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2019 VW Golf GTI SE Full Review | Dominating the field

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2019 VW Golf GTI SE Full Review | Dominating the field

So yes, unfortunately, I did get sick the night before I was to finish up filming the GTI. Luckily, I did get some good b-roll shots in and was able to spend a full week driving the Golf GTI before getting ill…so this is going to work out just fine!

So before getting into the details about the specific car we’re driving, let’s touch on the different Golf models and the trims specific to the GTI. 

First up you have the base Golf, then the hot hatch version – the GTI, you can get an e-Golf which is the electric version, and last but certainly not least, you have the Golf R which is the most high-performance variant of the Golf. (Now I’ve reviewed the Golf R before as well as had some time to compare the Golf R straight up to the Ford Focus RS – so if you’re interested in those videos, I’ll leave a link in the description below.

Of course, I’m driving the Golf GTI and this comes in 4-different trims. At the base level you have the GTI S starting at $28,895, next you have the GTI Rabbit Edition starting at $28,895, then the SE with a base MSRP of $31,795 and finally the GIT Autobahn – the top of the line GTI – with a base starting at $35,995.

The GTI I’m driving is the SE.

So taking a look around the exterior of the car this isn’t a ground-breaking design we’re dealing with here. This is your standard hot hatch formula and looks like a Volkswagen Golf. Right upfront is your VW grille and prominent badge. You get LED headlights with LED daytime running lights. One really cool feature is the red GTI line running through he grille now also runs through the heavily designed headlights. Below the headlights, you get what looks like air stabilizing vents in front of the fog lamps, although I’m not quite convinced whether these are functional or just for looks. It’s a great distinguisher of the GTI model though.

Around the side of the GIT, you have that hot-hatch profile. The vehicle is definitely squatty and sporty looking which is helped out by the 18-inch, 5-spoke 2-tone machined alloy wheels. These have a blade-like look to the spokes that give an impression of speed and look really good. Behind those wheels are red GTI calipers with 13.4-inch ventilated discs up front and 12.2-inch in the rear.

Moving along to the rear of the car you have LED twilights and dual exhaust with chrome tips. Also to pop that hatch you just push in the VW badge from the top and it pops right open.

Speaking of the hatch, you get 22.8-cubic feet of cargo volume and the rear seats have a 60/40 split and can be folded down for even more room. All-in-all the cargo area for this hatch is plentiful. 

Under the hood is Volkswagens 2.0-liter turbocharged engine pushing 228-hp and 258-lb.ft of torque. This is matched up to a 7-speed DSG automatic gearbox with Triptronic. A 6-speed manual is offered and of course, I love a good manual transmission but this 7-speed gearbox wasn’t bad either.

Fuel economy wise you’re looking at 24-mpg city and 32-mpg highway.   

Moving along to the interior we have what VW calls the Titan Black leather interior with red accent stitching. This gives us these leather seats, a leather steering wheel, and a leather-wrapped shift knob. The seats are also heated upfront but not cooled. You also get this cool accent trim with a hexagon pattern woven into it and brushed aluminum. If you’ve ever been in a Volkswagen vehicle in the past few years the interior will feel very familiar here. We also have a basic sunroof which is nice to have for about 4-days a year in Texas.

The rear seats are just as plush as the front with the leather appointment and a fold-down armrest and cup holder. You also get a small pass-through into the hatch.

Tech-wise, you get an 8-inch touchscreen display running Volkswagen’s Car-Net infotainment system. This gives you features like enhanced navigation with traffic, sports scores, weather information and if you have Car-Net tied to an app on your smartphone you can get what VW dubs a sunroof rain notification where the car will notify you if you left your sunroof open and there is rain in the forecast. I quite like the simplicity of this system, it’s really easy to use and figure out and the touch interface here is better than having one of these console-mounted trackpads or knobs. Granted, I own a VW so I’m pretty familiar with the system so I may be a bit biased there.

You also get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration which should basically be standard on all cars these days but if you watch a lot of reviews you’ll know it isn’t yet. 

So I really think the interior and tech in this car are top-notch. It always makes for a better day-to-day driving experience when you can just get in, be comfortable, and use the technology to your advantage rather than fighting with it. So let’s move on to how it drives.

Driving wise the Golf GTI could be mistaken for just about any modern compact car. There’s nothing too flashy out of the gate and it’s super comfortable for your daily commute. When you’re ready to have fun though, the GTI can really wake up! You do have a driving mode select where you can cycle from a Normal mode, to Sport, or even an Individual setting. Going into Sport mode makes the throttle more responsive. The steering is already weighted well and feels good in the hands. Pushing this GTI hard in the corners is where it’s at. The hot hatch stays pretty flat and can rocket out of corners with ease.

The definition of a hot hatch to me is that it’s able to run like it’s on fire but also settle down and be an easy ride for your daily commute, as well as having useable space. The GTI definitely meets all of these criteria.

Looking into the competition, well you can’t get a Focus RS new anymore but you can get a Fiesta ST. This isn’t really a direct competitor and I love the Ford hot hatches but for an all-around great vehicle I’d still give it to the GTI.

You can also look at the Hyundai Veloster and their all-new Veloster N model. I haven’t gotten to drive one of these yet but I loved the Veloster Turbo of the previous gen, and love everything else Hyundai has been doing of late.

Another vehicle I like a lot is the new Honda Civic Si. Honda has come a long way but again, I’d probably take the GTI for its overall goodness.

Last but certainly not least the Mazda 3 is a great hatchback but not quite as hot as the GTI. You get almost 100-more horsepower in the GTI and driving the newest Mazda 3 (which I have and there is a video coming on it soon) it could definitely use 50-80 more horsepower. 

Adam Moore

Adam was one of the founding members of txGarage back in 2007 when he worked for a Suzuki dealership in Dallas, TX. He is now our Publisher and Editor-in-Chief. He's always been into cars and trucks and has extensive knowledge on both. Check Adam out on twitter @adamaoc.

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