Thursday, October 8, 2009

First Drive: 2010 Volkswagen GTI reminds us why we like hot hatches so much

Performance Icon। That two-word phrase is bandied about so often there's hardly any meaning left in its 15 letters. After all, if a Porsche 911 is rightly referred to as a performance icon, can we call a Honda Civic Si the same? And are we talking any old 911/Civic Si, or just certain years and models? For instance, there is no doubt that the B13 Nissan Sentra SE-R, with its killer SR20DE engine, is a performance icon, but what about the current B17 Sentra SE-R? How about the Spec V? No way – the Versa has a better chassis.

We mention this problem with the Performance Icon label because Volkswagen described the all-new 2010 MkVI GTI to us as the "performance icon of the brand." As you may have noticed, Volkswagen's been delving pretty deeply into its past for marketing purposes as of late. First they tried reintroducing the Rabbit name much to the chagrin of Golf fans nationwide, and now they have Max, the black 1964 Beetle telling you that VW is "Das Auto." On a smaller scale, it's attempting to remind potential GTI buyers that the new model is both a direct descendant of and flag bearer for the original 1983 MkI GTI. Here comes the begged question: is it?