I am thoroughly impressed with this car. This may very well be the car to lure me away from the Germans. It was a short drive and a mix of city and highway, so here's my impressions:
- Very nice power. There's not as much torque as the chipped 2.0T in my MKV GLI, but the power is still enjoyable
- Handling was EXCELLENT. I fully admit I was expecting something close to what I'm driving now, and it easily surpasses it. Steering was direct, very quick ratio and laser accurate. The car hugged the road on a tight on ramp. This car was truly fun to drive. It was a completely engaging drive.
- Interior materials were quite nice. Buttons and stalks clicked and snicked as well as the Germans. Dash design was nice, but the screen for the radio was on the small side (but is not a touchscreen). I especially liked the cloth used for seats as it wasn't mouse-fur velour or some weird textured stuff. Just clean black cloth with a slight shine and nice red stitching. The silver plastic trim is on the cheap side as are the lower door panels. Graphics in the screen between the gauges are really slick.
- Transmission shifted nicely and struck a good balance between shifting for economy and performance. I'm VERY intrigued to find out how the manual will drive (more on that in a minute)
- Engine noise, while not melodic, was well muted. With just enough noise to let you know what was going on, but it wasn't silent.
- Road noise was virtually nonexistent.
- The suspension is nicely firm yet not at all harsh.
- Seats were very comfortable, rear seat room was adequate.
If I were to fault the car at all, I'd say that the legroom in the rear was less than I expected. Probably on par with my Jetta. It wasn't tight by any means, but for the visual size of the car I was expecting more. I also felt the trunk, while wide and deep, was somewhat shallow. As mentioned above the silver trim is on the cheap side.
Overall, the car is a real winner.
The dealership experience was good, but the salesman and the owner made great efforts to try and talk me into an automatic. I was clear with them that I only buy cars with a clutch, but they thought I was crazy. I'm sure they wanted to get me to buy the car on the lot, rather than ordering/waiting on a manual model. If dealers really want to woo people away from the Germans, they need to be more receptive to those of us that want a third pedal.
Also, they stated that manual transmission models were special order only. I told them it wouldn't be a problem since I owned my car and it was paid for. I'm not sure if they were telling me the truth, or trying to push me into the model on the lot, or that they just don't want to order any manual cars to stock on the lot. And when I say they tried to talk me out of a manual, they REALLY TRIED. I was just about to tell them it's my money and that's what I want when the subject was changed.