Every time I get in and drive a Volkswagen GTI it brings me back to my European car enthusiast roots. Perhaps there is something magical in them that transports me back to simpler times, allowing me to relive the fun and carefree lifestyle of my youth. However, it is more likely that the sixth-generation GTI is so much of a blast to drive that this is quite frankly a natural response.

Inside the current GTI, the interior amenities are well made, sporty and functional. Leather gripping surfaces and high-quality materials enhance the experience. One could actually say that the GTI has grown up inside, it’s perhaps even Audi-like, and that is a huge compliment because Audi interiors are likely the best in the business. Outside, the lines are more classic than the previous generation, taking on a sharper, more original MKI-like Golf shape, while the lighting treatments are stylish and practical.

Aesthetics aside, when one gets behind the wheel of our 2012 tester, it’s “lights-out, Charlie,” as this GTI knows how to behave (yeah, baby!). The precision, action and feel of the electro-mechanical steering; the firmness and control of the brake pedal; the refinement and effectiveness of the manual shift mechanism and the smooth, efficient power delivery create a sense of automotive nirvana that is difficult to replicate. Communicating driver feedback through engineering is something the Germans are best at. It’s fast too, and able to run rings around most anything with a similar price tag. Combine this with the perfect driving position, excellent outward vision (in any direction), a well thought out practical layout, a long list of safety features and build quality that will last so much longer than most other manufacturer’s wares, and you have got an absolute winner.

I highly recommend the six-speed manual transmission for one of the most enjoyable driver involvement experiences out there. So when it comes down to signing on the dotted line for one’s street-going utilitarian needs, what more car do you really need? The Golf GTI does it all with style, and then some.

2012 Volkswagen GTI

Layout
Transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

Engine
2.0-liter I4, 16-valve, turbocharged

Transmission
Six-speed manual

MSRP: $25,945 (price as tested)

Performance
Peak Power: 200 hp @ 5100 rpm
Peak Torque: 207 lb-ft @ 1800 rpm
0-62 mph: 5.8 sec.
Top Speed: 130 mph (electronically limited)

By Doug Neilson
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