What’s the Difference Between the Volkswagen Golf and GTI?

Volkswagen makes a lot of great cars, and there are quite a few options available for customers to choose from. For example, the VW Golf is the classic small car that rivals the likes of the Honda Civic or the Toyota Camry. That said, the VW Golf has a cousin, the VW GTI, and while these cars are very much related, there are quite a few differences too. 

The big difference between the Volkswagen Golf and GTI

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Just like VW of Palm Springs wrote, the GTI isn’t actually that different from the regular Golf. In fact, technically speaking, the GTI is called the Golf GTI since it’s more or less a trim of the Golf.

Like its name may imply however, the GTI is a performance-oriented trim, and it turns the Golf from being a boring but useful small car into a fast and furious little beast. 

The Golf has only one engine option, according to Consumer Reports, and that’s a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that gets 147-hp. This is a pretty run-of-the-mill engine that isn’t really sporty but, at the very least, it’s relatively fuel efficient as it gets about 25 MPG in the city and 36 MPG on highways.

The GTI, meanwhile, comes with a standard 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that gets, according to Consumer Reports, 228-hp. While there’s usually a trade-off between horsepower and fuel economy, this powerful little engine still gets an estimated 24 MPG in the city and 34 MPG on highways, according to VW of Palm Springs.

Smaller differences between the two Volkswagens 

A bigger engine isn’t the only difference, however, and the GTI also comes with other performance enhancements. VW of Palm Springs said that the GTI also has a performance monitor and adaptive chassis control.

Unsurprisingly, these upgrades make the GTI a far more exciting car to drive, as it can go fast and also drive smoothly and comfortably, according to Consumer Reports. 

But upgrades don’t come free, and the GTI is significantly more expensive than the Golf is. VW of Palm Springs wrote that the Golf has an MSRP of about $20,000, while the GTI has an MSRP of over $25,000. 

To be fair to the Golf however, like Consumer Reports wrote, the Golf drives pretty well, too. And, while Consumer Reports admits that the GTI is the more popular car, the Golf does have fewer flaws than the GTI does.

Consumer Reports wrote that the GTI has a single flaw, and that has to do with its “spotty reliability.” On the other hand, the Golf had, according to Consumer Reports, no flaws whatsoever. 

Are the Volkswagen Golf and GTI good cars?

Overall, Consumer Reports really liked the Golf. Consumer Reports wrote that, “If car buying were purely a rational process, a car like the Golf would be the only one most people would need.”

That being said, car buying doesn’t seem to be a rational process, since, unfortunately, the 2021 model year of the Golf will be the last model year for the Golf in the U.S. 

Like most models that get discontinued, the Golf isn’t selling that well in America, and VW only sold about 22,000 of them in 2020. For comparison, popular models of other cars routinely sell that many units in a single month. 

Fortunately, even though the GTI can be seen as a trim of the Golf, the GTI is so popular that VW is not discontinuing it in America. As such, this will probably be the final and perhaps the biggest difference between the two cars.

New GTIs will still be available in America in the near future, while the 2021 Golf will be the last model year for the foreseeable future.