The Volkswagen Golf is a mainstay of the automaker’s lineup. In its various incarnations, it has been a best seller for decades. Two of the most popular versions are the Golf TSI and the Golf GTI. While both cars have their fans, there are some key differences that set them apart. Here, we look at those differences and help you decide which version is right for you.
What is Golf TSI?
-Volkswagen’s TSI technology is designed to use an Atkinson cycle engine for improved fuel economy, lower emissions, and more power. It first appeared on the Mk6 GTI, which combined a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with direct injection to deliver 200 hp and 207 lb.-ft of torque. This was paired with either a six-speed manual or DSG transmission.
What is Golf GTI?
-The Golf GTI is the higher performance version of the TSI. Like its sibling, it was first introduced on the Mk6 platform, combining a turbocharged 2.0 litre engine with direct injection to deliver 210 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque mated to either a six-speed manual or DSG transmission. The main differences between the TSI and GTI can be found under the hood, where the GTI has a larger turbocharger and intercooler, 7.0 psi of boost (as opposed to ~5psi) and twin fuel injectors per cylinder which pump fuel into the cylinders at higher pressure (350 bar vs 250 bar).
Features of Golf TSI vs GTI
Golf TSI vs Golf GTI: Design
-Both cars use the same basic design, which is a modern interpretation on Volkswagen’s classic styling. The GTI adds LED daytime running lights and 17″ alloy wheels. It also comes with xenon headlights and fog lights as standard equipment. Both cars use a power-operated retractable metal roof.
Golf TSI vs GTI: Powertrains
-The Golf TSI has a 1.8 litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 150 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque mated to either a six-speed manual or DSG transmission (an optional 4Motion all-wheel drive system is also available on some models). The GTI features the same 2.0 litre turbocharged four cylinders as the TSI, but outputs 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque mated to either a six-speed manual or DSG transmission (heavier duty transmissions are standard equipment on more powerful versions like the Autobahn and R). Both use front wheel drive, although 4Motion all-wheel drive is an option on the GTI in the US only.
Golf TSI vs GTI: Performance
-Both cars deliver similar performance numbers; the sole advantage going to the larger turbo and intercooler on the GTI (7 psi vs 5 psi). Both cars use an electronically controlled limited slip differential which sends power not only to the front wheels, but also to the outside rear when cornering. This results in even more balanced handling — particularly under hard driving when inside wheels spin at similar speeds (torque-vectoring).
Golf TSI vs GTI: Features
-Both cars come with standard equipment like power locks, windows and mirrors. However, the TSI comes with standard Sirius XM Satellite Radio whereas it’s an extra on the GTI (although both are compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay). The TSI also has a traditional keyless entry set up (which is becoming increasingly rare), while the GTI instead uses Volkswagen’s “easy close” system where you simply push down to shut, then pull up to open. The first generation of this system had some problems — particularly when trying to open near metal objects like lamp posts or other cars — but was much improved by the second generation. Which Golf is right for you?
-The Golf TSI is the more economical of the two, but still delivers good performance and excellent handling. The GTI offers an extra boost in power (and slightly better fuel economy), along with larger wheels, xenon lights and all-wheel drive availability. It also has a more advanced keyless entry system, although if you like having satellite radio (or Android Auto / Apple CarPlay) standard equipment on your car then go for the TSI.
Golf TSI vs GTI: Interior
-The Golf TSI has the advantage here, as it’s basically identical to the mid-sized Jetta (which was recently refreshed). The GTI, on the other hand is fairly dated with design cues like the red stripe across the dashboard only seen in early Volkswagen models. It also features a traditional keyless entry system — push to lock and pull to open; whereas later by generations of Volkswagens use a push-to-close button and pull down to open. This results in several issues including accidental lockouts when you accidentally press close instead of open or vice versa.
Golf TSI vs GTI: Dimensions
-The TSI is very slightly larger in every dimension except height, where it’s roughly equal. The larger wheels on the GTI result in a slightly wider track which improves handling but reduces interior space. It also comes with a backup camera as standard equipment, while it’s an option on the TSI.
Golf TSI vs Golf GTI: Exterior
-The TSI has a more modern look to it, with LED daytime running lights and 17-inch alloy wheels as standard equipment. The GTI has xenon headlights (a dealer-installed upgrade is available) and 18-inch alloy rims. In terms of exterior dimensions, both cars are very similar although Volkswagen did recently update the styling of both — including new bumpers for both models. The TSI now looks very much like its Jetta sibling inside and out.
Golf TSI vs Golf GTI: Cargo Room
-The TSI has a bit more space for your cargo, with 11.3 cubic feet of space compared to 10 cu ft in the GTI. The difference is so small it might be difficult to notice in real life — especially if you have a large enough garage or driveway to store both cars side by side at home.
Golf TSI vs GTI: Engine and Transmission
-Both come standard with a 1.4-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine; however, the TSI has an upgraded version that makes 147 horsepower compared to 115 hp in the GTI (and up to 170 horsepower in Performance trim). That’s important when you consider that both cars come in either front-wheel drive (FWD) or optional (but in the GTI only) four-wheel drive (4×4). The advanced damping system in the TSI takes advantage of all this power and makes it much less likely that you’ll end up stuck in snow or mud.
Golf TSI vs Golf GTI: Fuel Economy
-The smaller engine may offer more low-end torque, but it also delivers worse fuel economy than the somewhat larger unit found in the TDI diesel version. It’s EPA estimated at 28 mpg combined for FWD models and 27 mpg combined with 4×4. That’s roughly 10% lower than either a 2WD TDI model or a manual transmission.
Golf TSI vs Golf GTI: Price
-The TSI is a bit less expensive with a starting price of $20,995 compared to the GTI which starts at $24,495 for a standard Golf SE model.
Golf TSI vs GTI: Safety
-Both the TSI and GTI come standard with antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. The optional Driver Assistance Package adds blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert to this list. That makes the TSI slightly better protected in case of an accident; however, both cars (including the GTI) achieve top safety ratings from various consumer publications such as the IIHS (TDI only).
Golf TSI vs Golf GTI: Cool Fact!
-The Golf was one of two cars planned for production at Volkswagen’s new plant in Chattanooga Tennessee. It was planned as a Jetta (for sale worldwide except North America), and a USA-only Golf until Mazda objected and forced Volkswagen to bring the car here.
Golf TSI vs Golf GTI: Accessories
-The Golf R (reviewed above) is very similar to the GTI in exterior and interior styling, with a few extras such as an upgraded engine. At around $35k it’s closer in price to the upcoming TSI CC which will sit above the standard version and offer more power, luxury, and equipment upgrades.
Golf TSI vs Golf GTI: Dimensions
-The GTI is slightly longer (161.5 inches) with a wider track (62.8 inches). The TSI has shorter front and rear overhangs but is 1 inch taller than the GTI with its 18-inch alloy wheels.
Golf TSI vs Golf GTI: Tires and Wheels
-The GTI comes with standard 17-inch alloy wheels, while the TSI has 18’s as an optional feature. The GTI also offers a 4×4 option for around $1k more than the TSI or TDI.
Golf TSI vs GTI: Colors
-Both have roughly 10 color choices each including some hues not available on all trims of either car… so pick carefully!
Golf TSI vs Golf GTI: Comfort and Reliability
-Both have standard power windows, locks, and mirrors. Both have a central locking system with an “electronic immobilizer” that will disable the starter if it detects a problem. The TSI will give you a bit more front legroom, but the GTI has more rear space overall thanks to its sloping roofline. Flooring is either carpet or rubberized plastic in both cases.
Golf TSI vs Golf GTI: Popularity
-The TDI (diesel) is the most popular model in the Golf lineup, followed by the TSI. The GTI comes in at number three behind both. However, this could be changing with the new high-performance versions being rolled out for 2014… so keep your eyes open!
The similarities of Golf TSI and Golf GTI:
-Mechanically, both the TSI and GTI have a sport suspension. The basic chassis is identical in terms of dimensions and strength. Both come with antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag for safety.
The differences of Golf TSI and Golf GTI:
-Both the TSI and GTI come standard with a 5-speed manual transmission while a 6-speed automatic is available on both cars as well. That’s where most of the similarities end though – from there you can get FWD or 4×4 on the TSI but not on the GTI which only comes in 4×4 trim (GTD is front wheel drive only). And that’s just on the base models… the Golf R has a completely different powertrain as mentioned above.
-Higher trim levels, especially with the TSI and GTI, can offer different features such as a panorama sunroof, upgraded audio systems with navigation and satellite radio compatibility. Both have heated leather seating surfaces as an option too.
-The Golf TDI is powered by a turbodiesel engine that makes 140hp at 4,000rpm and 236lb ft of torque from 1,750 to 3,250rpm. That gives it a 0-60 time of approximately 10 seconds depending on gear ratios and conditions – which is not bad for a small diesel!
The Golf TSI uses a 1.8-liter turbocharged gasoline engine that makes 170hp at 4,500rpm and 184lb ft of torque from 1,400 to 4,400rpm. It too has variable valve timing (VVT) and direct injection for better economy and emissions… but the TDI’s power comes on lower in the rev range for greater midrange punch.
-Both models come with standard front wheel drive – except for the top end GTI which comes with 4motion all-wheel drive as an option. The TSI gets around 45mpg while the TDI can get up to 50mpg if you stay out of the boost!
-It’s largely subjective, but overall, the TSI might be considered the more sensible buy of the two. It has pretty much all you need in terms of safety, comfort, and fuel efficiency… plus it carries a lower price tag to boot! On the other hand, if having an autobox isn’t a deal breaker for you then go with the TDI or even R – both are good drivers’ cars that will put some fun back into your daily commute! The choice is yours – just grab one of our used VWs before they’re gone!
What is the primary difference between a Golf TSI and Golf GTI?
-The TSI is the more sensible Golf, while the GTI is more performance oriented. So if you want to be cozy and save on gas – get a TSI. If you want to be sporty – go with the GTI!
Which Car is right for me?
The TSI is a little more fuel efficient, but the GTI is sportier. If you’re looking for an economically smart daily driver – get the TSI. If you want something that’s fun to drive and has some power – go with the GTI!
>>> See more: Golf TSI vs GTI vs Golf MSI
If you’re looking for the engine that’s more fun to drive, gets up and goes – but also good on gas… get the GTI. If you want an economical mode of transportation with utility and safety in mind – go with the TSI. It really all boils down to what you want out of your car!