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Truck Guy Review: 2018 VW Golf GTI SE


What is it about small quirky wagon-like 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI that has reviewers declaring it the best thing since sliced bread? Can a hatchback with four doors really be that good? Sure, the performance for the dollar is hard to beat.

The 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI SE is virtually unchanged over the years in its exterior size and styling. Its simplistic front-end grille does feature a rather sportish looking spoiler, yet the sides and rear are pretty devoid of style. Inside our test model had the upgraded leather seats, a large 8.0″ touchscreen and an OK amount of room for four adults – much better with just one or two people.

Since this was the SE, we also got a host of upgrades including brakes, LED headlights, a sunroof and driver assistance features (forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring). These upgrades really helped improve our satisfaction of it. Well, that and the handling.

Move the shifter to D (manual is an option) and the mystery of why it is a perennial favorite of reviewers becomes clear – it is wicked good.

While we aren’t big fans of the “hot hatch” segment, there is a reason why they are so popular. Whipping the car through corners, slamming on the brakes and then accelerating as fast as we can, it is easy to see the wow factor. The Golf GTI throws you back in your seat, corners like it is on rails with help from a limited-slip differential and stops on a dime utilizing the performance brakes.

The Golf GTI is simply this – fun to drive. It is like a toned-down version of a sports car with a price point people can afford. Literally anybody can afford to buy it and it will haul college students, young adults, kids, dogs and anything else you can think of with a rather spacious trunk and easy access to the roof after adding a roof rack. You can load it for a weekend getaway, race around town for fun or hit cruise for a long road trip while it sips gas at a remarkably good 24/32/27 EPA rated city/highway/combined.

Then, when you get bored, you can modify the heck out of it. Trust us a simple Google search reveals numerous aftermarket parts, tuners, fans clubs and magazines.

While there are faster, more spacious and more luxurious models out there, the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI SE is really hard to beat. It is clear why other car reviewers praise it and you had better include us in the bunch. It is really worth a spin.

S: $28,490
Rabbit Edition: $29,790
SE: $32,690
Autobahn: $36,890

Tim Esterdahl

Automotive Journalist Tim Esterdahl has been a lover of trucks and SUVs for years. He has covered the industry since 2011 and has pieces in many national magazines and newspapers. In his spare time, he is often found tinkering on his '62 C10 pickup, playing golf, going hunting and hanging out with his wife and kids in Nebraska.

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