USED: 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI Might Be the Best Car to Learn How to Drive a Manual

2018 Golf Gti Review Best Car To Learn How To Drive A Manual

Learning to drive a stick shift… because I had to!

Maybe your parents insisted you learn to drive a stick shift. Mine didn’t. Even with all the drivers in our household (I’m the oldest of eight), we didn’t have a manual vehicle other than a John Deere tractor on the farm until just before I got married. So when I got word that a 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI was coming to my driveway, I was excited and nervous all at the same time.

However, it turns out the Golf is probably the best car to learn how to drive a manual transmission. And the GTI? Well, with about 75 more horsepower than the standard Golf model and a suspension and tuning designed for sport driving, it might not be the best option for a new stick shift driver, but it certainly is fun!

Want to Learn How to Drive Manual? Give Yourself Time To Really Get it Down

2018 Golf Gti Review

Y’all, there’s an extra pedal down here! Photo: Erica Mueller

You see, I’ve driven manuals at events. But only for a short 5-10 minutes. I even drove my dad’s old work truck home from town once after he got it. Having grown up with the tractor, I figured driving a manual car couldn’t be that different. Or that hard. Still, I always lack the confidence to take one as a loaner to review, and I never choose to drive them at events without a whole lot of coaching.

I’ve been saying for a few years now that what I need is to spend a week or two in a stick shift, so I can really get the hang of it. But I didn’t know what would be the best car to learn manual driving. You know that old saying, you get what you ask for? Well, I didn’t schedule this Golf GTI loan. It showed up as part of a rotation of loans provided to auto writers in my part of Texas. Then, it got extended for a second week.

Another old saying: use what you have. Whether or not the Golf GTI is the best car to learn manual or not isn’t the question… it’s what I had. And I used what I had.

Guess who can drive a manual now? (let’s not talk about how long it took me to get in and out of my own driveway the first few times.) I probably should have started with something like Learning to Drive a Stick Shift? Here’s What You Need to Know First. But I didn’t.

I am so grateful for having the chance to drive and learn with the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI (and Youtube videos like this one). The experience I’ve had with this fun little hatchback has given me so much confidence when driving in manual mode. I actually had fun in this car and can’t wait to drive another stick!

Further Reading: 5 Reasons You’ll Want to Drive a Manual Transmission

Who This Hatchback is For

2018 Golf Gti Review

Want to feel like a real hipster? Wear your skinny jeans, plaid shirt, and converse and drive the GTI to the grocery store to buy firewood. Photo: Erica Mueller

  • Drivers who want a truly sporty drive experience
  • People who love to drive, not just go from point a to point b
  • People who want a compact, fuel-efficient car
  • Young drivers who love quirky interiors

What This Hatchback Costs

2018 Golf Gti Review

Even though I haven’t driven many German-made cars, this one felt very intuitive. Photo: Erica Mueller

The 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI is super affordable for a fun little car with a reputation for lasting a very long time:

  • Golf GTI 2.0T S, the model we drove, starts at $26,415
  • The SE starts at $30,470
  • The Autobahn trim level takes it up to $35,070, still keeping the car in a budget-friendly range, but offering heated front seats, all-wheel drive, bigger touch screen, blind-spot monitor, and panoramic sunroof
  • Add automatic transmission (if you must) $1,100

What We Love About the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI

2018 Volkswagon Golf Gti

Excuse me a minute while I swoon over these plaid seats again. Photo by Erica Mueller

What isn’t there to love? This sports car is adorable and fun, with 228 horsepower in a compact package, amped up from the standard Golf which has 147 horsepower. That’s part of why we felt like grinning every time we opened the car doors. The other was the plaid cloth seating (black leather available as an option), red stitching and shiny metal pedals. We also loved the red accents in the grille and the interior ambient lighting. Plus, the bucket-style, race-inspired front seats are comfy and roomy.

A Full Suite of Safety Features – Standard

The 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI hatchback is jam-packed with safety features like an awesome backup camera, pedestrian sensors, great breaks, adaptive cruise, lane and park assist, automatic high beams, and blind spot monitoring. It would be a fantastic car for any young person to learn to drive in, and fun enough that they’d want to keep it for a long time. If you do decide to sell, the transferable 6 year/70,000 mile warranty is another great feature!

The turbocharged 2.0L engine means you get a fast, fun performance hatchback. It’s incredibly fun to drive because you can feel the power, and you’re close enough to the road to really hug the corners tightly. The autobahn-tuned sport suspension helps with that, giving you firm control and grip.

Things You Should Know About This Car

  • 2.0L Turbo, 220-hp engine
  • 3 Drive Modes: normal, eco, and sport
  • 25MPG City/33 MPG highway
  • 8″ touch screen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or MirrorLink app which connects any smartphone to the infotainment system
  • Fender Premium audio system
  • 6 years or 72,000-mile transferable warranty

My One Complaint

Volkswagon Golf

The hard-to-reach USB port. Photo: Erica Mueller

Normally, I don’t find things to fuss about. Even if this car is not my cup of tea, there are a million reasons why it might be your dream car. So, I do my best to highlight all the things to love. But… there was this one, tiny thing.

The only USB port is located deep inside a small storage compartment in the front of the center console. This particular spot is so tight that even my small hands had great difficulty (and pain) trying to get my phone’s charging cable plugged in. No matter how I held onto my cord, my hand didn’t want to fit in there far enough to plug in. I finally got it, but I couldn’t help but wonder how someone with larger hands would ever make it.

The larger space to the left? Fantastic place for your phone or sunglasses!

Further Reading: These VW vans on Instagram are drool-worthy!

I Can Drive a Manual! Can You?

In addition to the Golf GTI being a really great car and being so much fun to drive, it has boosted my confidence as a driver. No longer will I say that I can’t drive a manual. Now I’ll get in and try! And I know that each time I do, I’ll get better at it. Thanks, Volkswagen!

A Girls Guide To Cars | Used: 2018 Volkswagen Golf Gti Might Be The Best Car To Learn How To Drive A Manual - 2018 Golf Gti Monroney

Disclosure: The 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI was loaned to me for a review. All thoughts are my own.


The 2018 Volkswagen Golf Gti Is Not Just A Great Little Car, But Maybe The Best To Learn How To Drive Manual. It'S All-Around Fun To Drive, And Stylish Too!

A web developer, digital marketing consultant, auto journalist, truck expert, photographer and lover of gadgets, Erica is a textbook... More about Erica Mueller