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What to buy? GTI or GLI? That is the question...

2021 GTI S or GLI S?

  • GTI is on another level, and I'd pay more for it

    Votes: 43 82.7%
  • GLI is a better deal, and can be made just as good

    Votes: 9 17.3%

  • Total voters
    52

RollCage

New member
Location
ABQ
Car(s)
Ford F250
Hello!

New to the forum, first post, and it's a doozy. I have a quick review, and a dilemma:

Do I buy a GTI? Or a GLI?

I'm sure since this is the Golf Mk7 forum, I'm going to get some skewed results, but I'm curious to hear if anyone has had similar thoughts. I recently test drove both the 2021 GTI S and the GLI S (not interested in the more expensive trim levels), both with the DSG . Here's what I made of them:

GTI:
+ Interior "feel" is nicer (materials)
+ Base sound system is marginally better
+ Better overall seating*
+ Hatchback is more versatile
+ Handling seems to be more flickable and lively
+/- More special
- No LED headlights on base trim
- No keyless entry and push button start on base trim
- ~$2000 more expensive
- Ride is slightly less comfortable

GLI:
+ Better Interior layout
+ Base trim includes LED headlights and keyless entry/push button start
+ Ambient lighting is cool
+ Slightly more comfortable for regular driving
+ ~$2000 cheaper
+/- More of a sleeper
- Sound system is worse (to my ears, in comparison)
- Heavier "feel", less flickable/lively
- Sedan is slightly less versatile than the hatchback
- Interior feel is slightly cheaper feeling

I enjoyed both of these cars. The GTI certainly feels smaller than their differences would lead you to believe: only a 2" difference in wheelbase, 17" overall difference in length, and ~100lbs difference in curb weight (as compared to the GLI). The GTI feels more lively, a bit more direct, and a bit more willing. The GLI feels a bit heavier, and slightly less responsive. As I noted, you wouldn't think the differences would add up to much, but back to back they certainly do. If I had to put a finger on it, I think that the GLI has slightly worse suspensions components and tires than the GTI, because it felt like the GLI had more body roll and understeer than the GTI. I'm far from a professional, with my only sport car experience being that I used to own (and thoroughly hoon) a 2004 S2000, but from the two test drives I took, the GTI definitely felt more "special" to me than the GLI.

On the flip side though: the GLI comes with some nice quality of life upgrades, and for $2k less than a comparable GTI, it starts to make you wonder... Would it be better to start with the GLI? The interior layout of the GLI is better. Having the infotainment higher up and angled towards the driver is really nice. Overall, despite the interior quality in the GLI feeling slightly cheaper, it has a much more modern feel, that's more driver oriented. I found the quality of the seats between the two to be adequate. Yes, the GTI has more bolstering (and plaid), but the GLI base seats felt plenty comfortable. And the standard LED headlights and keyless entry are a really nice touch. I'm sure I can improve upon it's handling with swaybars, coilovers, and even adding more front camber, but after all of that, could I really get it to handle and feel more like the GTI? Or am I just deluding myself?

Oddly, my one really big unexpected gripe with the GLI is that I found the seating arrangements to be worse than the GTI, despite the added interior space. Because it's a sedan, if I sit upright in the rear seat, my head hits the roof (I'm 6'2" with only a 32" inseam, so I have a longer torso), and because of this I have to slide forward and slouch, which negates the added leg room of the GLI. In the GTI, seated behind myself, although I have less leg room, I don't have to slouch to fit. I know, I know, I'm not the best test case for this, but between this and the handling, I'm leaning more towards the GTI.

So over all, the GTI is more special feeling than the GLI, but is that "specialness" worth $2000? And is it worth that $2000 when you get a better overall base feature set for the money with the GLI? Can a GLI be made to handle as well as a GTI? Or no matter the money, you can't make a GLI feel like a GTI?

This is what I'm wrestling with, and I'd love to hear your thoughts!
 
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Chet Ubetcha

Drag Racing Champion
Location
SoCal
Car(s)
2016 GTI
You seem to have hit all the important points.

I own a MK7 GTI, but I was heavily involved with my brother in law purchasing a 2020 GLI a few weeks ago.

If I could go back, I think I still would have preferred my GTI. I couldn't get past the "cheaper feeling" interior bits, although the styling IMO is better in the GLI.

It also depends on what you want to do to your car. You had an AP2 S2K prior, there's about the same amount of aftermarket support for the GTI. The same cannot be said for the GLI.
You'd have a much easier time finding parts, and multiple options, for just about any part you could want if you had the GTI.

Just my .02
 

Keehs360

Autocross Champion
Location
Denver
Car(s)
Mk7.5
I have a 2020 gti and my wife has a 2020 gli

The gli is crazy capable and the autobahn trim is cheaper than the gti's. In this trim you'll at least get the better sound system. As far as weight and size difference, the gli isn't a cow but I certainly can feel it's extra weight in straight acceleration. In the turns it hustles well but as agile as it feels the gti is more kart like in a way. They're both really good though. Can't lose regardless which u go for.
 

Acadia18

Autocross Champion
Location
Rhode Island
Car(s)
2016 GTI SE
I'd probably get a GLI Autobahn over a GTI. Fully loaded GLI's get a few nice upgrades not available on GTI's. However, I know you said you're not interested in the higher trims. Comparing S to S, I'd probably get the GTI.
 

JC_451

Autocross Champion
Location
NJ
Car(s)
2017 GTI Sport
Based on some of the language used I feel like you've already chosen the GTI so you should just run with that.

Although halogen lights on a 2021 are an abomination so maybe keep ruminating.

Uh...sorry for being totally unhelpful 😐
 

StockblockGLI

Go Kart Newbie
Location
Northeast
Car(s)
2019 GLI
I went to sign paperwork for a new GTI S but ended up with a GLI S. I was specifically shopping for the base models as I wanted to avoid having a sunroof. The main reason the GLI feels a bit softer is because of the 45 profile tires vs 40 on the GTI and it comes with probably one of the worst sets of A/S tires on the market. Performance wise in a straight line and around the curves is a wash. In fact, C&D numbers have the GLI being slightly quicker in a straight line and at their VIR testing. In the real world, the longer base of the GLI will provide a more stable and complaint ride at higher speeds; highway driving. On the other hand, shorter wheelbase and 100 lbs diet makes the GTI a bit more eager around town but again, the tires are different on both which makes a big difference as well. For me it boiled down to having LED headlights vs plaid seats.

Put a good set of summer tires on the GLI and it can really move:

https://www.caranddriver.com/features/a29389451/2019-volkswagen-jetta-gli-lightning-lap-2019/
 

Gray_Panther

Go Kart Champion
Location
NY
Car(s)
GTi
Yeah from reading the post the only reason you are justifying the gli is for 2k in savings. Why not buy a used gti to pocket some more savings? Like a 2018 model?
 

karvanet

New member
Location
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Car(s)
2020 Golf GTI
It seem’s that you’ve made your decision but are trying to justify the added expense. Buy the one that makes you happier or you’ll regret your purchase. Also, I’m built like you, if you ever want to autocross your car the added headroom in the GTI is very important. Imagine yourself in the Jetta with a helmet on.
 

Jeffapotamus

New member
Location
NW Indiana
Car(s)
2019 GTI
I was looking at the GLI vs GTI too. Obviously, I ended up getting the GTI. My decision was mostly based on better seats, interior, visibility, and handling. I also chose a leftover 2019 so I could get the Experience Package option with the stiffer rear sway bar, better stereo, and DCC.

When I was reading reviews at the time (about a year ago), most sites said the acceleration and handling of their GTI and GLI test cars were the same. Some even said the GLI was a tiny bit faster around the corners, but pointed out the GTI loaner had all-seasons while the GLI had summer tires.
 

geokilla

Go Kart Newbie
Location
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Car(s)
2018 VW GTI DSG
My friend bought the GLI and compared to my GTI, you pretty much hit all the positives and negatives. Keep in mind the GLI doesn't have rear air vents. On hot summer days, that makes a huge difference. Especially for the rear passengers. The GLI front seats also lack tilt support, though they are at a pretty good angle to begin with. With regards to the heavier steering, a lot of that comes down to how heavy the OEM wheels are. When I swap from my OEM Miltons to my winter wheels, the steering wheel lightens up considerably. Same with when I run my track set up.

At the end of the day since you're comparing base models and there's only a $2k difference, I'd go with the GTI. If you were comparing the top models, then it'll be a much harder choice. Though I'd still lean towards the GTI. Keep in mind I'm a bit biased lol.
 

StockblockGLI

Go Kart Newbie
Location
Northeast
Car(s)
2019 GLI
Also, keep in mind that VW started cost cutting a lot with MK7.5 and with even more so with the MK7 Jetta. This isn't exclusive to the Jetta but it is evident in their entire line up. Since the GTI is a bit older, there is less evidence of this. For example, the light switch feels a lot more premium, the hood rod on the GLI feels like it was made out of rubber, no rear vents, really hard plastics on the interior door handles...Little things here and there that add up. Essentially the Jetta's interior is in between MK7 and MK8 in terms of the modern layout but it also comes with downside of post diesel gate cost cutting, while the GTI interior still retains that old school MK6-MK7 goodness quality. Perhaps this would make a lot more sense and be more evident if you owned past generations. In that sense I feel like the GTI is last of its kind as the MK8 shifted to the digital approach. Just something I wanted to point out.
 

Dog Dad Wagon

Autocross Champion
Location
Innnnn West Philadelphia...
Car(s)
19 Alltrack 6MT
Also, keep in mind that VW started cost cutting a lot with MK7.5 and with even more so with the MK7 Jetta. This isn't exclusive to the Jetta but it is evident in their entire line up. Since the GTI is a bit older, there is less evidence of this. For example, the light switch feels a lot more premium, the hood rod on the GLI feels like it was made out of rubber, no rear vents, really hard plastics on the interior door handles...Little things here and there that add up. Essentially the Jetta's interior is in between MK7 and MK8 in terms of the modern layout but it also comes with downside of post diesel gate cost cutting, while the GTI interior still retains that old school MK6-MK7 goodness quality. Perhaps this would make a lot more sense and be more evident if you owned past generations. In that sense I feel like the GTI is last of its kind as the MK8 shifted to the digital approach. Just something I wanted to point out.

you know what you’re talking about, you understand VW’s ebbs and flows and recent growing pains.
 

Keehs360

Autocross Champion
Location
Denver
Car(s)
Mk7.5
Also, keep in mind that VW started cost cutting a lot with MK7.5 and with even more so with the MK7 Jetta. This isn't exclusive to the Jetta but it is evident in their entire line up. Since the GTI is a bit older, there is less evidence of this. For example, the light switch feels a lot more premium, the hood rod on the GLI feels like it was made out of rubber, no rear vents, really hard plastics on the interior door handles...Little things here and there that add up. Essentially the Jetta's interior is in between MK7 and MK8 in terms of the modern layout but it also comes with downside of post diesel gate cost cutting, while the GTI interior still retains that old school MK6-MK7 goodness quality. Perhaps this would make a lot more sense and be more evident if you owned past generations. In that sense I feel like the GTI is last of its kind as the MK8 shifted to the digital approach. Just something I wanted to point out.
Gli interior doesn’t have led bulbs. That much I’ve noticed
 

PowerDemon

Autocross Champion
Location
Fredericksburg, VA
Car(s)
Mk7 GTI
GTI>GLI

1) Hatchbacks look cooler than a normal sedan... IMO
2) A hatch is the only thing that makes a car this small really useable
3) Better interior
4) Better aftermarket (slightly)

Good luck with your purchase.
 

GTI Jake

Autocross Champion
Location
Charlotte, NC
No wrong answer, I own both and love them.

My Gti is a poverty spec manual (with 10k worth of performance mods)

The GLI is a Autobahn DSG, so fully loaded (for the wife). I’m sitting in it now, and aside from being stock I still enjoy driving it just as much as my car. The vented seats, all the new tech and DCC put it on a whole different level of comfort over anything else you can buy for 30k, plus performance wise it’ll put a beating on that price range as well.

 
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