Phaeton, it’s the notorious quality issues and some sticky issues revolving around sludge.

05

But I’ve always felt that it’s only when a company is down that you really see what they’re all about. So with that in mind VW released its new Golf GTI in America this month. Never mind that it’s the same car that has been on sale in Europe for two years, it’s new to the crucial US market. It’s also got some buzz about it being the best Golf since the mid-80s. So with all this in mind I thought it was worth spending some time with this new VW to both see how it compares with the MINI Cooper S and how it continues the hot hatch legacy for VW.

The GTI is not really a pretty car. Few hatches are. It’s actually better in person than photos but I can’t imagine anyone being seduced by the design alone. Its look is really more bold and purposeful than anything. But nevertheless beauty isn’t what this car is all about. What it does do well is what made the first GTI an icon; packaging, performance, and price. And at around 24,000 with standard options such as a sunroof and the new DSG transmission it’s not all that bad. Xenons are standard as are some fairly large brakes for a car of this size class. It also came standard with a terrible rattle in the sunroof, but more on that later.

Getting in, the first thing that stares you in the face is the new shape “sport” steering wheel that VW seems to be using across all of it’s product lines. I’m pretty sure I saw this same design in an Audi RS4 recently. Being common isn’t bad though, especially when it’s something shared with a car like the RS4. It’s a nice design with good weight and sized just about perfectly. It certainly makes the MINI’s wheel feel a little big. On the downside the leather does feel cheaper than expected, but the design and weight make up for it.

05

VW and Audi know how to push all the buttons when it comes to interior design. As long as you don’t actually push the buttons. And I don’t mean that in too negative a way. It’s just that the overall design is so well executed at first glance, that you can’t help but feel a little let down by the materials and, more importantly, the feel. But hey this is a $22,000 car so I will gladly look over this. The MINI has its fair share of interior cheapness as well. Maybe I was just expecting too much, but in the photos, the interior looks incredibly rich and well put together for a $22,000 car. The reality is just a notch below that.

One of the things I was most excited about in getting behind the wheel of the new GTI was the latest version of the much acclaimed DSG transmission. Some quick background. DSG is VW’s attempt of an auto-manual gearbox. Not like what the Cooper S currently offers with its automatic with manual controls, but a true manual that happens to have its clutch controlled by computer. Specifically, VW’s solution is to use two clutches, applying one as you disengage a gear and the other when you engage the next gear. It makes for an incredibly smooth operation, and from my experience is the first truly consumer friendly auto-manual.

If you’re wondering, the result is quite a bit different than BMW’s SMG. Where the DSG is smooth to the point of boring and predictable at low speed driving (good attributes as far as I’m concerned), the SMG can be jerky. Except replace the words “can be” with “is” and the word “jerky” with “unbearable”. Okay, it’s not that bad. In fact it’s a characteristic actually makes some sense for a car like the M3 or the new M5. But it makes less sense on a small car that is aimed at a fairly wide audience like the MINI. That’s where the DSG would seemingly fit in well.

The seating position is good once you get settled in. It is a little odd only being able to see a sliver of the bonnet but visibility is excellent overall. The seats are stiff (in a good way) and fairly supportive. While they’re better than the standard MINI sport seats in some ways, Recaros they are not. Those will be saved surely for the upcoming R32 replacement. But what’s this? Tartan seats? How is it a German car has tartan seats and our beloved British car is stuck with something called panther black leather? It’s a great addition to the interior and a nice touch of color. But here’s the problem with the seats, with the car, and it turns out with the way VW America sells them and the car. You can’t just order the seats a la carte. In fact as I found out you can hardly get anything a la carte. You have to get almost everything as part of package one or package two. That means no tartan farbric heated seats. This of course is quite a foreign idea for a MINI owner who is used to getting anything they want with anything added on the side in any color. So why can’t VW offer a little customization? Surely there’s money to be made and customers to be gained?

05

Enough about spec and tartan. Let’s talk about how this car drives. From P to D and over to the right – let’s see what this thing can really do.

But my first mental note isn’t something about remembering which paddle on the steering wheel does what, it’s “what the hell is that damn rattle an inch from my skull. And this isn’t just an annoying rattle. This is like what it must have sounded like when the Falcon made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. It’s that bad. Luckily, opening the sunroof managed to momentarily fix the issues. Never mind that it’s 35 °F.

So back on the road. The steering feels less weighted than the MINI and noticably less quick. Where the MINI reacts almost as fast as you can move your hands, the GTI can get flustered on quick switch backs. Of course this is also helped by its considerable bulk over the MINI. At 3150 lbs the GTI is almost 400 lbs heavier than what many of us are used to. And it’s a penalty that you feel in every change of motion. But things don’t feel bad. In fact compared to any comparable car but the MINI you’d be hard pressed to have many complaints.

The communication through the sterring wheel, while good for the segment, doesn’t quite compare to the MINI. Throwing the car into one of my favorite corners brought on ESP (VW speak for DSC) all too quickly. But even before it came on I felt a little let-down by the level of feedback the car was giving. I had an idea the grip was there, I just didn’t get inspired by it. What’s worse I couldn’t really feel how the car was reacting and thus didn’t have the confidence for the next right-hander 20 yards away. That said the handling is a huge improvement over recent Golfs. Much of the slop that was evident in later generations isn’t there. And even if the ESP isn’t as finely honed as that on a MINI, it’s still quite improved from the MKIV Golf. In fact those not used to the level of feedback seen in a MINI will probably have no complaints.

Where the 2006 GTI really shines however, is the drive-train. First off it’s endowed with the latest version of VW’s turbo 4-cylinder engine. This time it’s cranking out 200hp with no real turbo lag to speak of and strong torque the moment your foot hits the pedal. The engine feels strong throughout the range all the way to it’s disappointingly low redline of 6500. However, since the new 2.0L FSI engine is pushing a package that is almost 400 lbs heavier than the MINI, the car ends up not feeling as rapid as I had hoped it would be. The lack of LSD is also a burden in terms of performance. 200 hp (and loads of torque) coming through the front wheels without a limited slip just isn’t an optimal solution for aggressive corner carving, especially around the cones or at the track.

05

Regardless of how great engine feels, that’s not what has so many excited about the new MKV GTI. That honor falls to the brilliant DSG gearbox. Shifting is incredibly fast and certainly quicker than a manual shifter. It’s also smooth and drama free, giving the driver plenty of confidence in the system and allowing them to concentrate on other things. But my favorite trick with the DSG (and SMG for that matter) is going from 3rd to 2nd upon entering a turn. The transmission blips the throttle (a little too subtle in the GTI perhaps) and you’re where you need to be in the power range within fractions of a second. It’s all so seamless that you’d swear you were playing GT4 on a Playstation.

Unfortunately those paddles behind the wheel carry that analogy a little too far. They just aren’t endowed with the feel that BMW’s SMG paddles give. And placement probably isn’t ideal for most people. Like the M3 and M5 SMG systems, the right paddle is for up-shifiting and the left for down-shifting. The paddles are also attached to the back of the wheel itself rather than the column. The downside to this layout is that it could potentially confuse drivers trying to up-shift while corning (not a good idea mind you). For the MINI driver it would be akin to trying to turn the volume up from the steering wheel while making 90 degree turn. Actually the design of the paddles on the Cooper S automatic transmission make a little more sense from a mass appeal perspective. While they’re attached to the wheel also, either paddle is designed to operate both functions in an rather intuitive way. Of course you can always use the GTI’s gear lever and end all the confusion.

I also felt that the DSG could have been tuned to be a bit more aggressive, especially in sport mode. I’m told that the German version of the car has just that. Why VW USA decided that we Americans deserve less is anyone’s guess. It certainly seems like an unfortunate trend though.

05

But all that aside this is a brilliant kit. Even in full auto mode the DSG feels smarter and quicker than the Aisin supplied automatic in the Cooper S. Shifts are crisp, quick, and always just when you need them. There’s definitely less pedal to the floor confusion than I’ve felt in the Cooper S auto.

In the end, the new VW GTI has proven itself a true heir to those early GTIs and a worthy competitor for the current MINI. Yet the GTI is betrayed by its bulk and the lack of feedback, agility and feel that is so abundant with the MINI. While its performance was very respectable in the corners and certainly a huge improvement over what came before it, there’s a little bit of magic missing in the handling department. That said the new 2.0FSI turbo is a step up in power and torque and is a gem of a powerplant. It delivers power the instant you hit the pedal all the way to the 6500 rpm redline. That coupled with the DSG transmission is what really makes this car special. It’s enough to make a manual GTI driver seriously consider switching. But is it enough to make someone consider switching to a GTI from a MINI? Unless the GTI’s bigger boot is the answer to your Ikea related prayers, the answer would probably be no.

Written By: Gabe

  • CW

    I’m of two minds on the GTI.

    I’m old enough to recall some of the great Mk2 versions (and my dad’s glorious Scirocco) that made me feel all warm and fuzzy about the brand, but having driven a MkIV and being seriously underwhelmed (love the interior, but where’s the sport?) I put the car out of my mind once I bought my first MCS.

    Nevertheless, I so very much want to like the MkV. But building (engineering seems inappropriate in this context) a more-or-less compact car weighing over 3,100 lbs without AWD is something I expect from a Korean company. I also love heft in the steering wheel, and the sort of feel, grit and resonance that I don’t think Gabe found in the GTI.

    I’ll take one for a test drive when it comes to Canada next month, but I feel underwhelmed already.

  • giacomo

    Liam ……..put a sock in it!

  • PetrolHead

    I think the new VW Polo Gti is probably more compareable to the Mini Cooper S.

    Have a look at the following link :-

    http://www.vw.co.uk/new_cars/forthcoming/polo_gti

  • http://www.thompsonsmithdesign.com/blog/ TS

    Gabe,

    A VW GTI report and photos gracing the pages of Motoring File? Thank you for stepping out, being bold and truly holding up to your URL “Motoring File” name with this refreshingly open report. Change is good.

    I’ve been a Porsche owner for years and on my ninth Audi quattro, a 1995 Audi S6 (included in the list are 2 ur-quattros ’83 and uber rare ’84) I can honestly say that I love German cars, from Stuttgart, Ingolstadt and Wolfsburg. For the last 20 plus years, that’s all I’ve ever known, Porsches, Audis and VWs. You know the “Autopshycosis Syndrom”, watching LeMans, 12 Hours of Sebring or hanging out at your local club driving event — total unequivical one marque (family) support.

    The thought of a BMW really never crossed my mind, ever. Yes the howl of a BMW M3 GTR straight six sends chivers down your spine on full throttle up shifts. But, for some reason buying a BMW would be like commiting treason umongst your family peers.

    Then I drove a MINI Cooper S. Show me the gang plank!

    My escape route has been found! With this opportunity in hand, I promptly ordered up a 2006 Chili Red MINI Cooper S, a late Jan 06 version not even once looking at what Audi or VW had to offer.

    Does it bother me that the MINI is truly a Bayerische Motoren Werke AG product, no. MoF, it is nice to know that my new to be MINI VIN number starts with a W.

  • Richard
    DB Feb 4th, 2006
    Nice write up, Gabe. Would have hated to read the comments if you would have actually liked the car! oof. ;)

    Gabe Feb 4th, 2006

    Actually the funny thing is I did.

    Gabe, perhaps you didn’t intend it, but the writing style does give the reader an impression that you wanted to give the GTI negative marks. Here’s an example (one of many scattered through the review):

    The seats are stiff (in a good way) and fairly supportive. While they’re better than the standard MINI sport seats in some ways, Recaros they are not.

    That comment may be true, but it comes across as very dismissive. If someone said that MINI’s standard seats are no Recaros, we would conclude that the person simply doesn’t like MINI. It makes no difference when the same comment is applied to another car. It gives an impression that the writer had already decided they didn’t like the car.

  • LTL

    Great review. Thanks.

    Though I must say, it isn’t really fair to compare the GTI to MINI (despite physical similarities). For one, Mini (now) has traditions of BMW behind it — which has concentrated on driving/handling characteristics (a.k.a. “the driver’s car”). On the other hand, VW/Audi is concentrated more on practicality and economy. So the strength and weaknesses of the respective parent companies are already different. Add on to that, as MINI owners and drivers, we’re used to (and probably expect) great handling characteristics from a car that looks to be in the same class as the MINI.

    I’ve driven my brother’s Audi A4 a couple of times (before he switched to a Porsche) and the A3 at the dealer. It was then I realized, that Audi/VW’s suspension tuning wasn’t designed so that you’d get a very positive and confident response, but rather, a very neutral and controlled response — almost to the point of boring. Similarly, I believe, GTI’s handling characteristics would probably be just as bland — and from Gabe’s comments, that’s sounds about right. BMW/MINI’s suspension tuning, on the other hand is always done so that the driver would get a very positive and confident feel — almost to the point of challenging the driver to be more aggressive at the corners.

    I must admit, when I first heard of the MkV GTI finally coming to U.S., I was very interested in it. After four MINIs and so many (pretty much constant) mechanical, rattling and other build quality problems (you’d think after 4 years they’d finally fix all of the problems), I was ready and in the market to switch teams. Given that Gabe also had rattling in the sun roof would make me pause, as I realize that VW didn’t have great reputation for build quality either.

  • pablo

    I think the real issue is that this is not simply a review of the VW, it is a COMPARISON test. I think that if Gabe were to write a stand-alone review of the VW, it would be much more impartial and do more to highlight the good qualities. As it stands, I think this is a great comparison. Gabe tells what stacks up to the MINI, and what doesn’t. Good job man.

  • http://www.AutoSpies.com nina simone
    That comment may be true, but it comes across as very dismissive.

    Good grief. No, no, no.

    Gabe, you brought a certain relief to your review. My uncle thoroughly enjoys his A4 & my aunt her Jetta (both 1.8T). I couldn’t have been as balanced.

  • Jason

    I drove a “new” Golf in Germany last summer as a hired car. It wasn’t a GTI but I was happy to see a slightly more Audi-ish design in the interior of the car. The exterior looks really boring and boxy in pictures. I actually liked the looks in person. The GTI’s front grill is a little cheaper looking than the base model. The base model did well high in the Austrian & Swiss Alps but I would have prefered a Cooper S though!

  • O(=^=)O Capn

    it seems to me that someting like this should stay on bridger.us want to see a fast GTI? This one’s on Fire!

  • http://bravo5.org/blog blalor
    want to see a fast GTI? This one’s on Fire!

    Oops. Man, the fire department sure took their time; I actually thought they passed the flaming VW on their way to another call, it took them so long to do anything.

  • MINIme

    Gabe,

    This site is great and articles like this one are what it needs more of. A true motoring enthusiast is not single-minded in his/her appreciation of sporting automobiles. As a former owner of several VWs (including 1986 Scirocco 16V, 1992 GTI 16V, Corrado VR6) I am very excited to drive the new GTI and look forward to the latest R32. Thanks for your insight on the latest GTI offering from VW for the US market.

  • O(=^=)O Capn

    My first car was a 1974 VW Rabbit Wolfsburg what fun that was!

  • Frank

    Seems to be a fairly refined and well balanced car. I am not hot into the design of the MKV Golf/GTI but it sure looks better than the Toyotaesque inspired Jetta. More power to VW if these cars are a cut above the outgoing MKIV Golfs. Personally, these new VW’s fail to elicit any kind of emotion or connection in the same way the MINI does. To me, the VDubs are for people that can’t quite stomach driving around in a Japanese compact car, but at the same time want more style, better handling and the vaunted “Euro” aura without having to overstretch their budget to a BMW or Audi.

    If MINI had not existed in the US market, I would have probably taken a good look at the MKV Golf/GTI. But even then I would have probably gone for a BMW 325i instead.

    To me VW’s reputation for reliability and dealer service is still not up to par. VW is a troubled automaker and they need for these MKV cars to be a success in the market place. So far the Jetta has been dissapointing in sales compared to the more BMW looking outgoing MKIV Jetta and the metal has been moving with special leases and finance deals. Not good for a brand that is trying to recover from losses here and abroad.

    If you are a VW lover, or simply don’t see yourself behind the wheel of a Civic Si or find the MINI to be too small or expensive, the Golf/GTI may be the ticket.

    For me MINI all the way, thank you very much.

    PS: Gabe, great review. Don’t let the naysayers put your writting style down. this is not an essay college class, by the way.

  • CmdrVimes

    Now that you’ve driven a Golf GTI you have to take another one for the team and take out a Scion xA. It might not really be considered a competitor of the MINI based on powerplant, but I would consider it based strictly on the size and style.

  • http://www.nemini.org GMINI

    my first puchase was an 1983.5 (1.8L) scirocco. many many miles and served well. loved well. i am glad vw is still willing to make and export smaller cars.

  • http://www.blokspeed.net Eelke

    FWIW, I liked the review and I think there is nothing wrong with a certain bias towards the Mini on a Mini-oriented site. If this article was a complete bashing of the GTI, it would have been a different story, especially because I know it doesn’t deserve it. Gabe isn’t a professional journalist either, AFAIK, so I’d say, good job and nice to see some words on hands-on experience with a Mini competitor, from a fellow Mini enthousiast.

    Over here in Holland, the Euro-version of the GTI has been received as the “first real GTI since the Mk 1″ by the automotive press. I’ve never driven it, but if it would have been in my price range, I think a Cooper S would have had some serious competition from this car to become my daily driver.

    I do get very much the feeling this car has been softened up for the US market. From the photos I immediately noticed that it seemed to have a higher ride (doesn’t do the looks any good), which was confirmed in the story, and what I hear about the sport setting being less agressive can’t be good either. Maybe VW have managed to get the Mk5 GTI right back where the older cars were: not realy up to the job to carry on the name of the original Mk1. Shame.

  • goonery

    The Mk1 GTI history… what brought it about and why VW actually made it is now the stuff of legend, and rightly so, It was light, cheap, easily tweaked to make it even better and relatively reliable. This one is unfortunately a “badge engineering” job, in my opinion. Its a shame VW have forgotten the basic principles of what the GTI was all about. This new version although a step in the right direction. is still an average Golf with some uprated parts and a badge. It is not ‘special’ enough I’m afraid. Write up is good though Gabe, you could make a living doing that sort of thing, Top Gear could use a US correspondent I think :-)

  • James

    I have driven both and went for the MCS – there was just something missing in the GTI, perhaps it was because I could get the dog, the kids, my shopping and probably 2 friends in at the same time – a bit too capable and grown up! The engine is fantastic though and it was a close call. But I wanted fun, fun, fun….may be next time.

  • mike

    add me to the list of people who think this looks like a civic.

    i saw an older GTI last night and it’s such a shame what they’ve done.

  • http://steven993.smugmug.com StevenBoone

    To LTL:

    I think you’re right, the MINI handling character is just plain different than the GTI’s (but I don’t fully understand your explanation),

    to my humble ;) opinion:

    -in the MINI you feel in control behind the wheel, you have the feeling you can do anything you WANT with this car (make it oversteer or make it understeer…)

    -in the GTI the setup is more confident-inspiring (less ‘snappy’ on the limit)

    And I like them both! Say GTI for driving from monday till friday, MINI for in the weekends?

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  • Matt

    Please review the new Civic Si. I traded in my MINI for an Accord because I could not deal with the 100 mile commute to the nearest Authorized MINI/BMW dealership and until MINIs are serviced at local BMW dealerships I can’t justify owning another one. I really want one but I’m trying to be rational. My 4cyl Accord is gettting old though and I could trade it in on the new Civic Si and get 200hp with a 6speed and no tune up for 125,000 miles and $30 oil changes and my wife always tells me to slow down anyway.

    Please!!!

  • Minipup

    Drove an ’04 MCS, ’06 Jetta, ’06 Gti (when it came in. The Jetta has the same engine) and the MC convertible in that order. I’m getting an ’06 MC base (with sunroof package) if that counts as a review. I hope to see it next weekend.

    With the VW’s packages there’s little room for cost variance, so they couldn’t really help me get precisely what I want. The various MINI dealers were helpful in every way possible. The closest dealership is 150 miles from here, but the three I have dealt with have been extremely willing to assist with the purchase.

  • silverwolf

    I drove the US spec GTI today with the 6speed manual. I was not impressed at all. I have driven an MKIV GTI for 6 years now and I have never had the smile I used to get after steping out of my old MKII. This new GTI hasn’t brought that smile either and I think it’s over priced (28,000 US dollars) with full options. It did not feel fast at all, solid but just not fast. I would spend 3 more grands and get me a Subaru STI. The local vw dealer has only sold 3 in the past 12 days. VW is in trouble, they really need to work on their customer service and should improve the reliability of their cars. This new GTI just does not compare to the A2 (it’s all in the weight). They lost me as a customer, but that’s ok, at least my next car will have me smiling again. I would go with a mini instead.

  • DRG

    I drove VWs exclusively since I was old enough to drive. I drove a 1969 Type I, MKII GTI, MKIII Jetta and GTI and the abysmally lame and broken MKIV Jetta 1.8T.

    I can not even begin to tell you how the whole line of VW cars goes down notch in quality and fun factor with every generation.

    This is one of the reasons why I went to Mini. Based on seeing the new GTI in photos and in person I can say this, looks like the VW wants to be a Ecno Japanese/German Lux car company. I am sure that if I test drove one, (and I may this weekend) I would be equally disappointed.

    Ever since the new beetle came on the market in the late 90’s the designers and engineers at VW have had their heads in the clouds and have forgotten how to make a quallity car with all the fun that there insipid advertising says they are.

    Make mine Mini or at least a 1984 16 Valve.

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  • Sparky

    Thanks for the review, Gabe. Mine’s an ’03 Cooper S, which I have always loved, but which is just one size too small – the back seat isn’t really usable by humans. Last week I drove the new GTI (manual) and I was impressed. When they sell it as a 4-door, I’ll buy one. It must also be noted that my Mini has made 6 unscheduled trips to the dealer (2+ hours away) for warranty work. The VW dealer is 4 miles from my house.

  • Nomios

    I have to say the review is very one sided. I checked out the new GTI as well. My impressions were much more positive than Gabe’s. I liked it so much I sold my modded 03 Cooper s and bought the new GTI.

    The GTI is so much better than the Cooper in every area except handling and sound system (I had H/K system). I guess you could add looks to the list but I think that is too subjective.

    I have had my GTI about two weeks now and I have not regretted the switch for one second. TheGTIs torque is just amazing. The interior makes the Coopers look like a joke. The car is just a pleasure to drive and drive and drive…

    Another thing Gab did not mention… it is easy to squeeze more HP and torque from this turbo engine. Upgrades to the ECU from GIAC or APR, and this thing is putting out 260 HP and 300 ft-lbs of torque!!! Try that in your Cooper.

  • http://www.stylizedfacts.com/STi/ dc

    Interesting review.
    +1 for not mentioning cup holders.

    If he showed the VW/Audi more love he’d be guest blogging on 37svn.

    I’d like Gabe to branch out and start writing user centered design experience reviews of cel phones: Treao vs BlackBerry.

  • Andrew

    Just traded my ’05 MCSA for the Golf GTI w/ DSG for a few reasons.

    1 I hated the Auto (wife friendly) transmission. 2 The ride was too hard in NYC and surrounding roads 3 Not enough boot or back seat space.

    The DSG transmission and 2.0T in the GTI are awsome. Very quick and silky smooth. The ride is great on the city streets, and on the twisties in upstate NY the car handles very well. Yes I’ll miss that go kart feeling of the Mini and beautiful design, but not the rough ride, load road noise and the whiny 1600cc engine.

  • http://www.josephpickett.com Jpick

    I have an 06 GTI and to be fair, I haven’t driven a Mini. But I don’t think this is really a fair comparison. A mini is, what, 2/3 the size of a GTI? You’re comparing apples to oranges. Yeah the Mini handles better than the GTI. What can you put in the back of the Mini besides a bag of groceries?

    The GTI is a good blend of sports car and practicality. I agree that VW has sucked in reliability — I dumped my 2000 GTI for this reason. But the new ones carry a full 4 year warranty and this car has been in production for several years abroad.

  • http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=3639597 VduBB

    ohhk proud GTI MKv owner here.. ive had mine for about 2 months now. i have it in white with the DSG and 18’s so far ive installed a BOV with some other stuff on the way. but bone stock i raced a mini S (also bone stock) on the free way. if i had a manual instead of the DSG i know for sure there is a great chance he would have beat’n me. BUt i did read the review, and now i feel inclined to test out a mini.i wish the suspension was lower on my car, and i wish it too was lighter. so Far other than my 545i i would have to say it handles great. BUT at first i really did’nt trust my suspension very much, cuz i couldnt feel the road to well. but now im starting to adapt to it. i prefer da 545i cuz u can definatly feel the road and handle very well. But soon i plan on switchn over to an eibach pro kit. well any way yeah i raced the mini i won, probably because of the DSG. IF and ONLY if they made this car lighter, i would be soo happy cuz i juss wanna own all those damn SRT-4…gosh i hate em..

  • tman

    I”ve owed my2006 gti for one month and can say that it’s ablast to drive has a great stereo and tons of room for family and hockey bags. Good gas mileage , better than my hemi and the fit and finish is tops . For the money I drove them all you can beat the options and practicality of the gti.tThe computer chip is my next option 60 more horse and 100 more tourqe look out.

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  • will clegg

    Nice review but may I point out to the reporter that the U.S. version of the mark v G.T.I. has been de-powered and the suspension raised compared to our U.K. spec version, and as such makes the mini cooper s, power output and handling look more equally balanced to the American G.T.I., I would suggest you try a U.K. sourced vehicle if possible, and then see how the cooper s fares against it, I tried most of the so called hot hatch backs before I settled on what I and many other drivers considered the best of the bunch . The mini cooper s is a fine motor but with respect to mini drivers it is not in the same league as the new mark v gti, The golf can be used as a standard family vehicle, ie driving the kids to school, carrying the weekly shopping etc, or equally at home as a 200 bhp turbo charged missile. In essence it does everything and does it with unsurpassed style.

  • Dan S

    Great review Gabe.

    Your comment on the GTI sunroof reminded me that when I bought a new 85 (yes, 85) GTI it also had a very annoying rattle in its sunroof.

    In 81 I bought a 77 Rabbit with o/a 18k miles. What a wonderful driver! But it loved my mechanic more than me and the high cost of repairs forced me to dump it after 6 months for a, gulp, 82 Celica GTS.

    Reading about continuing VW quality control problems has been very depressing. But, then there is the Mini. A Cooper S convert is on my list as soon as I can convince myself that it is really worth $28,746.

    Is it?

    For that much $ I can replace my 01 Miata with an 06 and still keep my fun to drive 02 ZX3.

  • saxmanpete

    My new GTI 4 door…puts the Mini to shame and any 3 series Beemer also….The leather sport seats are fantastic and the 4 way Lumbar is great…this car is very well thought out,drives and handles great and the vision is superb….I paid $26000 fully loaded with the mags,leather and sunroof and Steptronic…I also love the Paddles and compared to $45000 for a Beemer…it’s a great value…I sat in a Mini and it’s cheap…I don’t care how great it handles…I’m glad this reviewer isn’t coming to listen to my sax playing!?!?!

  • http://acknak.blogspot.com bob corrigan

    If all my driving were on pristine switchback roads occupied by other enthusiastic and skilled drivers, I’d have plunked down my $$ for a Mini Cooper S without hesitation. It’s a hoot to drive, very powerful and super-responsive. But my daily driving diet is on nasty Chicago highways festooned with numerous Calcutta-sized potholes, richly populated by even nastier trucks,and last Friday, shared with a kid who ran a red light and plowed at speed into my car, totalling it.

    For me, driving is all about compromise – what is the best driving experience you can create for the realities you can’t avoid on a fixed budget. Having driven both the Cooper S and the GTI MKV, I bought the GTI. Bigger, safer, “comparably powerful and responsive”, but mostly bigger.

    Nothing wrong with Mini. Especially if your co-workers are Oompah-Loompahs. Sorry, low blow.

    Oh, and good review.

  • arash

    This is the first article I’ve read on Motoringfile, and I’m glad I did. I’m currently in the market for an 07 Gti and this article helped move me in the right direction.

    I’m just waiting to see and feel the 4 door gti. I’m not a fan of a shoe prints on the back of the front seats while people enter and leave the rear seats.

    Thanks again Gabe for what seems to be a good unbiased review.

  • FAST

    Actually, I did switch from MINI to a GTI. I think GTI is worth the money more than a MINI. Handling is pretty close to a MINI. MINI will out perform a GTI stock to stock only on the track, but only a nice set of springs the GTI wil do just like MINI could and more. You will need to take JCW to compete with GTI on the track and still a bit slower than a GTI….I saw it on TopGear TV.

    MINI look is getting old to me and I like the new GTI design a lot. I have seen people compare to a CIVIC. People were saying that MINI has a Neon headlights, but I did not care as well.

    I do like both cars.

  • Michael

    Hey guys

    If anyone can answer the following question;

    The one thing i really love about my mini the Harman Kardon Sound System! The thing pumps hard, i love it! Has anyone compared the GTI’s 10 speaker sound system with the HK? If so what are your thoughts on it?

    Thanks

    Mic

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    MINI will out perform a GTI stock to stock only on the track, but only a nice set of springs the GTI wil do just like MINI could and more.

    Of course by that rationale you could put a nice aftermarket suspension on a MINI and runs circles around the GTI.

    You will need to take JCW to compete with GTI on the track and still a bit slower than a GTI….I saw it on TopGear TV.

    There has never been a head to head comparison of the two cars on Top Gear. They both raced the same track. However the MCS that they tracked was the older one with less horsepower, no LSD and the slower gearing.

  • Reagile

    What’s the name of the sound system in the GTi Golf V?

  • Nikkoss

    I have owned a rabbit, Scirocco, Corrado and VW Jetta. In recent years I have stopped buying VW. Too many problems mechanically and worse the designs seems completely out of touch with what the consumer is really looking for in a VW branded vehicle. Some fun.

  • nostatic

    The stereo…sucks. One of the known issues with the car is a “soft clipping” problem where the volume drops for no reason and gets somewhat distorted/muffled. A reflash of the radio fixes things for some. Also some get a “No Sat” error with the sattelite radio (I’ve gotten it once). There also are the usual issues with various rattles, but to date not really worse than other cars. I came from a Subie 2.5RS wagon, and the GTI feels like a much more substantial car. The doors are solid (mine is a 4-door) and the car is very well composed. In fact the 4-door hatch is just about perfect for my needs. Passengers have easy access to the rear seats, and the hatch carries plenty without folding down the seats. Mine has leather interior and in general the cockpit is very nicely appointed.

    I’m a dyed-in-the-wool manual guy, but needed an auto due to an injured left leg. I got the DSG because it was the least “auto” I could find. After living with it for a month (and now having a healed faster than I thought leg), I can say the tranny is amazing, but I do find myself missing rowing gears. Luckily I have a ’79 911SC track car for that when I’m really jonesing. The full manual mode on the GTI can be fun, but it doesn’t really send me like I thought. Regular D mode is about what you’d expect and great for heavy traffic. It will hold a gear if you really stomp on it, and even in D you can get close to redline. But “S” mode seriously rocks. The shift points are just about perfect…when driven in anger the computer shifts exactly where I would, only much faster and smoother. Stunningly good.

    Worth a test drive…

  • Andrew

    Yeah, I have a Euro-spec GTI. Just over 2 weeks now. The damn rattles have really pissed me off no end. Many from the sun roof and small little high-pitched ones from the mid section somewhere. Really makes me mad: I don’t want to have to play the stereo to drown this out. I want to drive and hear the damn engine doing back-flips without constantly getting irritated. Seems I will have to settle for permanent audio from now on. Was in the dealership getting fixed for this for the last two days. Picked it up late today and still exactly the same. They say they ‘reinforced’ something around the sunroof. My ass.

    Other than this, love it and perfect in every way. Suppose the rattles are just a case of my car’s personal idiosyncracies??!?!?

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  • http://www.honda-tech.com Philip

    for the price range – honda Si , not cuz i am a fan boy but because it ends up the same price after dealer insentives

    the civic handles better, is lighter , more after market support , and it handles better

    the mini cooper should in no way be compared to this car , the VW although cool , no LSD , 3000lbs + , no custom options at dealer , and slow in the corners

    the mini cooper has a huge rally history , tons of after market support , and considered to be one of the best handling cars in the world, and the lsd kits for the S series is available now through some dealerships

    the mini cooper people should be upset this car is being compared to it , that like comparing mom’s corrala to a evo lancer

    anyway the only car that can be compared to this one in its price range should be a celica , which they discontinued , vw should take the hint

  • http://turlock_cheer12yahoo.com celeste

    i love what was said about the GTI my boyfriend owns one and i must say its an anwsome car!! oh… for all those who are wondering that turdo sure makes you feel like your flying!! ITS AN ANWSOME CAR!! we americans should make cars like these as much as we like to buy them!! its the SAFEST CAR OUT THERE FOR SURE!

    p.s. he owns the b;lack magic color


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'11 Tesla Roaster 2.5 '11 Countryman Comparo
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JCW Stage I vs JCW Stage II
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Comparison: '08 BMW 135i
'06 R53 MCS vs '07 R56 MCS
'07 R56 JCW (Stage 1)
'07 MINI Cooper S Long Term
'07 BMW Z4 M Coupe
'07 MINI Cooper & Cooper S
Audio: '07 MC/MCS at the Track
'06 JCW GP Long term
Reader Review: JCW GP
'06 JCW Cooper S Long Term
Comparison: '06 Lotus Elise
Comparison: '06 Mazda MX5
Comparison: '06 UK Focus ST
Comparison: '06 Civic Si
Comparison: '04 TVR T350
Comparison: '06 Nissan 350z
Comparison: '06 VW GTI w/DSG
Podcast: Cooper S Auto
Podcast: BMW 325i
Podcast: JCW MC Soundkit
'04 JCW MINI Cooper Tuning Kit
'05 MCS: One Month Review
'05 MCS Auto
'05 JCW S 1st Drive
'05 MINI Cooper
'05 MCS Conv. Long Term
'05 MINI Cooper S
'05 MCS Cabrio 1st Drive
'04 JCW MCS First Drive
'04 MC w/JCW Tuning Kit
BMW M3 SMG Vs. MCS
'04 MINI Cooper CVT
'02 MCS 3 year Review
Autocrossing the MINI Range


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