Sedans & Coupes

Why the 2020 Honda Civic Si Doesn’t Measure Up To the Volkswagen GLI

Some car comparisons are just too close to name a favorite. Historically, Honda and Volkswagen faced off with their legendary and popular Civic and Jetta. But 2020 could be a model year when one victor clearly emerges. When it comes to features, performance, and equipment, the 2020 Honda Civic Si might not be up for the bout against the 2020 Volkswagen GLI. And in some critical circles, Honda’s contender doesn’t even come close to measuring up in the end.

What the 2020 Honda Civic Si gets right

There weren’t any major changes to the 2020 model Civic Si, but it really didn’t need upgrading. This car already offers a punchy turbocharged engine, impressive ride quality, and serious balance and athleticism on the pavement. And many reviews suggest the Honda Sensing suite of tech is unmatched in the market. The roster of standard equipment for infotainment and safety are robust, and the interior materials are top-notch. Edmunds noted the 2020 Civic Si did get a transmission gearing revision to a manual version with a shorter driver ratio. For those who need rev, this sporty sedan is quicker on acceleration than it’s ever been.

The 2020 Honda Civic Si looks more aggressive than it is

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When you look at the sleek and aggressive exterior styling of the Honda Civic Si, you might assume it’s a curve-hugging power racer. But it’s not as pavement-hungry as it looks. Don’t be fooled by the center exhaust, trunk wing, or stance. It has a smaller engine and less power than its Volkswagen competitor, TopSpeed reports. And some critics point out the Civic Si looks too busy and lacks the refinement and subdued nature of the Jetta GLI. But looks and style are subjective and don’t necessarily mean one model is better than another, right?

The 2020 Jetta GLI stepped up its game

In years past, critics were quick to point out a few pitfalls with the Volkswagen Jetta’s sophistication. Performance seemed to lag behind rivals in this class. But Volkswagen paid attention and certainly stepped up its game for 2020. The Jetta GLI gets the Golf’s peppy engine, along with a standard limited-slip differential. It has married its refinement with an aggressive and powerful engine.

A face-off between two iconic rivals reveals a winner this year

The Honda Civic Si and Volkswagen Jetta GLI have taken turns in edging each other out over the years. And for anyone with a $25,000-to-$35,000 budget, the decision might come down to what you value most in a sport sedan. Both offer high performance, in-cabin tech, and compelling features. But if off-the-line power and peppy aggressiveness are what you crave, there’s really only one choice in 2020.

A 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder amply powers the 2020 Honda Civic Si, and it’s capable of harnessing 205 horses. The 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 228 hp. And transmission-wise, the Honda presents the Civic Si with a 6-speed manual transmission. The Volkswagen gives you a 7-speed DSG dual-clutch variation, according to CarBuzz. It’s the transmission that gives the GLI the edge in this year’s head-to-head.

Again, both of these cars are worth considering, especially if you need powerful pick-up and acceleration. You’ll find similar offerings in tech, safety, and even fuel economy. But where the 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI separates itself from the pack — and ahead of the 2020 Honda Civic Si — is in performance. And if that’s where most of your value preferences lie, there’s one clear choice for you.