Driven! 2010 Volkswagen GTI

    Up: Quick, fun, can fit a mattress inside.

    Down: Depreciates quickly for some reason.

    Neutral: A GTI just might be the best first car you can own.

    It’s kind of funny that I never did a review on a car that I actually owned for 2 years. Maybe I wanted to get to know it better, maybe I wanted to uncover all of its quirks, maybe I didn’t want to hurt its feelings, or maybe I was just lazy. Whichever excuse it was, I no longer own it and can now be fairly objective. So without further ado, I finally present the photos and review of my (old) 2010 Volkswagen GTI.

    The 6th generation, or Mark VI (MKVI), of Volkswagen GTIs is the first one I had ever been in or drove. I had been in base model Jettas in the past but never experienced fully what VW had to offer, and the GTI had everything. Well, at least everything that a young person wanting a sports car could ask for. It had big wheels, a sunroof, premium audio, dual exhaust pipes, and a red stripe. That checks all the boxes, right?

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    But the benefits of having a German engineered hot hatch far exceed that of a Honda Civic Si or Subaru WRX. Although the other two check the young-person-wanting-a-sports-car checkboxes as well, the GTI went above and beyond. The 18″ wheels were actually desirable, the hatch with the seats down fit as much baggage as an SUV, it had a d-shaped steering wheel, the infotainment system still looks modern, and VW used premium materials on the dash, doors, and headliner. It would even stream Bluetooth audio from my phone which a 2012 Mercedes C-Class doesn’t even do!


    The performance is also great. My GTI had Volkswagen’s 200hp turbo TFSI engine, arguably the better one used post-2008, and the 6-speed manual transmission. Both were fantastic. The shifting was smooth and direct while there was just enough acceleration to give you that tingly feeling below your stomach every time. The fastest I ever got it to was 119 mph and it did so without shaking its bolts off. Don’t tell mom!

    Handling was equally as good. The steering wheel felt perfect as I would carve out curvy roads and the sport tires kept me firmly planted. The large, red painted brakes were more than just show as well; always keeping me from hitting an apex too fast. If you look online, you can also turn off the electronic stability by holding in the ESP button for a few seconds, but, even with the deceiving “ESP Off” notification, it won’t turn off fully. Most of the time there is no reason to do that anyways so it never bothered me.

    Inside was a great place to be. I preferred the leather to the plaid cloth, but the power seats were designed to be comfortable and to hold you in place. Everything was functional and where it should be. The heated seats got extra hot and the AC got extra cold. All of the steering wheel controls and infotainment worked intuitively and I didn’t have to spend time on Google trying to figure out how to use any of it. If I had one complaint it would be that the screen sometimes froze, displaying the same title for every song on my iPod. After doing some digging online, I found that there was an update for that. I put the update on an SD card, plugged it into the car, and it was smooth sailing from there.

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    Then there were the pet-peeves you can only discover by owning a car for so long. First, this thing was worthless in the snow. I know I could have purchased snow-specific tires but there were winter nights where I couldn’t even get home in my GTI. Another gripe was that the screen between my gauges would tell me that a tire was low on pressure, but not which tire. Why even include that damn function if I have to check them all anyway? And last, but certainly least, the port for an auxiliary cable was just above the e-brake and not tucked nicely inside of the armrest like the iPod cable. And that reminds me, why did car companies in the 00s think they were so special that they need a proprietary $60 cable to plug in an iPod? Alright, now I’m being nitpicky.

    And finally, I had one major issue with the car; the throwout bearing in the clutch. Within the first few months of me owning the GTI 5th gear started to grind. I was lucky enough that I bought the extended warranty which covered getting a new transmission. After the transmission was replaced, the clutch started to “squeal” when I engaged a gear, especially reverse. After bringing it back to the show, we found that the warranty doesn’t cover “clutch related” issues and it would be nearly a $1000 fix. After doing some online issue I found that this was a common issue in MKVI GTIs and Volkswagen knew about it. Apparently, the original throwout bearing grew weak over time and leaked oil causing a squeal. VW released a newer, stronger one but never commissioned a recall. Moral of the story: if you buy a MKVI GTI and you end up getting your clutch/transmission replaced, have them do the throwout bearing while they’re already in there!

    If I were to go back and buy my first sports car for $15,000 again, I would still have gotten this 2010 Volkswagen GTI. It had everything I never had in a car, was incredibly fun while I owned it, and taught me what I don’t want in my next car. Hell, it was still better than some of the brand new cars I’ve reviewed on this website but for half the price. So if you have a full-time job, want a car that has space, speed, swank, and a red stripe, don’t ignore the 2010 Volkswagen GTI.

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    Chris Berke
    Chris Berke
    I am the founder and editor of Short Shift. My obsession with wanting to drive every car ever made me build a website so I could share my experiences with the world. I love cars, traveling, and my cats, Henry and Winston.



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