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Volkswagen has had a history of subpar sales in the United States. Many of its new vehicles look promising, like the 2021 Atlas SUV and a new all-electric car. Still, the brand has a reputation with some critics for unreliability which makes potential buyers steer clear.

However, before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the company’s U.S. sales had been steadily on the rise. The Golf GTI and the Jetta GLI even scored places on Car and Driver’s 10 Best list for 2020. Let’s look at both of these cars and see why each took home an award.

The Volkswagen Golf GTI

The GTI is one of the most affordable sports cars on the current market. Under the hood, it comes with a 2.0-liter turbo-four engine capable of 228 hp. It comes with two transmission options: a manual six-speed and a seven-speed automatic.

All-wheel drive isn’t offered, but the Golf GTI has available drive modes to enhance its performance. It also comes with standard smartphone integration, a Wi-fi hotspot, and a highly-receptive touchscreen. All safety features, like blind-spot monitoring and pedestrian detection, are optional.

What critics loved about the car

Car and Driver had almost only good things to say about the Volkswagen Golf GTI. Its turbocharged engine makes it fun to drive without being too much to handle. They also appreciated the car’s quick acceleration. According to their tests, it can get from 0-60 mph in as little as 5.5 seconds.

Car and Driver reported that both transmission options pair well with the engine. Reviewers were also impressed to find out that the car gets better gas mileage in real-world testing. They noted that it’s hard to find a sporty hatchback that can match the Golf GTI’s relatively low price tag.

Other critics also had good things to say about the Golf GTI. U.S. News named it the best compact car of 2020. Like Car and Driver, the site’s review praised the car’s agile handling and powerful engine. They also liked the GTI’s cargo capacity, which is larger than many other compact cars.

The GTI also got a great rating on its road test from Consumer Reports. Testers found cabin noise to be minimal and the fine-tuned suspension absorbed many harsh bumps on the road. They were also particularly impressed with the Golf GTI’s braking power.

The Volkswagen Jetta GLI

A Volkswagen Jetta GLI on display at an auto show
A Volkswagen Jetta GLI | Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The GLI is the sportier version of the Volkswagen Jetta, the Golf GTI’s sedan counterpart. The GLI shares many aspects of the GTI hatchback including the same engine and large storage capacity. Critics also say that it’s much better than the standard Jetta.

The base Jetta has a weaker engine, only capable of 147 hp. While it delivers adequate power in most situations, U.S. News says that it’s definitely not as exciting as the GLI. Edmunds noted that it doesn’t have an upscale cabin and can be hard to steer. The standard Volkswagen Jetta also has a lower reliability rating from Consumer Reports.

Great reviews about the Volkswagen Jetta GLI

While it lacks the fancy interior of the Golf GTI, Car and Driver actually think the GLI is the more practical option. It’s just as fast on the road, plus provides passengers with the same ample and comfortable seating. It’s also almost $3,000 less than its hatchback cousin.

The Jetta GLI also has standard safety features, which are absent on the Golf GTI. Drivers get rear cross-traffic alert, automatic emergency braking, and forward-collision warning. Carbuzz also praised the GLI’s variety of standard features, including the engaging manual transmission. No matter which car you prefer, both the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Jetta GLI exhibit awesome performance.


Sales Figures Prove the Volkswagen GTI Is Criminally Underrated