2016 Volkswagen GTI Expert Review

4.2 Overall Score
Performance 4.4 Comfort 4.3 Styling 4.4 Value 4.0

Editor's Overview

Volkswagen’s 2016 Golf is one the most complete compact car lines in the industry. Comprising 2-door and 4-door hatchbacks, sporty GTI and R trims, an electric model and even a wagon, no other compact car offers as many variations or engine choices. A powerful and fuel-efficient diesel option somewhat compensates for the omission of a hybrid model.

You'll Like The 2016 Volkswagen GTI If...

The VW Golf for 2016 offers European-inspired handling, safety and interior design, which make even the most basic Golf feel more polished and upscale than most domestic and Asian competitors. The diesel engine delivers impressive fuel economy and acceleration, while the GTI and Golf R will thrill driving enthusiasts.

You May Not Like The 2016 Volkswagen GTI If...

If you prefer the safety of a trunk to the Golf’s open cargo area, a VW Jetta or even Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic will have to do. The Golf doesn’t offer a hybrid model and many gasoline cars now come close to the diesel’s fuel economy.

What's New

The 2016 Golf gains a new MIB II infotainment audio system with VW Car-Net App-Connect technology. The system can support Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink. The Golf’s Driver Assistance package adds adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitor, Lane Assist and Park Assist.

Interior Features

The VW Golf or 2016 continues a tradition of having an upscale look to its interior, using high-quality materials, soft-touch surfaces and, on higher trims, piano-black accents. The cabin has generous shoulder room in both rows. Cargo volume is 16.5 cubic feet below the parcel shelf and 22.8 cubic feet to the roof. Loading is made easy thanks to a low liftover in the rear hatch. The rear seat has a 60/40-split rear-folding back, expanding the load space to 52.7 cubic feet when lowered. There’s plenty of front-seat storage in the center console and door panels.

Exterior Features

Despite a complete makeover last year, the 2016 VW Golf line is instantly recognizable. While the 2-box profile is the same, all the surfaces appear to be highly tailored with crisp character lines that start at the base of the steeper hood and new narrow horizontal grille, which is flanked by sharper headlight clusters. The distinctive C-pillar treatment recalls earlier Golf generations, adding to the familiarity of the overall look. The car sits low to the ground and has a wide track, giving it a more muscular, purposeful appearance. The Golf R and e-Golf are 4-door only.

Driving Impressions

Volkswagen’s Golf for 2016 offers a number of engines and trims, with the most popular being the 1.8-liter gasoline TSI and the 2.0-liter TDI turbodiesel. TSI and TDI models have similar suspension setups delivering excellent driving dynamics without a harsh ride. Acceleration from the base engine is surprisingly strong, but it’s the diesel’s abundance of torque that makes it the quicker of the two. The gas engine can be paired with either a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission, the diesel with a 6-speed manual or the DSG automatic. Those seeking better performance can opt for the 210-horsepower GTI, which comes complete with sport seats, sport suspension and an available DSG automatic gearbox. The Golf R takes everything good about the GTI and ramps it up, with 292 horsepower and 4motion all-wheel drive that allow the R to sprint to 60 mph in less than five seconds.

Pricing Notes

The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for VW’s 2016 Golf 2-door hatch is $19,315 including destination charges, which is competitive against Kia Forte, Ford Focus, Mazda3 and Subaru Impreza. The S model is $20,395 for a 2-door and $20,995 for the 4-door. SE models start at $26,045 and the top-line SEL starts at $28,215. Diesel models add about $1,000. The sporty GTI starts at $25,815 and tops out at $33,550. The 4-door Golf R starts around $38,000. The e-Golf begins just over $36,000 before incentives and is available in California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. To make your best deal, check KBB’s Fair Purchase Price, which shows what others paid for their Golf. Traditionally, Golfs tend to play on the weaker side of the residuals field, although values for the TDI diesel and GTI trims tend to be much higher.

Notable Equipment

Among the standard features are power windows and door locks, air conditioning, a touch-screen infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity, Sirius XM satellite radio, and a media-device interface with iPod integration. S models feature aluminum-alloy wheels, V-Tex Leatherette seating, steering-wheel controls, rearview camera and cruise control. Four-door models also have partial-power front seats. Golf SE models add push-button start and the Fender Premium Audio System. SEL models feature 18-inch alloy wheels, navigation and sport comfort seats with 12-way-power adjustment. In addition to blistering performance, the Golf R offers leather seats, automatic climate control and bi-xenon headlights.

Notable Options

A 6-speed automatic transmission is available on TSI models, as is the exclusive Fender audio system. A driver-assistance package – available throughout the Golf line – features forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane assist, blind-spot warning and front and rear park-distance control. The 6-speed DSG automatic is optional on the GTI and the diesel TDI. On the GTI, options include an adaptive-damping system and a performance package, which includes larger brakes. Golf R models can be further upgraded with VW's DCC adaptive-damping system that can tailor the car for Comfort, Normal or Race modes.

Favorite Features


The 2016 VW Golf’s standard audio system includes a 5.8-inch color touch screen with built-in capacitive touch sensor to simulate smartphone technology. The setup allows for gesture control, such as swiping and pinch zooming.


Derived from the performance-oriented GTI, this electronic substitute for a traditional limited-slip differential uses the inside brakes to help prevent understeer, a common problem on front-wheel-drive cars.

Under the Hood

Golf engines include a turbocharged gasoline 4-cylinder in 1.8-liter and 2.0-liter displacements. The 1.8-liter engine is available with a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission, while the GTI's 2.0-liter comes with a 6-speed manual transmission or, optionally, the 6-speed DSG automatic. The 292-horsepower 2.0-liter Golf R has all-wheel drive and new for 2016 a 6-speed manual along with an available DSG. The diesel-powered Golf is paired with a 6-speed manual or the optional DSG automatic transmission. Unleaded regular is recommended on the 1.8-liter TSI, while the 2.0-liter GTI and R require premium fuel. The e-Golf uses an electric motor and has an estimated range of 83 miles. It can recharge in about four hours on a 240-volt outlet and is compatible with DC fast-charging stations.

1.8-liter turbocharged inline-4 (Golf, SportWagen)

170 horsepower @ 4,500 rpm

200 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/37 mpg (manual), 25/36 mpg (manual, SportWagen), 25/36 mpg (automatic), 25/35 mpg (automatic, SportWagen)

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (GTI)

210 horsepower @ 4,500 rpm

220 horsepower @ 4,700 (optional performance pack)

258 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/34 mpg (manual), 25/33 mpg (automatic)

2.0-liter turbocharged diesel inline-4 (TDI)

150 horsepower @ 3,500 rpm

236 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 30/45 mpg (manual), 31/43 mpg (automatic)

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (Golf R)

292 horsepower @ 5,400 rpm

280 lb-ft of torque @ 1,800 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/31 mpg (manual), 23/30 mpg (automatic)

AC synchronous electric motor (e-Golf)

115 horsepower @ 3,000 rpm

199 lb-ft of torque @ 0-3,000 rpm

EPA-estimated range per full charge: 83 miles

EPA city/highway fuel economy equivalent: 126/105 mpge

Editors' Notes

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please be aware that this vehicle's diesel engine is involved in a Notice of Violation of the Clean Air Act issued by the EPA to Volkswagen for producing and selling 4-cylinder diesel cars that include a software device that circumvents EPA emissions standards for certain air pollutants. The EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) determined that these diesel cars emit up to 40 times more pollution than emission standards allow. Recalls, investigations and litigation are currently ongoing.

The 2016 Volkswagen Golf is no longer just a single model – it’s become an entire model line unto itself. Beyond the well-established 2-door and 4-door Golf hatchbacks, the Golf family also includes the roomy Golf SportWagen, an electric eGolf and the performance-oriented GTI and Golf R. Redesigned last year, the Golf is the largest it has ever been, providing better rear-seat and cargo space and a smoother ride. What hasn’t change for VW’s entry-level car is its affordable base price, a choice between gasoline and diesel engines and a long list of standard and available features. Not a VW fan? The Mazda3 has less horsepower but better fuel economy, while the Hyundai Elantra GT offers a better warranty and more standard features.

Road Test Video Reviews

2016 Volkswagen GTI Owner Reviews

21 Reviews
81% 19% 3 star 0% 2 star 0% 1 star 0%
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VW gti, always quality and reliable.

2016 Volkswagen GTI

The performance of the gti is amazing. The ability to change the driving modes, depending on how quickly you want the car to react is incredible. The gti is able to turn on a dime, which makes U-turns easy. The seats are comfortable, which make longer trips easy. The seats are low, so if someone with hip problems or an elderly passenger is riding in the car, they may need assistance getting in and out of the car. The turbo is really felt in the 3rd and 4th gears (we have a manual transmission). The car is very reliable and is able to tell you when the tire pressure is low, fluids are low, maintenance needed, etc. Since the oil is completely synthetic now, it helps keep the car running cleaner, as long as it is changed when needed. Highly recommend the gti.

- Rye I

Sporty and fun to drive hot hatchback.

2016 Volkswagen GTI S

Sport suspension, power steering, turbocharged, paddle shifters, selective drive mode, performance tires, 2.0l engine, touchscreen display, VW car-net app-connect, available adaptive cruise control (acc) helps maintain a preset distance from the car in front of you. When activated, if the car in front of you speeds up or slows down, the sensors can detect the change and your car follows suit.

- Alfredo A

Reliable, spacious, great turn radius Volkswagen.

2016 Volkswagen GTI SE

I love my gti, it runs great! It is very reliable. It is comfortable on long drives. There is a lot of space in the back seat and in the hatchback area for transporting groceries, suitcases, etc. The VW dealership is also great with any check ups that I need done. I also think the car has a great turn radius, you can easily make sharp turns.

- Alicia D

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