2022 Volkswagen GTI vs. The Original Rabbit GTI: Time Tells All

Article Highlights:

  • The original Rabbit GTI still holds up today
  • Volkswagen’s newest GTI makes controversial changes
  • 2022 Volkswagen GTI specs and pricing

Looking at the 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI on its own, you wouldn’t think this tiny hatchback from a few decades ago leads to the car below. The O.G(TI) looks like a Hotwheels next to the newest Volkswagen GTI. Not only that, but it looks tall and dated. Where the new GTI is all LEDs and shiny wheels, the oldest GTI in the U.S practically looks like an economy car.

Is the original Rabbit GTI still a good car?

A black Rabbit GTI shot from the front 3/4 in a photo studio
The original Rabbit GTI was hot hatch Nirvana | National Motor Museum via Getty Images

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Times have changed, and back then, the Rabbit GTI looked like something right off a German test track. Flared fenders, an unusual splash of color on the grille, and a golf ball shifter set it apart from its basic Golf sibling. Oh, and more power. Obviously, more power. Really, that sounds a lot like the new GTI. But where the new car continues a lineage, the Rabbit GTI set a trend.

2022 Volkswagen GTI1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI
Price Range $31,000$8,350 (1984)
$22,045 (adjusted for inflation)
Engine Options 2.0L turbo DOHC I41.8L I-4
Horsepower 242 hp90 hp
Torque 273 lb-ft100 lb-ft
Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
6-speed manual transmission
5-speed manual
MPG Rating EPA rating unavailable30 MPG (MotorBiscuit est.)
IIHS Safety Rating N/A N/A
NHTSA Safety Rating 5 Stars (2021 model) N/A

It’s a trend that informed the decisions of many a penniless car enthusiast through the decades. For many, a used Volkswagen GTI was the start of their car hobby, and both the new and the old GTI are a performance bargain. Making only 90 hp, the original GTI isn’t much compared to the 242 hp of the new one. But simplicity has its virtues, and the GTI is lighter and more nimble than even today’s Miatas. And that’s where the new car loses the plot.

Does the new Volkswagen GTI change the formula?

A bright yellow GTI rolling down the Tail of the Dragon shot from the front 3/4
The new GTI makes some controversial choices | Volkswagen

The new Volkswagen GTI makes a number of highly controversial changes. First, there’s the touch-button steering wheel controls. In the embedded video above, automotive journalist Jason Cammisa talks about constantly switching on the heated steering wheel without meaning to. It’s a common issue and one that we’ve experienced ourselves. All that to say nothing of the styling, a massive departure from traditional GTI design.

But that doesn’t stop the newest GTI from driving in a way the original Rabbit GTI wishes it could. It turns out, modern technology might overcomplicate a lot of things, but it also improves a lot of things. You won’t be struggling to get up an on-ramp in the new GTI like you would the Rabbit. But, some of that lightweight fun had in the old car is certainly lost.

How much is the new GTI?

A yellow 2022 Volkswagen GTI shot from the front 3/4 on the famous Tail of the Dragon
The GTI at the Tail of the Dragon | Volkswagen

Thankfully, for your estimated $31,000 MSRP, you do get to keep the six-speed manual in the 2022 Volkswagen GTI. It’s one of the few remaining touches from the old car, and we’re glad it’s still around. Well, that and the plaid seats. A lot of what makes the old Rabbit GTI so good is stuff that just can’t be done anymore. We can’t make cars light like that anymore because of much-needed crash safety, and the same can be said for the design. But, Wolfsburg has managed to keep the new Volkswagen GTI fun, and for that, we’re eternally grateful.

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