A lot of compact cars can be had as either a sedan or a hatchback.
To distinguish between the two, manufactures usually alter a vehicle’s model name with something like Sport, GT, 5-Door, etc. Volkswagen though does things differently. The company doesn’t just take it a step further; it leaps forward twenty paces. Not only do VW’s compact sedan and hatchback have different names, they’re built on two completely different platforms.
That’s not to say the Volkswagen Golf and Jetta don’t share a lot in common, but there are a lot of differences. Some are obvious, others not. To see which compact is the better all-around package, we gathered similarly equipped versions of the Jetta and Golf for a head to head comparison.
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MQB vs PQ35
The Jetta is still based on the aging PQ35 platform while the Golf uses VW’s new MQB architecture. In plain English, it means the Golf has more modern, rigid and accommodating underpinnings. Even in the front seat, the Golf feels more spacious than the Jetta despite being shorter nose to tail.
For better or worse, Volkswagen vehicles tend not to be aesthetically exciting. Despite being built on different chassis structures, the far newer Golf doesn’t distinguish itself all that much from the older Jetta. Nevertheless, it’s hard to criticize either car from a design standpoint. They both have the sort of reserved German styling that lends to their mature appearance.
Delightful to Drive
The Golf and the Jetta are two of the more responsive and fun to drive cars in the compact segment. Both offer plenty of power, courtesy of Volkswagen’s punchy 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 170 HP. Although this number may not seem huge, the low end torque and smooth operation from the little turbo engine really sets these cars apart from their competition.
Handling has always been a forte for Volkswagens and both the Golf and the Jetta continue this lineage. With well-sorted steering and a decently balanced chassis set up, either car can be fun to hustle down the road.
It isn’t until they are really pushed hard into a corner that the differences start to show. The Jetta drives well, but the new Golf a blast – for a regular compact. It feels more nimble and precise when maneuvered quickly.
That’s partially because of the structure, but it’s also because the new Golf comes with the same XDS differential system from the previous generation GTI that helps it better carry speed through corners by slowing the inside wheel.
Differing Forms of Comfort
But there are some trade-offs to the Golf’s sporty nature. Although both Volkswagens are comfortable, the Golf is a little stiffer over bumps and can get upset easier on rough pavement.
But driver comfort does favor the Golf. The way the seat, armrests and primary controls are laid out in the Golf feels just right. The Jetta’s layout is quite good in its own right, but the bottom seat cushions and dashboard design don’t feel as driver-orientated as in the Golf.
|Vehicle||2015 Volkswagen Golf||Advantage||2015 Volkswagen Jetta|
|Engine (as tested)||1.8 L turbocharged four-cylinder||-||1.8 L turbocharged four-cylinder|
|Horsepower||170 HP||-||170 HP|
|Torque||184 lb-ft.||-||184 lb-ft.|
|Weight||2,901-3,032 lbs.||Golf||2,859-3,296 lbs.|
|Cargo Space||22.8 cubic feet||Golf||15.7 cubic feet|
|Fuel Economy (US)||25 MPG city, 36 MPG Hwy||Jetta||25 MPG City, 37 MPG Hwy|
|Fuel Economy (CDN)||9.3 L/100 km City, 6.4 L/100 km Hwy||-||9.3 L/100 km City, 6.3 L/100 km Hwy|
|Observed Fuel Economy||31.0 MPG||Jetta||31.8 MPG|
|Top Trim Price(US)||$32,005||-||$32,100|
|Top Trim Price(CDN)||$36,195||Golf||$36,620|
Similar Interiors, But with Differences
The interiors of both Volkswagens continue the constrained, mature design theme seen outside. Being newer, the Golf comes with an updated style that makes it nicer to sit in, but overall the differences between the two cars are minimal.
With an inch less rear headroom, the Jetta’s back seat cannot accommodate as tall of passengers as the Golf, but there is a lot more legroom in the Jetta, 2.5-inches to be exact. Overall, comfort for rear seat passengers is a wash between the two cars as both have their pros and cons.
The Jetta comes with the largest trunk in the compact car segment, offering 15.7 cubic feet. But it can’t match the storage capacity of a hatchback like the Golf, which offers 22.8 cubic feet. That’s roughly 45 percent more capacity. Yeah, it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison, but it’s still important to keep in mind exactly how much capacity you give up or gain on one side or the other.
The Value Proposition
There are a lot of choices with the Golf and Jetta. Both can be had with a turbocharged diesel engine in addition to the gasoline engine equipped in our test cars. The Jetta takes things a few steps further by offering an old as dirt entry level 2.0-liter four-cylinder as well as a hybrid drivetrain – neither of which would land on our recommended list. The Golf counters with a choice of body styles.
A four door Golf equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission starts at $21,815. That’s pretty much the same as the Jetta when opting for the same powertrain. But load up the 1.8-liter turbo model and the Golf will crest the $28,000 mark. That’s a big increase over a fully loaded turbocharged gasoline Jetta that tops out $26,200. But that extra cash for the Golf does include a real panoramic sunroof and some niceties like automatic headlights.
The Verdict: 2015 Volkswagen Golf vs 2015 Volkswagen Jetta
The Golf offers more space, more equipment and more of pretty much everything. Yes, that means it can be more expensive, but it’s a worthwhile expense considering how much more you’re getting. The new Golf isn’t just better than the Jetta; it’s easily one of the best cars in the affordable compact segment.
2015 Volkswagen Golf
2015 Volkswagen Jetta