The car that defined the term “hot hatch” embodies a classic formula: refinement, style, power, and playful performance. In its last year of production for this generation, the Golf GTI returns with new technology and design cues that continue the tradition of affordable performance it has built since its U.S. debut in 1983.
The 2021 Golf GTI is available in three trims—S, SE, and Autobahn. With 2021 being the seventh generation’s final model year, every trim features painted side view mirrors and a rear lip spoiler, both in gloss black. These visual cues signal the sunset of the seventh generation and emphasize the hot hatch’s sporty nature.
SE and Autobahn trims feature new designs on the standard 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. Additionally, both SE and Autobahn trims are equipped with the new MIB3 touchscreen infotainment system with Discover Media navigation.
Pricing for the 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI with a standard six-speed manual transmission starts at $28,695. The seven-speed DSG® dual-clutch automatic transmission with Tiptronic® starts at $29,495. The destination charge for all Golf GTI models is an additional $995.
The seventh-generation car is wrapped in sheet metal that is modern, yet equally unmistakable as a Volkswagen Golf GTI. The shape and design elements remain as defined as ever, with a distinctive C-pillar, roofline framing, and classic Golf GTI side windows, but the striking new front end and steeply sloped hood leave no doubt this is different from previous generations.
S models feature standard LED Daytime Running Lights (DRLs), while LED headlights with the Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS) are standard on SE and Autobahn models. A bright-red horizontal strip visually connects the headlights to a revised grille and bumper. Those fasciae carry a strong character line that travels along the side and all the way back to the taillight clusters, only breaking for the wheel arches. Just above, another body line can be traced from the rear side window all the way back up to the headlights. These subtle body lines help create a poised yet elegant appearance.
In addition to the red horizontal highlight on the grille, the 2021 Golf GTI has several other visual differences from its conventional Golf brethren. The lower front fascia incorporates standard LED fog lights housed within a series of horizontal strakes on either side of a unique mesh pattern grille. Red-painted brake calipers with “GTI” lettering peek behind bespoke alloy wheels and subtle side skirts help to give the GTI a more planted appearance. Gloss black mirror caps underscore the sporty nature of GTI. Around back, bright exhaust tips sit on either side of a unique rear diffuser, while a gloss black lip spoiler and LED taillights further differentiate the car.
The Golf GTI has a lower visual center of gravity and a more dynamic stance than the regular Golf, thanks to a sport suspension that lowers the car by 0.6 inches. The Golf GTI is equipped with large 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels as standard equipment, wrapped in standard all-season tires or, exclusively on the Autobahn, 225/40 summer performance tires. SE models feature a new gloss-black wheel design was previously featured on the 2019 GTI Rabbit Edition while Autobahn models welcome new forged wheels, previously only available on European GTI models.
Automatic rain-sensing windshield wipers along with automatic headlights are standard across the lineup. A panoramic power tilt and slide sunroof is standard on the SE and Autobahn trims.
The large, mature cabin has an emphasis on comfort and a substantial features list. There is 93.5 cu-ft of interior room, along with 17.4 cu-ft of luggage space up to the parcel shelf and 24.8 cu-ft to the roof—space that rivals even the largest midsize sedan. The versatility of the load space is enhanced by a trunk floor that can be raised or lowered, while the 60:40 split backrest can be folded to give an almost flat cargo area that can accommodate a full-size bicycle.
In addition to the spacious interior, the driver controls are positioned to help optimize ergonomics and usability. The seat position, height of the shifter and the spacing between the pedals are fine-tuned for increased driver comfort. This driver-centric design focus is evident from the center stack, which is angled towards the driver—a trait frequently seen in premium luxury or performance vehicles.
The Golf GTI has a premium performance personality that is further accentuated from the regular Golf model by the red ambient lighting and illuminated door sills; black headliner and trim inserts; buttons and switches that are backlit in white; and the use of premium materials and soft-touch plastics throughout. A GTI-specific instrument cluster, sporty aluminum-look pedals, the unique shifter knob, and the flat-bottomed sport steering wheel also ensure differentiation from its less-sporty siblings.
An equal amount of attention has been paid to helping maximize comfort and convenience. The standard front sport seats, with classic GTI “Clark” plaid seating surfaces, can be heated, and there are six cup holders. Cruise control buttons and media controls are housed on the leather-wrapped and red-stitched multifunction steering wheel.
The Golf GTI S includes a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, ambient and footwell lighting with LED reading lights, LED fog lights, and Driving Mode Selection. SE models add with KESSY® keyless access with push-button start, a sunroof, and leather seating surfaces.
The Autobahn adds standard DCC® adaptive damping, Climatronic® automatic dual-zone climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, 12-way power driver’s seat, and the highly-acclaimed Fender® Premium Audio.
SE and Autobahn models feature a Performance Monitor in the Car settings of the MIB3 infotainment system. The screen shows three dials, which can be toggled through to create your own custom display of readings such as G force, relative PSI, usage of engine power in kW, and engine oil temperature. There’s also a lap timer screen where you can select start and stop and get a readout of stats.
MIB Infotainment. All 2021 Golf GTI models feature innovative Volkswagen MIB touchscreen infotainment systems. The displays utilize a capacitive-touch sensor (as in smartphone and tablet technology) rather than the more common resistive touchscreens that require pressure, enabling controls like swiping and even pinch-zooming. App-Connect smartphone integration for compatible devices is standard, and offers users the ability to run select smartphone apps directly on the vehicle’s display through services such as Apple CarPlay®, Android AutoTM and MirrorLink®.
The Golf GTI S is equipped with the MIB2 Composition Color unit, which features a 6.5-inch capacitive touchscreen display. The infotainment system includes two USB-C ports, SD Card multimedia interface, and Bluetooth® technology for compatible devices.
All other Golf GTI models are equipped with the all-new third-generation modular infotainment matrix (MIB3). The new MIB3 infotainment system features a glass-covered 8.0-inch display, wireless App-Connect with multi-phone pairing that can switch between compatible devices, enhanced voice recognition, and two illuminated USB-C ports in the center stack.
Golf GTI SE and Autobahn models are equipped with the Discover Media system with navigation. The unit features Bluetooth technology for compatible devices, HD radio, and SiriusXM® radio (three month trial period). Discover Media units feature a redesigned navigation system with simplified and enhanced map designs, intuitive route options, quick access to frequently visited locations, and advanced route management. With a Car-Net Hotspot subscription and Plus Nav package, maps can be automatically updated with the most up-to-date traffic and construction information.
SiriusXM . SE models will offer the newest and most advanced audio entertainment platform—SiriusXM with 360L. Available by subscription (three-month All Access trial package included), SiriusXM with 360L combines satellite and streaming content delivery into a single, cohesive in-vehicle entertainment experience and provides more options than before, including access to more than 10,000 hours of SiriusXM’s recorded On Demand content, and more live channels. SiriusXM with 360L’s personalized “For You” recommendations enables listeners to discover more of what they love based on listening habits and served on screen in an easy format. Additionally, individual listener profiles allow multiple drivers and passengers to customize their own favorites and receive “Related” recommendations similar to the currently playing channel and content.
Since its debut for the 2014 model year, Volkswagen Car-Net has allowed Volkswagen owners to get connected to their vehicles. Last year, Car-Net moved into the next generation of integration, with an updated mobile app, a long list of no-charge services for five years, and new subscription options. For model year 2021, Car-Net Services will be offered in three areas: Remote Access, Safe & Secure, and Hotspot. For vehicles equipped with a MIB3 system, additional online features are available with a paid subscription that provides enhanced navigation and infotainment. Next year, Volkswagen will introduce Carrier of Choice, giving our customers the option to select a data plan from either VerizonTM or T-Mobile ®. With just a few clicks in the VW Car-Net mobile app or at vw.com/carnet, owners can add their new Volkswagen vehicle to their existing mobile data plan or purchase a new one.
Car-Net Remote Access allows owners the ability to interact with their vehicle from miles away via the mobile app. It is offered at no additional charge for five years from the date of vehicle purchase. Features include remote start and stop (if equipped), remote door lock and unlock, remote honk and flash of lights, last parked location, and remote vehicle status display, which provides information on estimated fuel level and mileage and door and window status. Also available on MY21 vehicles equipped with MIB3: trips statistics and “Hello Volkswagen” in-vehicle advanced voice control, which can recognize natural language input for vehicle radio, navigation, telephone, and media functions.
VW Car-Net skills for Amazon AlexaTM are now available for most new Volkswagen vehicles, is. To set up, owners should open the skills page associated with their car model in their Alexa app and link the skill to their VW Car-Net account. This will allow them to use their voice on an Alexa-enabled device to ask Alexa to send remote commands from the comfort of their own home—for instance: “Alexa, ask Car-Net to honk my horn.”
For vehicles equipped with factory-installed navigation systems, Car-Net can make customers lives easier by locating off-street parking information and sending destinations or points of interest directly to their car from the app. Powered by ParkopediaTM, the Parking Information feature can help make owners’ lives easier by locating off-street parking information. Through the Navigate tab on the app, users can click the “P” icon to show available parking locations, either in the immediate vicinity or near a Point of Interest. Clicking on a specific location will display the address, hours of operation and pricing. Users can also send the location to their car’s navigation system, if so equipped, by clicking the “Send to My VW” button.
Vehicle Health Reports can provide owners easy access to diagnostic information. Reports generate automatically each month after enrollment and are sent directly to the email address in the owner’s profile; owners can also request updated reports anytime through the mobile app. When it’s time for scheduled service, Car-Net can not only notify the customer, but also provides a simple way to schedule a dealer visit.
Family Guardian services and Roadside Call Assist can provide added peace-of-mind no matter who is driving. Speed Alert notifies the owner when the pre-determined maximum speed limit is exceeded. Boundary Alert lets the owner know when the vehicle has traveled outside of a pre-set virtual boundary. Curfew Alert notifies the owner if the vehicle is driven while curfew alert is on. Valet Alert warns if the vehicle is driven more than 0.2 miles from the valet drop-off location. The Car-Net app allows users to control who receives notifications by designating primary and secondary users, with varying levels of control and functionality for each. Notifications can come in the form of text messages, emails, or push notifications from the mobile app itself. If the vehicle is disabled, Roadside Call Assist is available at the touch of the wrench button.
By enrolling in the DriveView™ program, Car-Net users may be eligible for discounted rates from some of the top automotive insurance companies in the country. This program can also help Car-Net users monitor their driving by tracking activities like night driving, hard braking, idle time, and excess speed. These factors all contribute to an overall driving score, which is visible within the mobile app.
Car-Net Safe & Secure is a paid subscription service that includes Information Assistance, Emergency Assistance, Automatic Crash Notification, Anti-Theft Alert, and Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance. The subscription is $99 per year before taxes and fees, and automatically renews annually at the end of the subscription term, unless cancelled. Information Assistance—accessed through the i-call button within the vehicle—allows the driver to speak to a Car-Net agent for support needs, such as points of interest and account services. Emergency Assistance can be accessed through the SOS button in the vehicle, and, if a cellular connection can be established, puts the driver in contact with the Car-Net service center, who can direct emergency responders to the vehicle’s location and notify the user’s Emergency Contact. Provided a cellular connection can be established, Automatic Crash Notification can help automatically notify an operator who can quickly contact first responders in the event of a collision. Anti-Theft Alert sends a push notification to the user if the vehicle’s anti-theft alarm is triggered, and Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance uses Car-Net to assist law enforcement with locating the vehicle in the event that it is stolen.
Car-Net Hotspot allows passengers to access the internet with up to four connected devices simultaneously, including compatible tablets, smartphones, laptops, gaming devices, and more— at 4G LTE-enabled speed. Verizon Wireless or T-Mobile customers with an existing mobile data plan can simply add their Volkswagen vehicle as a new $20 line item to their existing monthly bill; non-Verizon or T-Mobile customers can set up an unlimited plan for $20/month, taxes and fees may apply.
Car-Net Hotspot also offers additional annual paid subscription packages to enhance the navigation and infotainment experience for MY21 VW owners with a factory-installed MIB3 infotainment system. With an active data plan, the Plus Nav package ($49/year) allows drivers to access online route updates, traffic reports, fuel prices, and parking information. The Plus Speech package ($9/year) offers advance voice controls using natural language, and the Plus Online Radio Package ($8/year) offers online internet radio with 30,000+ radio stations and podcasts. Media streaming apps can also be accessed at no additional charge, including iHeartRadioTM and TIDALTM (both require existing accounts).
In classic Volkswagen style, the Golf GTI is powered by a compact turbocharged engine. The 2.0-liter TSI® turbocharged and direct-injection unit that powers the Golf GTI is a member of the latest, third-generation EA888 engine family and is built in Volkswagen’s state-of-the-art factory in Silao, Mexico. The EA888 engine line is a masterpiece of modern engine design that balances performance, efficiency, and drivability in a lightweight, compact package.
The EA888 engine produces 228 horsepower (achieved using premium fuel) at 5,000 rpm, and torque peaks at 258 lb-ft, beginning at just 1,500 rpm and lasting until 4,400 rpm. It can be paired with either a six-speed manual transmission or an optional seven-speed DSG automatic transmission with Tiptronic, the most advanced such unit Volkswagen offers. The DSG transmission incorporates a Start-Stop System designed to save fuel, as well as a launch control feature.
EPA-estimated fuel economy for Golf GTI models, when equipped with the six-speed manual is 23/30/26 (city/highway/combined) and 24/32/27 when equipped with the optional eight-speed automatic.
The A7 Golf GTI was the first U.S.-market vehicle built on Volkswagen’s MQB modular platform. The unitary construction chassis has two solid-mounted subframes with bolt-on front fenders, and utilizes technologies such as the laser clamp welder, which produces “wobble seam” welds in a wave pattern to help maximize strength in a limited space.
The Golf GTI has a stamped steel body and chassis that boasts a large percentage high-strength, hot-formed steel. This technology allows much of the chassis and body to be constructed from thinner and lighter parts without loss in strength.
The Golf GTI features a strut-type front suspension with lower control arms and a multilink rear suspension, both of which are controlled by coil springs with telescopic dampers. The Golf GTI has a lowered sport suspension, which is 0.6 inches lower than Golf TSI models. The front suspension includes a 24-millimeter anti-roll bar while the rear has a 20-millimeter version, 2 mm larger at the front and 1 mm thicker at the back compared with a regular Golf TSI model.
All 2021 Golf GTI models come equipped with brakes shared with the seventh-generation Golf R—using 13.4-inch front and 12.2-inch rear vented discs—and the torque-sensing limited-slip differential, dubbed VAQ. This electronically-controlled differential works in concert with the existing stability systems to help improve traction and performance. Tests at the Nürburgring Nordschleife track have shown lap-time improvements of more than eight seconds compared to Golf models without the differential.
The VAQ acts as a traditional limited-slip differential—which reacts by transferring a set amount of torque to non-slipping wheels when others lose traction—but adds to its effectiveness by monitoring the data from each wheel sensor at all times. Since this data includes both vehicle and wheel speed, as well as yaw and lateral g-force, the system can make precise adjustments to help maintain an optimum torque balance between the left and right front wheels. Up to a full 100 percent of torque can be transferred to either side, as opposed to the fixed “best guess” percentage seen in traditional limited-slip differentials. The result of this proactive (rather than reactive) system is the reduction of the understeer and torque steer that can afflict sporty front-wheel-drive cars.
DCC. The Golf GTI Autobahn features the latest version of the DCC adaptive damping system, which manages the suspension’s rebound and compression rates individually, helping to improve vehicle dynamics.
Driving Mode Selection. The Driving Mode Selection feature offers three modes on cars with the standard sport suspension: “Normal,” “Sport,” and “Individual.” Normal and Sport have a different steering heft and throttle response, while Individual allows a driver to tailor the steering and throttle. On cars with the DSG transmission, the Sport mode gives more aggressive shifts. The DCC adaptive damping system adds a fourth “Comfort” mode, putting the suspension dampers in their softest setting for a smooth highway ride and to their firmest setting in Sport for better cornering performance.
ESC Sport. Another standout feature on the Golf GTI is the ESC Sport function for very experienced drivers for use only on closed courses, such as a racetrack. The system is activated by a two-stage switch on the center console. If the driver pushes the button once, the ASR (traction control) function is deactivated. When the button is pressed longer than three seconds, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) switches to the ESC Sport mode. In driving, such as on a racetrack, the ESC system operates at a higher threshold for even more agile handling. ESC Sport can also be activated through the “Car” settings menu.
Progressive variable-ratio steering. The Golf GTI also features progressive variable-ratio electric power steering system. This is an elegant solution to help with a common problem with steering systems, which is that different speeds and maneuvers ideally require different steering rates. In this case, Volkswagen has spaced the teeth on the steering gear’s rack more tightly toward the center than on a normal rack. The lower steering ratio in the center means that the car can respond quickly when entering a turn, while the higher ratio at the ends of the rack can help reduce the amount of effort needed near full steering lock, such as when parking. The Golf GTI steering wheel goes from lock to lock in just 2.1 turns, whereas the standard Golf needs 2.76 turns.
To help protect occupants, the Golf GTI provides a combination of both passive and active safety systems. It features six airbags as standard (front and side airbags for front passengers and side curtain airbags for outboard seating positions), along with a number of electronic safety systems, such as an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC).
A standard feature on the 2021 Golf GTI is Volkswagen’s Automatic Post-Collision Braking System. This builds on the premise that a collision is rarely a single, instantaneous action, but rather a series of events that follow the initial impact—the most significant of which can cause additional collisions. The Automatic Post-Collision Braking System helps address this, in certain crash scenarios, by applying the brakes when a primary collision is detected by the airbag sensors, thus potentially reducing residual kinetic energy and, in turn, the chance of additional damage.
The Golf GTI also includes Volkswagen’s Intelligent Crash Response System that shuts off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors, and switches on the hazard lights if the car is involved in certain types of collisions.
All Golf GTI models feature a standard rearview camera.
To meet the demands of American drivers, the 2021 Golf GTI offers a comprehensive suite of driver-assistance technology. Available features include: Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Monitoring (Front Assist); Blind Spot Monitor; Rear Traffic Alert; Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC); Lane Keeping System (Lane Assist); Park Distance Control; Parking Steering Assistant (Park Assist); and High Beam Control (Light Assist).
Front Assist, standard on all GTI models, is intended to warn drivers of potential frontal collisions (Forward Collision Warning) with vehicles and pedestrians, and in some cases provide automatic braking assistance (Autonomous Emergency Braking).
Within physical system limits, Forward Collision Warning warns the driver of potential critical front-end collision situations, both acoustically and visually by a warning symbol in the instrument cluster if the car is traveling above 18 mph. Furthermore, an automatic jolt of the brakes can warn the driver of the danger. If the driver fails to brake, Autonomous Emergency Braking is activated to help slow the vehicle. If the car is traveling below 18 mph and the system detects a potential front-end collision, Autonomous Emergency Braking activates without a prior acoustic and visual warning. If the brake pedal is applied but the driver brakes too lightly, the brake pressure is increased by the system (Braking Support).
Blind Spot Monitor is standard on all GTI models. Blind Spot Monitor uses two radar sensors at the rear of the vehicle to scan the approaching traffic and is intended to warn drivers of the presence of other vehicles in adjacent lanes. If the driver uses the turn signal to indicate a lane change while a vehicle is detected in a blind spot, the system utilizes a flashing LED symbol in the outer area of the side mirrors. Even if the driver does not use a turn signal, the LED symbol in the mirror will illuminate if a vehicle is detected in the blind spot. The system is designed to help alert drivers in specific situations; stationary objects or oncoming vehicles do not trigger warnings, nor do vehicles more than one lane across away from the vehicle.
If combined with Lane Assist (standard on Autobahn models, see below) the system not only warns the driver with the flashing LED symbol if a vehicle is detected in the blind spot, but within system limits, it can also countersteer to help keep the car in the lane even if the turn signal is on. If the driver still tries to steer out of the lane, the system will warn with an additional vibration of the steering wheel.
The Rear Traffic Alert system, standard on all GTI models is intended to detect vehicles approaching from the side that may be difficult for the driver to see while reversing. The system offers a 180-degree view of the back of the car with a range of 65 feet, and will present a visual and an acoustic warning, if a potential collision with a crossing vehicle is detected. If the driver does not react, the system can apply the brakes to help mitigate and, in the best case, can prevent a collision. The system is activated by putting the car in reverse.
Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), standard on Autobahn models, uses a forward facing radar to maintain a set speed while helping maintain a set distance to the vehicle in front. The driver sets the speed and the desired spacing via buttons on the multifunction steering wheel and can further use those buttons to adjust and cancel the ACC function while the accelerator can be used to override the ACC function. Pressing the brakes always cancels the ACC function. All ACC-related system messages appear in the central multifunction display.
When the roadway ahead of the vehicle is clear, the system maintains the set speed. Golf GTI models fitted with ACC can match a vehicle in front and come to a stop if the vehicle in front does. If the car stands longer than three seconds, the driver can resume ACC control by pressing the accelerator pedal.
Lane Keeping System (Lane Assist) is standard on Autobahn models. When driving above 40 mph, if the system’s camera recognizes visible lane markings and, using a special algorithm, calculates that the vehicle is unintentionally straying from its lane without using a turn signal, Lane Assist actively countersteers to help keep the vehicle in the lane. If the driver takes his or her hands off the wheel for a defined period of time, the system provides an audible warning and a visual signal in the instrument cluster, asking the driver to take over.
The system will not engage if it cannot properly detect lane markings. If the turn signal has been set before crossing a lane marking, the Lane Assist system will not engage or give a warning. The driver can override the system at any time by applying minimal force to the steering wheel.
Park Distance Control, equipped on Autobahn models, uses ultrasonic sensors located in the front and rear bumpers to monitor a range of up to approximately five feet in front or behind the vehicle. The system may activate below 9 mph and helps provide guidance when parking or in tight spaces. The system has audible and visual warnings when the car starts to approach parked cars or static objects of sufficient size from the front or rear.
Maneuver Braking, a part of the Park Distance Control system, is intended to mitigate or help prevent collisions with detected static obstacles to the front and rear while the vehicle is maneuvered. The system is active between 1-6 mph. If the system detects a stationary object, it can apply the brakes automatically to help prevent or mitigate a collision. The system can be deactivated at any time using the touch display or permanently in the setup menu.
Parking Steering Assistant (Park Assist) is included on Autobahn models. This system can automatically steer the car into parallel and perpendicular parking spaces (the latter both forward and in reverse). While driving below 25 mph, pressing the Park Assist button in the center console will activate the system to scan the left and right sides of the vehicle for parking spots. By using the turn signal indicator, the driver can indicate which side of the road they would like to park. When the system detects a space, “Parking Space Found” will appear in the multifunction display. The driver only needs to activate the accelerator pedal and brake once a gear is selected, as Park Assist can automatically help steer the vehicle into the parking space. The driver can override or deactivate the steering assistance at any time by turning the steering wheel, or pressing the button.
High Beam Control (Light Assist), standard on Autobahn models, helps provide drivers with better visibility. The system automatically switches on the headlamp high beams above 37 mph on dark or poorly lit roads, if there is no oncoming traffic detected. Below 18 mph, the high beams automatically switch off.
Every 2021 GTI comes with a bumper-to-bumper New Vehicle Limited Warranty and Carefree Maintenance Program. The warranty provides coverage for four years or 50,000-miles (whichever occurs first), and can be transferred to a subsequent owner throughout the remainder of its duration. The Carefree Maintenance Program provides scheduled maintenance services for 2 years or 20,000 miles (whichever occurs first) at no additional charge, and can be transferred to a subsequent owner throughout the remainder of its duration.