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The GLI and the GTI are peas in a pod, heavily related siblings dressed in the same sporty appearance and bolstered by torquey, turbocharged engines. Their entry-level performance is paired with top safety features, solid fuel economy, and practical layouts that make them perfect examples of why you don’t need to ditch fun on your everyday commute. But at the end of the day, the Jetta GLI and Golf GTI are different. Diving into their exact features and specs reveals small but meaningful differences that just might be the deciding factor in a decision. So which is right for you? Here are the five most impactful differences benefitting GLI ownership.


More Rear Leg Room

The GTI and GLI are much of the same car under the surface. However, their specific body shells are different. As a sedan, the GLI doesn’t get the same vertical storage space that the hatchback GTI does, but consequently, the GLI’s rear seats sit a skosh farther back in the chassis thanks to a slightly longer wheelbase. The Mk6 and Mk7 GTI have 35.5” of rear seat leg room and 54.6” of elbow room, but the GLI’s seating allows for more. Passengers in the back get an extra 2.6” for their legs and 1.8” for their elbows. While that doesn’t sound like much, every inch counts when regularly transporting people or working with a car seat. 


Less Expensive

Of all the benefits that push the GLI over the GTI, the bit of extra cash you get to retain is the sweetest of all. In a similar way that sporty convertibles often command less than their coupe counterparts on the used market, the Jetta GLI doesn’t retain its value nearly as well. That’s not because it’s a worse car or has more problems; the GTI is just a bit more popular. The hatch is the right size for a daily that won’t typically have people in the back, especially not kids. On the other hand, the GLI is the more family-oriented version because of its size, and those are just less in demand. Fewer families are looking for a second-hand sporty sedan than college kids are looking for a spunky daily hatch, and you can use that to your advantage.  

Mk6 Jetta GLI Pricing

At the top of the range, the Mk6 GLI is competing with the latest Mk7 GTIs, which has a hefty power advantage, a weight advantage, and a VAQ differential. There’s about a $6000-$8000 price gap between the GLI and GTI, with the latter averaging $30,000 and between 25,000 and 45,000 miles. GLIs in the same age range and carrying similar mileage average about $23,000. The gap between them is non-existent near the bottom. Examples with between 75,000 and 100,000 miles sit right on either side of the $13500 mark; consider those the last of the potentially daily-able.


More Comfortable In Commute

Physical differences aside, the GTI and GLI badging explain what purpose the two models serve. The T in GTI stands for Turismo or Touring, while the L in GLI stands for Luxe or Luxury. It’s why the GTI comes with more performance and a few fewer features than the GLI; it’s for those looking for the ultimate sporty experience. On the other hand, the GLI offers some sporting prowess but is wrapped in a more luxurious and refined package. While not a Rolls-Royce, the GLI wears a softer and taller “sport” suspension than the GTI. The GLI will also typically have a quieter cabin, thanks to minor engine bay differences. However, this exact decibel level will vary based on the tires fitted to the vehicle. Snow and sticky summer tires will produce more noise than typical all-seasons. 

Stiffer springs are always available from the aftermarket, and the multi-link rear suspension is identical to the GTI, so the option for improved handling performance is always there. The same goes for a little extra noise. Freer-flowing, less muffled intake and exhaust components are widely available for the GLI, and they’ll bring a performance benefit, too.


More Usable Trunk

The Jetta GLI is about 17” longer than the Golf GTI, and just about all of that comes aft of the front seats. While some of that adds space for the rear occupants, most of that length comes in the form of a larger trunk. As such, the Jetta is instrumental in day-to-day usage; it is just a sporty sedan. That’s not to say the GTI isn’t functional in that capacity either—it’s one of the most versatile hatches you can buy, and it’ll hold plenty with the seats folded down—but the GLI has much more useable space. 

Trunk Comparsion

On paper, the GTI has more storage, 22.8 cu ft vs. the GLI’s 15.5, but that doesn’t make it more practical. The only benefit to the GTI, in this case, comes down to the shape of the storage. Because of the hatch and theoretical ability to stack cargo up to the headliner, the GTI gets more cargo volume on paper. However, real-world practice shows that the Jetta GLI is far better suited to the average family than the GTI, thanks to its more usable cargo area. 


Better Standard Equipment

When browsing for a GTI or GLI, you’ll find that there are four or five trims to choose from, each with a varying level of equipment. Realistically, you’ll want to find the best condition vehicle you can with a complete service history. That’s the best way to avoid potential headaches and a burning wallet. But we all have needs and wants, which positions us to look for specific trims. 


Generally, the most basic GLI trim has extra features over an equivalent GTI. Park Distance Control, keyless entry (KESSY), a multifunction steering wheel, and Climatronic electronic climate control are all included in the 2013 model year GLI. Towards the end of Mk6 GLI production, the Mk7 GTI was closer in equipment but still left a few features to optional trims and packages. The narrative does flip at the top end of the range, though. The GTI Autobahns feature significantly more tech and performance than a fully loaded Mk6 GLI.  

No matter your choice, you’ll have a generally reliable, fun, and practical vehicle that’ll take you anywhere you want. Once you have your VW, be sure to service it with the best OE, OEM, and Genuine parts backed up by an uneatable Lifetime Replacement Guarantee. As always, look out for more great written content on the blog, and subscribe to our YouTube channel for cool builds and DIYs.

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Written by :
Christian Schaefer

Car and motorsports-obsessed writer/editor for FCP Euro's DIY Blog. Constantly dreaming of competing behind the wheel or searching for another project. Owner of a turbo Subaru Forester and a ratty Porsche 914, neither of which are running.

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