Volkswagen fans: you’ve been enjoying the impressive Mk7 Golf GTI for a few years now, and I don’t blame you. But all good things must come to an end, and the 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI is the last of this current generation. But do not despair – an all-new Mk8 GTI is coming for 2022. While early looks at the next-generation version are certainly promising, I imagine plenty of you will go out of your way to pick up one of these 2021 models while they’re still available.
The 2021 GTI is one of the finest hot hatches on the market, with a compact design and engineering that is fast and responsive. Although it’s certainly not the cheapest model available, what it lacks in cost-cutting it makes up for in some of the sleekest and most enjoyable driving on the market. There’s a single, standard engine for you to enjoy – with options for either a manual or dual-clutch transmission – and overall, it simply handles beautifully. Plus, with its hatchback design, you can make the most out of the available cargo space and really take advantage of everything it has to offer.
So let’s have a look at this final entry in one of the finest sport compacts ever to hit the road.
Power and Performance
One of the biggest reasons so many drivers have fallen in love with the GTI is for its engine and the overall driving experience it offers. In a world where so compact cars are relegated to weak, unimpressive engines and driving experiences that feel like a massive letdown, it’s fantastic to see a practical car that’s still fun to drive. I get it, hatchbacks are often seen as utilitarian vehicles, but there’s no reason for them to offer a tepid experience with no real “oomph.”
The 2021 Volkswagen GTI continues its impressive tradition of performance thanks to a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that delivers 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. For reference, that’s as much torque as a BMW 2-Series – so you can quickly see just how exceptional this sort of power is in such a vehicle. It’s a front-wheel drive model (although the upcoming Golf R will bring all-wheel drive), but the power and performance it delivers are really startling if you’re used to less-inspired vehicles.
In addition to this great engine, VW has gone the extra mile by offering two fantastic options for the transmission. For starters, there is a 6-speed manual transmission – that’s right, a manual transmission, which is exceedingly rare these days. It’s very responsive and puts you in control at all times, so you can really enjoy every moment behind the wheel. But there’s also an available 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that’s perfect if you’re not a fan of manuals and still want an amazing driving experience.
Sleek Hatchback Design
One of the great things about a hatchback is that you can get sporty performance like the 2021 GTI has to offer, plus plenty of space inside for passengers and cargo. This certainly isn’t an SUV, so you shouldn’t expect that much space, but it’s a great option if you don’t need something quite that big. There’s plenty of room for passengers here, especially in the front seats, but you probably don’t want to stick your tallest friend in the back.
The hatchback design makes it great for loading up with plenty of cargo, giving you more than 17 cu.ft. of cargo volume in the rear, and the large hatch lets you easily load up and get to your stuff when you need it. Plus, with the rear seats down, you get almost 25 cu.ft. of total cargo volume inside the Golf GTI. So not only does this model have excellent performance, but it combines that with plenty of space that you can easily take advantage of.
Terrific Technology Inside
In terms of performance, the 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI is definitely a standout, but there are also some understandable reasons for this current generation to come to an end. Inside, you’ll find a lot of great features, but they’re feeling a little bit dated at this point, and an update will certainly be welcome – just so long as the amazing driving experience of this generation’s Golf GTI is retained. For example, a 6.5-inch infotainment display is standard with an 8-inch screen available, but the 8-inch option should be the standard at this point.
The driver display looks great but could use an update, and the infotainment system overall would certainly benefit from some updates to be more responsive. Two out of three trims now have support for wireless connectivity with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but making that standard on every trim would be great. Overall, the technology inside the VW Golf GTI is certainly good, especially at the higher trims, but things change so quickly these days that an update will be beneficial.
Comfort and Luxury
Interior comfort is not a problem for the 2021 VW Golf GTI, though again, I can’t help but feel like a few updates here and there won’t be a bad thing. For example, the standard driver’s seat on most models is 6-way manually adjustable, while a 12-way power driver’s seat comes standard on the highest trim. The standard seating is certainly comfortable and includes power recline functionality, but a little update would be great to see.
That being said, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with mounted controls is standard in every trim, and models with the dual-clutch transmission feature paddle shifters on the wheel. Heated front seats are standard, as are ambient interior lighting, stainless steel sports pedals, and illuminated door sills to make it easier to get into and out of the Golf GTI in the dark. I don’t expect to see massive overhauls in terms of comfort because this model is already pretty good, but there will likely be a few touches and upgrades in this area for the new generation.
Great Safety Features
Overall, the 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI has fantastic standard and available safety features to help keep you safe on the road. The available features are excellent and really stand out among the competition, with the only real criticism being that quite a few things are only offered on the highest trim. It’s one sticking point that some people have had with this model, and it will be interesting to see if this changes with the new generation.
For example, a forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian monitoring are all standard, as are a blind spot monitor, rear traffic alert, and cruise control. But other systems, like a parking steering assistant, active blind spot monitoring, rear traffic alert, and a lane keeping system are only standard on the highest trim. Similarly, every model comes with cruise control, but adaptive cruise control is only standard on the highest trim. This isn’t altogether that unusual for models like this, but I’d like to see some of these features become standard on more trims, if not all of them.
What’s to Come in 2022?
As you can see, the 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI really ushers out its current generation with a bang. It’s going out as one of the best options in its class, if not the very best, and provides a surprisingly affordable hatchback with performance that surpasses most expectations. After years on top, VW has their work cut out for them to create a new generation that really feels like a strong follow-up and an overall upgrade to what we’ve been enjoying. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do, and so far it looks like we’ll be getting an even more powerful engine for a driving experience that remains top of its class.