The Mk. 8 VW Golf GTI is just what you’d expect, and that’s a good thing

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eighth generation volkswagen golf gti front three-quarter Volkswagen

Although Volkswagen, in its infinite wisdom, has canceled the standard Golf for the U.S. market, the German brand still has enough sense to sell the sportier Golf GTI (and upcoming Golf R) on our shores. The new GTI, just revealed at the 2020 Geneva Motor Show for its eighth generation since the model launched in 1976, packs a familiar combination of practicality and performance that should continue to set the benchmark for hot hatches.

There are no major surprises when it comes to the latest GTI, with Volkswagen sticking to largely the same tried-and-true formula with improved standard equipment and an extra dollop of technology and connectivity compared to the outgoing Mk. 7 model. One change that customers will almost certainly notice is that the price of the car will likely go up from the current $29,515 (including destination); primarily because the GTI is now coming from Germany rather than VW’s Puebla, Mexico, factory.

Visually, the biggest changes you’ll notice are up front, where the GTI gains a honeycomb one-piece air intake grille for the lower fascia, complete with integrated foglights in a new X-pattern. LED headlights and daytime running lights (as well as LED taillights) are standard, and there is a new LED strip that runs along the radiator grille. The overall shape of the car is more or less the same as before, but you will notice a new GTI-specific set of 17-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels. (As is the case now, 18-inch wheels will probably be the standard size for U.S. models.) Red brake calipers are once again standard, and around back you’ll notice twin tailpipes position at each end of the rear bumper. Not convinced it’s really a new GTI? VW moved the rear GTI badge from the bottom left of the hatch lid to right below the VW logo.

Inside there are several well-established GTI cues, albeit peppered with dashes of newfangled flavor. Manual-equipped models, thankfully, retain their golfball shift knob. Plaid sport seats are also still included, this time with a fresh checked design VW is calling “Scalepaper.” The GTI again has a three-spoke sport steering wheel, but the design for the Mk. 8 includes touch controls. The most noticeable upgrade, however, are the dashboard displays. The GTI’s interior now boasts a 10-inch center display screen alongside an updated 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit instrument cluster. And if that’s not enough to play with at stop lights, there are 30 different colors to choose from for the interior background lighting. Push-button start comes standard, as do a pair of USB-C charging ports.

eighth generation volkswagen golf gti center console controls
Volkswagen
eighth generation volkswagen golf gti seats
Volkswagen

eighth generation volkswagen golf gti interior
Volkswagen

At the end of the outgoing Mk. 7 GTI’s lifecycle, the hot-hatch made 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque from its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The latest version of this engine, the EA888, now makes 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque for the European market, and we don’t expect anything too different for the U.S.-market GTI. Though it is becoming increasingly rare in North America, the standard transmission for the GTI will be a six-speed manual, with a seven-speed dual-clutch (DSG) gearbox offered as an option. 

The GTI sits 0.6 inches lower on its sport-tuned suspension than the standard Golf, with struts up front and a multi-link setup at the rear. At least for the European model, an electronic differential lock for the front axle is standard, and Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive dampers will be optional, but VW may adopt a different equipment strategy for U.S. models.

With the European GTI expected to launch later this year, it’s a fair bet we won’t see the Mk. 8 GTI in U.S. showrooms until mid-2021 or later. Whenever it gets here, we’re just thrilled there is yet another generation of the world’s most celebrated hot hatch on the road, especially as VW in America is more and more leaning on crossovers rather than traditional cars like the Golf, Jetta, and Passat. The GTI has long been a bastion of practical, affordable performance, and we expect that tradition to continue with the Mk. 8. With that said, even though the all-wheel-drive Golf R will almost certainly cost $40,000 when it finally arrives, 329 hp in a Golf sounds like a blast.

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