2020 BMW 3 Series Sedan vs. 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The 3 Series Sedan’s pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

The 3 Series Sedan has standard Active Head Restraints, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the Active Head Restraints system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

The 3 Series Sedan offers all-wheel drive to maximize traction under poor conditions, especially in ice and snow. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.

The 3 Series Sedan’s lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

The 3 Series Sedan offers an optional Surround View to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Jetta GLI only offers a rear monitor.

Both the 3 Series Sedan and the Jetta GLI have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.

For its top level performance in IIHS driver and passenger-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, roof strength and head restraint tests, its standard front crash prevention system, and its headlight’s “Good” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the 3 Series Sedan its highest rating: “Top Pick Plus” for 2019, a rating granted to only 46 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Jetta GLI has not been tested, yet.

Warranty

The 3 Series Sedan comes with free roadside assistance for 4 years unlimited miles. BMW will send help if you run out of gas, need a jump-start, lock your keys in or need any assistance on the road. Volkswagen doesn’t give free roadside assistance for the Jetta GLI.

The 3 Series Sedan’s corrosion warranty is 2 years longer than the Jetta GLI’s (12 vs. 10 years).

BMW pays for scheduled maintenance on the 3 Series Sedan for 3 years and 36,000 miles. BMW will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Volkswagen doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Jetta GLI.

Reliability

The battery on the 3 Series Sedan is in the trunk, which protects it from hot underhood temperatures that can degrade battery life. By keeping the 3 Series Sedan’s battery 20 to 30 degrees cooler, its life is increased by years. The Jetta GLI’s battery is in the hot engine compartment.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that BMW vehicles are better in initial quality than Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks BMW 20th in initial quality. With 11 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen is ranked 25th.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that BMW vehicles are more reliable than Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks BMW 7th in reliability, above the industry average. With 9 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen is ranked 12th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that BMW vehicles are more reliable than Volkswagen vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks BMW 8 places higher in reliability than Volkswagen.

Engine

The 330i’s standard 2.0 turbo 4-cyl. produces 27 more horsepower (255 vs. 228) and 37 lbs.-ft. more torque (295 vs. 258) than the Jetta GLI’s 2.0 turbo 4-cyl. The M340i’s standard 3.0 turbo 6-cyl. produces 154 more horsepower (382 vs. 228) and 111 lbs.-ft. more torque (369 vs. 258) than the Jetta GLI’s 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

As tested in Car and Driver the 330i is faster than the Volkswagen Jetta GLI (automatics tested):

3 Series

Jetta GLI

Zero to 60 MPH

5.2 sec

5.6 sec

Quarter Mile

13.9 sec

14.2 sec

Top Speed

156 MPH

126 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the 3 Series Sedan gets better fuel mileage than the Jetta GLI:

MPG

3 Series Sedan

RWD

Auto

330i 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

26 city/36 hwy

AWD

Auto

330i 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

25 city/34 hwy

Jetta GLI

FWD

Manual

2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

25 city/32 hwy

Auto

2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

25 city/32 hwy

Regenerative brakes improve the 3 Series Sedan’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

Regardless of its engine, the 3 Series Sedan’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) Volkswagen only offers an automatic engine start/stop system on the Jetta GLI Auto.

The 3 Series Sedan has 2.4 gallons more fuel capacity than the Jetta GLI (15.6 vs. 13.2 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Transmission

The BMW 3 Series Sedan comes standard with an automatic transmission, for driver comfort, especially in the city. Automatic costs extra on the Jetta GLI.

An eight-speed automatic is standard on the BMW 3 Series Sedan, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a seven-speed automatic is available for the Jetta GLI.

To help the driver achieve optimum performance and fuel economy, the 3 Series Sedan has a standard up-shift light to indicate when to shift based on power needs and conditions. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer an up-shift light.

The 3 Series Sedan’s launch control uses engine electronics to hold engine RPM’s precisely in order to provide the most stable and rapid acceleration possible, using all of the available traction. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer launch control.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the M340i’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Jetta GLI:

M340i

Jetta GLI

Front Rotors

13.7 inches

13.4 inches

Rear Rotors

13.6 inches

11.8 inches

Tires and Wheels

The 3 Series Sedan’s optional 225/35R20 front and 255/30R20 rear tires provide better handling because they have a lower 35 series front and 30 series rear profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Jetta GLI’s 40 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the 3 Series Sedan offers optional 20-inch wheels. The Jetta GLI’s largest wheels are only 18-inches.

Changing a flat tire near traffic can be dangerous and inconvenient. The run-flat tires standard on the 3 Series Sedan can be driven up to 50 miles without any air pressure, allowing you to drive to a service station for a repair. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer run-flat tires.

Suspension and Handling

The 3 Series Sedan has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The Jetta GLI’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the 3 Series Sedan’s wheelbase is 6.6 inches longer than on the Jetta GLI (112.2 inches vs. 105.6 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the 3 Series Sedan is 1.6 inches wider in the front and 2.5 inches wider in the rear than on the Jetta GLI.

Chassis

The front grille of the 3 Series Sedan uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

Passenger Space

The 3 Series Sedan has .2 inches more front headroom, .9 inches more front legroom, .1 inches more front shoulder room, .4 inches more rear headroom and .6 inches more rear shoulder room than the Jetta GLI.

Cargo Capacity

A low lift-over trunk design makes loading and unloading the 3 Series Sedan easier. The 3 Series Sedan’s trunk lift-over height is 26.7 inches, while the Jetta GLI’s liftover is 28.7 inches.

To allow full utilization of available cargo room, the 3 Series Sedan’s trunk lid uses concealed beam hinges that don’t intrude into the trunk. Its intrusive beam hinge reduces the Jetta GLI’s useful trunk space.

With its sedan body style, valet key, locking rear seatbacks and remote trunk release lockout, the 3 Series offers cargo security. The Jetta GLI’s non-lockable remote release defeats cargo security.

A standard locking glovebox (which can’t be accessed with the valet key) keeps your small valuables safer in the 3 Series Sedan. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer locking storage for small valuables.

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier, especially for short adults, the 3 Series Sedan offers an optional power trunk, which opens and closes automatically by pressing a button, or optionally by just kicking your foot under the back bumper, completely leaving your hands free. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer a power trunk.

Servicing Ease

The 3 Series Sedan uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Jetta GLI uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

The engine in the 3 Series Sedan is mounted longitudinally (North-South), instead of sideways, as in the Jetta GLI. This makes it easier to service and maintain, because the accessory belts are in front.

Ergonomics

The 3 Series Sedan offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

If the windows are left open on the 3 Series Sedan the driver can close them all at the outside door handle or from a distance using the remote. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Jetta GLI can’t use the remote to operate the windows.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors available for the 3 Series Sedan detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the 3 Series Sedan offers optional adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer cornering lights.

When the 3 Series Sedan is put in reverse, the passenger rearview mirror tilts from its original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirror into its original position. The Jetta GLI’s mirror doesn’t automatically adjust for backing.

The 3 Series Sedan has standard automatic dimming rear and side view mirrors which automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The Jetta GLI has an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

On extremely cold winter days, the 3 Series Sedan’s optional heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

Both the 3 Series Sedan and the Jetta GLI offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the 3 Series Sedan has standard rear air conditioning vents to keep rear occupants cool in summer or warm in winter. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer rear air conditioning vents, only heat vents.

To keep a safe, consistent following distance, the 3 Series Sedan offers an optional Active Cruise Control, which alters the speed of the vehicle without driver intervention. This allows the driver to use cruise control more safely without constantly having to disengage it when approaching slower traffic. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.

The 3 Series Sedan’s available GPS navigation system has a real-time traffic update feature that plots alternative routes to automatically bypass traffic problems. (Service not available in all areas.) The Jetta GLI’s available navigation system doesn’t offer real-time traffic updates.

To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the BMW 3 Series offers an optional wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.

The 3 Series Sedan’s optional Parking Assistant Plus can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, starting, stopping and changing direction automatically. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Model Availability

The BMW 3 Series comes in sedan, four door hatchback and station wagon bodystyles; the Volkswagen Jetta GLI isn’t available as a four door hatchback or station wagon.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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