Prior to buying my new Forte5, I read a lot of reviews. The car magazines really like to hate on the Forte and it seams like they don't really give it a fair shot. I understand that the steering might not provide the feedback that a GTI does, but at the end of the day it has almost as much power as the GTI, runs sport tuned McPherson struts up front, has 18 inch wheels, has dual exhaust, and can run the quarter mile in 14.9 seconds. The magazines like to say that the SX isn't a hot hatch because it doesn't compare to the GTI; however, the only GTIs they have tested are loaded up with the Performance Package ($1,495 option) and optional summer sport tires. I am willing to bet that if they compared the SX to the standard 210hp GTI with all season tires, it would be a much closer match. The Performance Package adds 10hp and a limited slip differential. Motor Trend got the automatic GTI (With the Performance Package) to run a 14.5 second 1/4 mile. The same car pulled 0.92g on the skidpad with summer tires. It would likely still best the Kia in both tests without the options, but I am willing to bet it would be much closer. A 10hp loss would bring the GTI's 1/4 mile time to roughly 14.7 seconds and I am sure that the skidpad performance would drop below 0.90g with all season tires. Apples to apples, I think the Kia's performance would be within striking distance of the GTI without the Performance Package or summer sport tires.
Performance asside, the GTI SE has a few features the Kia doesn't. These include rain sensing wipers, a panoramic sun roof, torque vectoring, independent rear suspension, selective driving modes, 8 speaker sound system (vs 6 speakers), adaptive headlights (turn with the car). However, the Kia also has a list of features not offered by VW. These features include 10 way driver seat adjustment (vs 8 on the GTI SE), cooled driver seat, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, auto folding side mirrors, auto dimming rear view mirror, Homelink built in garage door system, memory settings for the driver seat, adjustable steering feel, and dual climate control.
Everything else on these cars matches up pretty evenly. Both have push button start, both have 18 inch wheels, both have HID headlights, both have LED tail lights, both have dual exhaust, both have side mirror turn signals, both have cruise control, both have paddle shifters (automatic), both have sport tuned McPherson struts up front.
As far as warranties go, Kia definetely has the upper hand.. VW offers a 3 year/36,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty and a 5 year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty. Kia offers a 5 year/60,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty and a 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty. Kia's warranty also comes with free roadside assistance.
Then comes the price. I just paid $23,863 for mine, which has an automatic transmission, the tech package, the premium package, and push button start (not sure if this is standard with the tech package). A GTI SE, with an automatic transmission and the lighting package (HIDs) would cost me $29,607 with Costco pricing.
Long story short, the Kia costs almost 20% less than a comparable GTI, but has almost as much performance and has a much longer warranty. Magazines love to hate Kias, but 0.85g roadholding on allseasons and a 14.9 second quarter mile seem like hot hatch numbers to me. Compare it to the last gen GTI and the match gets even closer.
Just my 2 cents.