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The Volkswagen Golf has been around in different formats for decades, becoming one of the top-selling cars of all time. Today the Golf comes in a variety of body styles, including the Golf, Golf GTI, Golf SportWagen, Golf Alltrack, and Golf R.

Are there any true differences between the 2020 VW Golf and the 2020 VW GTI? Here’s a look at how the two compact cars compare.

Rankings for the 2020 Volkswagen Golf

Both the 2020 VW Golf and the related VW GTI have great ratings. U.S. News & World Report ranks the Golf #4 in compact cars, #5 in hatchbacks, and #5 in small cars. The GTI does even better, with a #1 ranking in compact cars, #2 in hatchbacks, and #2 in small cars from U.S. News & World Report.

U.S. News & World Report gave the Golf an overall score of 8.3 out of 10 and the GTI just a touch higher at 8.6 out of 10. Since the GTI is related to the Golf, the two cars are quite similar. One difference is that the Golf currently has only one trim (the TSI), while the GTI has three trims (S, SE, and Autobahn).


The two cars’ powertrain options are their biggest difference. The 2020 Golf’s engine is a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder generating 147 hp. It comes with a six-speed manual transmission, and an eight-speed automatic transmission is an available option.

The GTI has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 228 hp. It comes with a six-speed manual transmission, and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is available. The GTI also has driving mode selection, while the Golf does not.

Fuel economy

With its more powerful engine, the GTI’s fuel economy isn’t quite as good as the Golf’s. The Golf with automatic transmission is rated for 29 MPG in the city and 35 MPG on the highway for a combined 32 MPG. The GTI with either transmission gets 24 MPG in the city, 32 MPG on the highway, and 27 MPG combined.


The Golf and GTI have very similar interiors and features. They have high-quality interiors that seat five people. The Golf has heated front seats and synthetic leather upholstery. The GTI comes with standard Clark Plaid cloth upholstery and heated front seats, but leather is available.

Both cars have plenty of cargo room, with 22.8 cubic feet. With the rear seat down, they have 52.7 cubic feet, which is one of the largest available in the segment.


Both the Golf and the GTI provide similar technology features. They have a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system that is compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink. However, the GTI Autobahn trim has an eight-inch touchscreen navigation system. Both cars also feature the Car-Net App-Connect and a Wi-Fi hotspot.


The Golf and the GTI both have strong crash test results. Both earned five out of five stars from the NHTSA for their overall scores and their side crash ratings. They earned four out of five stars for frontal crash and rollover tests.

The IIHS gave both cars the highest rating of ‘Good’ in five crash tests and ‘Acceptable’ for small overlap front: passenger-side. Both were rated ‘Superior’ for front crash prevention: vehicle-to-vehicle and ‘Advanced’ for front crash prevention: vehicle-to-pedestrian.

The Golf got a ‘Poor’ rating for its headlights, while the GTI had an ‘Acceptable’ and a ‘Poor’ for its two headlight options. Only the GTI earned a 2019 Top Safety Pick from the IIHS

The Golf and GTI offer plenty of similar driver-assistance features. The Golf’s one trim and the GTI S share the same driver-assistance features. Along with a rearview camera, they have rain-sensing windshield wipers, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitor, rear traffic alert, and pedestrian monitoring.

The GTI SE also has the performance monitor, and the GTI Autobahn trim adds park distance control, adaptive cruise control (ACC), active blind spot monitor, and the lane keeping system.

The 2020 Volkswagen GTI has a starting price of $28,595, while the 2020 Volkswagen Golf starts at $23,195. While more expensive, U.S. News & World Report says the Volkswagen GTI is “a better car overall” than the Golf. The GTI has better acceleration and handling, but that performance does come with a higher price.

As long as you carefully consider your needs, you really can’t go wrong with either car.