Test Drive: 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI S Review

2016 Golf GTI S

This week I am tooling around in the 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI S four-door hatchback. 

Believe it or not, this is the seventh-generation Golf that was first produced in 1974.  Here in the United States, for a while we knew this car as the VW Rabbit.  The Golf falls in the “hot hatch” category of cars like the Subaru WRX, the Mini Cooper S, and the Honda Civic Si.


Under the Hood

Under the hood, my review car has a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with a turbocharger, putting out 210-horses, but it feels like a lot more since the Golf barely weighs 3000 pounds.  Although you can get a manual transmission, this one has the 6-speed automatic with steering wheel paddle shifters.

This is the S model, which is the no-frills, bottom of the line package for 2016.  You can move up to the SE, the Autobahn, and the Performance package, which gives you an additional 10-horsepower.


Outwardly, even this base version 4-door hatchback looks great, especially in Tornado Red.  It comes with a rear spoiler, fog lights, and the 18” wheels really set it off.


Prepare yourself before you look inside.  I have not seen plaid seats since one of my Dad’s old Buicks, but lo and behold, the Golf has them.  Although not what I would call an enticing interior, I will say the front seats are comfortable and the bolsters hold you nicely in place as you take corners.  Once seated, you notice a leather, flat bottom steering wheel with controls, a leather shift knob, and one cool touch is alloy pedals.

In the middle of the gauge cluster is a multi-function display controlled from the steering wheel that gives you a lot of information driving history, and fuel economy stats and settings.

Although it is officially rated as a 5-passenger, if all occupants are adults, 4 is about all it can handle.  The rear seats fold down in a 60/40 configuration that will give you over 52 cubic feet of cargo space.

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In the center of the dash is a 6.5” touchscreen that houses the rearview camera, sound system, Bluetooth, and drive mode settings which include normal, sport, or you can choose individual settings.

Air conditioning is controlled by round knobs, as are the sound system volume and radio station choices.

You also get VW Car-Connect, which will work with Apple Play or Android, and will provide you with emergency services, crash response, and vehicle health reports.  Car-Connect is a subscription-based paid service.

Review Vehicle Options

My review vehicle does not have a single option; everything you see is included in the window sticker price of $27,500.


Let’s talk about the driving dynamics of the Golf GTI.  Although some call this a performance sedan, it isn’t. But it feels faster than it is, and is fun to drive, especially around town. 

Handling is good, the car corners very well, and although firm, the ride is actually pretty good.  I expected a good amount of torque steer, but honestly it is not bad at all.

Fuel Economy

Fuel economy is good at 25 City and 33 Highway for a combined mileage of 28 miles per gallon.  I actually did a little better than that when I was behaving, but I do admit your tendency is to drive this car hard.   

Final Thoughts

Although you would expect this car to speak German, it actually speaks Spanish.  It is assembled in VW’s massive 740-acre assembly plant in Puebla, Mexico, alongside the Jetta and Beetle.

If you want affordable performance, good mileage, and an affordable hatchback that looks great on the outside, the Golf should be on your shopping list. If you want to go to the next level, check out my review of the 292-horse Golf R.

2016 VW Golf GTI S Test Drive
What I liked most:  Ride, drive, and handling.
What I would change:  I could do without the plaid seats.
MSRP: Base price $27,515. As equipped $27,515.
Fuel Economy:  Rated at 25 City/33 highway/28 combined.
Odometer reading when tested: 5600 miles.
Weight: 3086 Pounds.
Length-Width-Height: 168” long/70.8” wide/56.8” High.
Fuel Tank Capacity:  13.2 gallons with the filler on the passenger side.
Towing Capacity: N/A
2016 Golf STI in a few words:  Truly a fun car to drive, with great handling!
Warranty: 3-year/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper, 5-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty with roadside assistance
Final Assembly Location:  Puebla, Mexico
Manufacturers website: Volkswagen

Photo Credit: Volkswagen
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