The 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI is the last iteration of the seventh-generation GTI, as it’s slated to be replaced by an all-new eighth-generation model in the 2021 model year. Still an adept performer, the GTI doesn’t feel as long in the tooth as you might expect from a vehicle in its last model year before a significant redesign, and it offers arguably the best performance of any vehicle available at this price point. It’s also extremely practical thanks to its spacious hatchback design, which allows for up to 23 cu ft. of cargo space behind the second row, or a massive 53 cu ft. with the second row folded flat.
Because the GTI rides six-tenths of an inch lower than the run-of-the-mill Golf it’s based on, its spring rates are a little stiffer — but we doubt anyone will complain, given how well the GTI handles. Additionally, the adaptive damping system optional on the SE trim offers an array of settings ranging from comfort- to performance-oriented. The GTI also has quicker steering than the Golf, which makes it feel more eager and direct.
There are hotter hatches out there — Volkswagen‘s Golf R and the Honda Civic Type-R come to mind — but the GTI offers a very usable 228 horsepower, making it extremely fun to drive around town, on the highway and on country roads. It’s a comprehensive package that combines agility, comfort, practicality and sophistication into a very affordable offering.
In a lot of ways, it’s the perfect car.
What’s New for 2020?
The 2020 GTI gains the next generation of VW’s Car-Net telematics system along with Wi-Fi hotspot capability (so long as you pay for a subscription). Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are now standard. Two trim levels are offered for 2020: S and SE. The Autobahn trim has been reduced to a package offered on the SE.
While every 2018 and 2019 VW came with an impressive 6-year/72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty that was fully transferrable, VW has reduced this to 4-years/50,000 miles for 2020. See the 2020 Volkswagen GTI models for sale near you
What We Like
- Exceptional driving experience
- Understated design
- High-class cabin
- Super-practical hatchback design
What We Don’t
- Reduced warranty
- Questionable reliability
- Limited packaging
- Pricey when fully loaded
The GTI uses a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that sends 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels. The GTI comes standard with a smooth-shifting 6-speed manual transmission. The lightning-fast 7-speed DSG — VW’s dual-clutch direct-shift automatic transmission — is available for $800 and comes with paddle shifters and a trick launch control feature.
The EPA rates the 2020 GTI at 24 miles per gallon in the city, 32 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg in combined driving with the manual transmission. The DSG gets 25 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
The GTI comes in two different trim levels for 2020. Each trim comes standard with Wi-Fi capability, provided you subscribe to a data plan.
The S trim ($29,515) gets the ball rolling with 18-in alloy wheels, a limited-slip differential, LED fog lights, LED daytime running lights and LED taillights, a rear spoiler, heated side mirrors, heated front washer nozzles, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, air conditioning, plaid cloth upholstery (a GTI specialty), aluminum-look pedals, heated front seats with manual adjustment and power recline, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, ambient cabin lighting, 60/40-split folding rear seats with a central pass-through, a trip computer, a 6.5-in touchscreen, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, a 6-speaker audio system, a USB port, a rearview camera, satellite radio and a new version of VW’s Car-Net telematics system, which offers automatic crash notification, roadside assistance, remote vehicle access, stolen vehicle location and geofencing, which lets parents establish limits for teen drivers.
For 2020, the S gains forward-collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert as standard. High-performance summer tires are a no-cost option.
SE ($33,115) adds a powered tilt-and-slide sunroof, adaptive LED headlights, leather seating surfaces and an 8-in touchscreen infotainment system.
There’s no Autobahn trim level in 2020 — it’s now a package available on the SE trim. The $4,300 package brings navigation, a 12-way power adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar adjustment, automatic dual-zone climate control, a self-dimming rearview mirror, DCC adaptive damping (which includes adjustable shock absorbers and a larger rear anti-roll bar), a Fender audio system, a navigation system, front and rear parking sensors, lane-keeping assist, automated parallel and perpendicular parking, automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control.
The GTI comes standard with automatic emergency braking with forward-collision alert and pedestrian detection plus blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. The Autobahn package adds front and rear parking sensors, lane-keeping assist, automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control. The basic safety equipment also includes anti-lock disc brakes, automatic hill hold, stability and traction control and front-side, side-curtain airbags and a driver’s-side knee airbag. Volkswagen also includes as standard a post-collision braking feature that automatically applies the brakes after an impact to reduce the chances or severity of a second accident.
The GTI scored the maximum 5-star overall rating in crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, scoring four stars in front-impact tests and five stars in side-impact tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the GTI its highest score, Good, in all its major categories and named it a Top Safety Pick.
Behind the Wheel
The GTI’s potent powertrain, exceptional handling and well-tuned chassis make for a fun, confident ride. This is a car with a usable power band — you can have a ton of fun with it without running the risk of winding up in a ditch or in jail. The limited-slip differential helps transition quickly from one direction to another.
Otherwise, the GTI offers a great, comfortable cabin with high-end materials and an upscale design. Passenger space is good, even in the back seat. Cargo space is even better, with about 23 cu ft. behind the second row and almost 53 cu ft. with the second row folded down. The GTI offers the best of a lot of different worlds.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Hyundai Veloster N — The Veloster N was new for 2019 and was the first bonafide performance edition of Hyundai‘s quirky 3-door Veloster hatchback. With an optional Performance Pack that nets a limited-slip differential, Brembo brakes, a variable exhaust system and a 25-hp bump (for a total of 275 hp), the Veloster N is tough to beat. And don’t forget about Hyundai’s industry-leading warranty.
2020 Honda Civic Si — The Civic Si‘s engine isn’t turbocharged and cranks out 205 horsepower — modest by today’s standards. A 6-speed manual is the only transmission. Sedan and coupe body styles are offered.
2020 Subaru WRX — The WRX is sedan-only. All-wheel drive is standard, which is useful in bad weather and through corners. It has a lower-rent interior, though, and as a whole is badly in need of a redesign.
Used Volkswagen Golf R — The Golf R is more powerful, and AWD comes standard. Otherwise, outside of some mild stylistic filigrees, the features are virtually the same as the GTI’s. Given the typical reliability of an out-of-warranty German car, look for one with a warranty.
A loaded 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI with the Autobahn package is pricey, but it comes with virtually everything the GTI has to offer, making it into arguably the best front-wheel-drive small car on sale today. It’s good to see that the basic S trim comes with a good array of standard equipment, but we still think the basic SE trim is a good middle-ground choice. If only you could get it with the awesome plaid interior that comes in the S. Find a Volkswagen GTI for sale