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2001 Volkswagen GTI REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/6/2017

Con: Some controls hard to decipher, handling could be crisper, dated styling.

Pro: Fun-to-drive, lots of standard goodies, hatchback design offers excellent cargo utility.

Edmunds Say: Need a sport coupe for the real world? This is it.

What’s New: All Golf models get clear side marker lights, trunk entrapment buttons, new cupholders and head protection airbags. Golf GL and GLS get higher-quality interior fabrics and the GTI benefits from a new 16-inch wheel design, optional 17-inch wheels, and multi-function steering wheel controls.

Review: We've always liked the Golf, a fun-to-drive, chunky-but-spunky hatchback that has been a bestseller in Europe for more than two decades. Here in the States, the fourth-generation Golf does battle against a range of compacts, many of them with less sporting credentials.

The Golf is available as a base two-door GL, an uplevel four-door GLS, or a sporty two-door GTI in either GLS or GLX trim. There are three powertrains for the GL and GLS. The standard 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine is good for 115 horsepower, while an optional, fuel-sipping, 1.9-liter Turbo Direct Injection (TDI) diesel engine is available. You can also opt for the turbocharged 1.8T motor, which increases horsepower to 150, produces lots of low-end torque across a wide rev range, and can now be had with an optional sports suspension.

The GTI comes standard with the 1.8T turbo engine and new sports suspension in GLS trim, or you can get the GLX version which serves up a smooth 2.8-liter narrow-angle V6 with a wide torque band. Horsepower is rated 174 at 5,800 rpm, while torque is 181 foot-pounds at 3,200 revs. This year the GLX gets a new 16-inch wheel design and standard multi-function steering wheel controls for the radio and cruise control system (steering wheel controls are optional on GTI models in GLS trim). New 17-inch alloy wheels are optional on all GTI models.

All Golfs are available with a standard five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic transmission (except the GTI VR6, which is five-speed only). Silky and playful, both the turbo engine and the VR6 make for high-spirited driving. Ownership piece of mind comes from VW's two-year/24,000-mile limited warranty with free scheduled maintenance for the same period.

The Golf offers a long list of standard features, including side-impact airbags, four-wheel-disc ABS, 15-inch wheels and tires, clear halogen headlamps, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, sliding sun-visor extenders, a brake-wear indicator, an anti-theft alarm, remote keyless entry, a split-folding rear seat with three headrests and an optional, dealer-installed, in-dash CD player. An eight-speaker Monsoon sound system is also available. New standard features for 2001 include an improved cupholder design, a trunk entrapment button and head protection airbags.

Consumers will be impressed by Golf's structural rigidity, which not only provides a solid, quiet body with precise gaps between the doors and body panels, but an overall feel of quality. It all rides on front MacPherson struts and a rear independent torsion-beam axle. Separate shock and coil-spring mounts reduce intrusion into the luggage compartment and cut road noise.

Inside, the instrument panel is stylish yet functional, and the dark wood trim in the GLX model blends well with the high-quality fit and finish of the soft-textured surfaces. Like the New Beetle, gauges are backlit in blue with vibrant red pointers. Volkswagen wanted this combination to be marque-specific, noting that they are the same colors used by international air traffic on airfields at night. Seats are firm and supportive, and the back seat folds down for expanded cargo-carrying capacity.

Behind the wheel of the Golf, whether swayed by value or performance, drivers will be racing to start their engines.

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