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Starting in 1983 for the U.S. market, the Volkswagen Jetta GLI and Golf GTI have always rivaled each other. Some swear by the sedan, while others would kill for the hatchback. However, throughout history, the two models have been relatively the same in terms of drivetrain and performance. The mid-year refresh in 2022 was no different. New and improved versions are carried through to the 2023 model year. But if you’re shopping for a new, sporty Volkswagen, which one do you choose?

What’s the difference between the 2023 Volkswagen Jetta GLI and the 2023 Golf GTI?

2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Front
2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI | Volkswagen

Significant differences between the 2023 Jetta GLI and the 2023 Golf GTI begin on the exterior. The Jetta GLI is always a four-door sedan with a trunk. Whereas the Golf GTI is either a two or four-door hatchback. In recent years, the Golf GTI is now only offered as a four-door hatchback. Most of the Volkswagen enthusiast crowd will favor the Golf GTI, as the hatchback is historically more popular. If you are searching for aftermarket parts or looking for a greater sense of community, the Golf GTI may be what you are after.

As for the running gear, the cars are almost always identical. Although, for the newest model years, the 2023 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is slightly behind in engine upgrades. Comparing the interior and optional extras, the Golf GTI and Jetta GLI are very similar once again. One benefit of the GTI is that it is more configurable with options, whereas the GLI is one package, and that’s that. The 2023 Jetta GLI does retain more mpg than the Golf GTI, having a combined rating of 30 mpg. Sacrificing the two mpg, the 2023 Volkswagen Golf GTI is much quicker than the Jetta GLI.

Is the GLI or GTI faster?

Both the GLI and GTI use the same 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine to help pull the car around. In addition, buyers can choose a 6-speed manual transmission or an optional 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT). The engine in the 2023 Volkswagen Jetta GLI carries over from the previous years, while the engine in the 2023 Volkswagen Golf GTI has been updated.

The 2023 Jetta GLI engine pushes out 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. On the other hand, the 2023 Golf GTI engine bumps up a bit to 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. With a difference of 13 hp and 15 lb-ft of torque, coupled with the Jetta weighing nearly 250 lbs more, it doesn’t look great for the sedan if you are after the faster of the two. Car&Driver tested the 2023 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 0-60 at a brisk 6.1 seconds for the manual transmission car. The 2023 Volkswagen Golf GTI, however, has a full second faster 0-60 when equipped with the DCT. 

Volkswagen Jetta GLI or Volkswagen Golf GTI: Which one should you buy?

2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI front
2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI | Volkswagen

Overall, it is hard to go wrong with either of these top trim models from Volkswagen. The performance of the GTI outshines the GLI, along with being a more nimble and fun hatchback. Coming in only one trim, the fully-loaded Autobahn, the 2023 Volkswagen Jetta GLI starts at $30,995 for the manual transmission. Buyers can bump to $31,795 for the DCT and another $595 for the Black package.

As for the 2023 Volkswagen Golf GTI, the manual transmission equipped car starts at $29,545. However, the comparable fully-loaded GTI Autobahn sets you back $37,955 or $38,775, depending on transmission choice. If you’re a diehard Volkswagen fan, you will be happier.


How Much Is a Fully-Loaded 2023 Volkswagen Jetta GLI?