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2015-2021 VW Golf and GTI

How to upgrade the stereo system in your Golf or GTI

volkswagen golf gti

In brief: This Crutchfield Research Garage article gives you an overview of your Volkswagen's stock stereo system and your aftermarket upgrade options. We'll tell you all about:

Then, use our vehicle selector to find the gear that will fit your vehicle.

Overview of the Volkswagen Golf and GTI

The seventh-generation Golf arrived in North America in 2015, and like most of its forebears, was immediately swathed in awards and admiration. Deservedly so, we’d say, since the Golf is exactly the kind of solid, spacious and sweet-handling compact that every car manufacturer is trying to build. VW’s just better at it than most.

Whether you have the 2-door or 4-door hatchback, the SportWagen, or the hot rod GTI, you’re driving a car that combines style and substance in a way that few can match. As you might expect, the stock stereos are up to breed standard, but probably not up to yours. If you’re thinking about an audio upgrade, this article will tell you what’s possible and give you some tips about how to get the job done.

volkswagen golf radio

The display unit (it's not a radio) grew a bit over the Gen 7 Golf's model run (Crutchfield Research Photo)

The factory stereo system

The base 8-speaker audio system was reasonably decent as such things go, but those who wanted more could choose from two 9-speaker Fender Audio systems. With the base system, you can replace pretty much everything, but you cannot replace the receiver in the Fender systems. Speakers yes, receiver no.

The base system’s dash unit (which grew a bit over the car’s lifespan) is actually just a display. The brains of the operation is the tuner/amp module located in the car’s glove box. That said, you can install a single-DIN (2" tall) or double-DIN (4" tall) radio in the dash, but you’ll need to make some mods to the sub-dash to create the necessary space.

volkswagen golf 4-door

The Golf was available in 2-door, 4-door (shown), and wagon body styles (Crutchfield Research Photo)

To be more specific, you’ll need to use a hacksaw to cut out the forward and rearward bars across the dash opening. This will be described in greater detail in the instructions supplied with the (discounted) dash kit included with your Crutchfield stereo purchase. Trust us, it’s not as scary as it sounds, but work carefully and wear eye protection.

We’ll also give you a discount on the recommended wiring harness adapter for your new stereo. Even with that, you will lose the factory USB input connection and the factory satellite radio capability. That’s not a huge deal, since both can be found in many aftermarket radios.

When you enter your vehicle information, you’ll see all the stereos that will work in your Golf. If you have questions (and you very well might) give us a shout via phone or chat.

volkswagen golf radio removal

You'll use the DIN tools included with your order to remove the stock display and tuner (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Removing the factory radio

Before proceeding with this project, make sure there’s nothing in the factory unit. You’ll also need to set the car’s parking brake and disconnect the negative battery cable to prevent any electrical shorts. With that done, you’re ready to grab your tools (see below) and get to work.

To remove the dash display, you’ll start by opening the lower dash storage pocket. Use your panel tool to pry off the climate control trim panel to release ten clips, then remove the trim panel. Pry off the dash display trim panel to release those clips (prying out the vent assembly at the same time) and remove the trim panel.

Detailed stereo and speaker removal instructions

MasterSheet image
With step-by-step disassembly instructions and plenty of up-close, detailed photos, our exclusive Crutchfield MasterSheet™ takes the guesswork out of removing the factory stereo and speakers. It's free with your Crutchfield order, or you can purchase one separately for just $9.99.

Insert the DIN removal tools (included with your order) into the slots in the display, then spread the tools apart to release the display. Disconnect the harnesses and remove the display.

Next up is the tuner/amp module. Open the glove box door, then insert your DIN tools into the slots in the tuner/amp module. Spread the tools apart to release the module, then disconnect the harnesses and remove the module.

volkswagen golf larger radio

The tuner in the glovebox is the brains of the infotainment operation (Crutchfield Research Photo)

When you install your new stereo, be sure to follow the instructions included with your dash kit and the wiring harness adapter. Once the receiver is connected, make sure the airbag light harness is connected, too. If they are, reconnect the battery and test the receiver to make sure it’s working properly.

Tools needed: Panel tool, DIN removal tools

Read our Car Stereo Buying Guide for shopping tips and advice.

Shop for car stereos that fit your Volkswagen Golf

Steering wheel audio controls

In most cases, it's reasonably easy to retain your Volkswagen's steering wheel audio controls when you install a new stereo. When you enter your vehicle information, our database will choose the adapter you need to make your factory steering wheel controls work with compatible receivers.

vw golf speaker removal

A speaker upgrade will really improve the sound in your Golf (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Removing the factory speakers

Depending on how your Golf is equipped, you'll find speakers in the pillars, doors, and rear cargo area. There are some moderately challenging parts to replacing your car's speakers, but it's nothing a reasonably skilled DIY-er can't handle. Replacing the speakers is a great way to upgrade your sound, especially if you're starting with the Fender Audio system.

volkwagen golf pillar speaker

The pillar tweeters are easy to get to, but replacing them takes a bit of effort (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Removing the front pillar speakers

The front pillars house 1.769" tweeters, and the removal process is both simple and challenging, all at once.

Starting at the top edge, use your panel tool to pry out the pillar trim panel and release three clips. The clips are tight, so it’ll take some effort to remove them. Just remember to temper that force with care and patience, because you don’t want to damage the pillar trim panel or the headliner.

Disconnect the wiring harness and remove the trim panel. The tweeter is heat-fused to the trim panel, so you’ll need to use a hacksaw to cut at the fuse points. Once that’s done, carefully pry out the tweeter to avoid damage.

There are no mounting brackets available for your aftermarket tweeters, so you’ll need to use hot glue, silicone, or our universal backstraps to secure them. There’s no wiring harness adapter that’ll work here either, so you’ll need to splice, solder, or use Posi-Products speaker connectors to connect the new tweeters to the car’s wiring.

Once the new tweeters are connected and secured, test them to make sure they’re working properly. If they are, put the pillars back together.

Tools needed: Panel tool, hacksaw

vw golf door speakers

The speaker removal process is basically the same whether your Golf has two or four doors (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Removing the front door speakers

The 6-1/2" front door speakers can be replaced by a nice variety of 5-1/4" or 6-1/2" aftermarket models. The removal and replacement process isn’t fiendishly complicated, but there are some interesting bits that’ll require your attention. Note that the stock speakers only reproduce low frequencies, so keep that in mind when you’re shopping.

Removing the speakers begins with using a panel tool to pry off and remove the door pull outer cover. That’ll expose a Torx T30 screw, which you’ll need to remove. You’ll then remove another Torx T30 screw under the armrest. Next, use a 10mm open-end wrench to turn and release the locking post.

Pry out the sides and bottom of the door panel to release six clips. Disconnect the door release cable and wiring harnesses, then remove the door panel. And finally, you’ll use a 3/16” bit to drill out the four rivets securing the speaker. Once that’s done, disconnect the harness and remove the speaker. Be sure to be careful when you’re drilling and definitely wear eye protection.

You’ll need mounting brackets to secure your new speakers, and we’ll include them with your Crutchfield speaker purchase. Alas, there are no wiring harness adapters available, so you’ll need to splice, solder, or use Posi-Products speaker connectors to connect the new speakers.

Once the new speakers are secured, test to make sure that they’re working. Before you start putting the doors back together, make sure the wires aren’t interfering with the windows and that the door lock/release mechanisms are working as they should.

Tools needed: Panel tool, small flat blade screwdriver, Torx T30 driver, 10mm open-ended wrench, drill with 3/16" bit

volkswagen golf rear door speakers

Drilling out the speaker rivets isn't as hard as it might seem, but you'll want to work carefully and wear eye protection (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Removing the rear door tweeters

The rear tweeters are mounted on the backside of the door panel. Like the front tweeters, they are heat-fused to the panel, so you'll need to be careful when removing them. Your new tweeters will need to be fixed in place with hot glue, silicone, or our universal backstraps. There’s no wiring harness adapter that’ll work here either, so you’ll need to splice, solder, or use Posi-Products speaker connectors to connect the new tweeters to the car’s wiring.

Removing the rear door speakers

The rear doors also house 6-1/2" stock speakers, and these can also be replaced by 5-1/4" or 6-1/2" aftermarket models. Brackets will be needed, so we’ll include them with your speaker order. As for the wiring connections, you’ll need to splice, solder, or use Posi-Products speaker connectors down here, too.

The removal and replacement process is quite similar to what goes on up front, so we’ll avoid repeating ourselves any more than we already have. All the step-by-step instructions can be found in your Crutchfield MasterSheet anyway.

Tools needed: Panel tool, small flat blade screwdriver, Torx T30 driver, drill with 3/16" bit

volkwagen golf sportwagen subwoofer

This 6-3/4" sub is located under the cargo area floor (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Removing the cargo floor subwoofer

Both the hatchback and wagon version of the Golf include a 6-3/4" subwoofer in the cargo area. This dual voice coil sub, which is located under the floor, only receives bass frequencies from the stock system, so whatever you put back here will only play bass.

First, lift up the cargo floor panel and remove it from the car. With that out of the way, you can unscrew the retainer nut securing the subwoofer enclosure. Disconnect the harness and move the enclosure to your workbench.

Remove the four Torx T15 (or, in the case of the SportWagen, Torx T20) screws securing the enclosure top plate, then remove the plate. Pry up the woofer, disconnect it, and remove it.

You’ll need to break off two locator pins on the factory enclosure to allow your new speaker to fit flush. We recommend using pliers for this task. Once that’s done, connect the speaker wires to your new speaker and secure it and the top plate to the enclosure. Connect the enclosure harness, then test to make sure the new speaker is working properly. If it is, start putting the cargo area back together.

In some cases, you may have to drill new mounting screw holes in the enclosure or fabricate a speaker bracket.

Tools needed (Hatchbacks): Torx T15 driver, pliers

Tools needed (SportWagen): Torx T20 driver, pliers

Read our Car Speakers Buying Guide for more information.

Shop for speakers that fit your Volkswagen Golf

volkswagen golf 4-door cargo area

There's a decent amount of space for a sub box in the Golf 4-door hatchback (Crutchfield Research Photo)

More bass in your Golf or GTI

Want even more bass in your Golf? There isn’t a ton of room for a subwoofer enclosure, but you do have some space to work with. In the hatchback models, the available area measures 29"W x 15"H x 26"/19"D, while the wagon offers a 39"W x 17"H x 39"/31"D space. All measurements were taken with the cargo cover in place, by the way.

If you still like to use the cargo area for, y’know, cargo, you might not want a bulky subwoofer box back there. In that case, we’d recommend a more compact powered subwoofer.

Learn more about building a bass system in our Car Subwoofer Buying Guide.

Focal Inside IS VW 155

Focal Inside IS VW 155 speakers are designed specifically for your Golf or GTI

Other options for your Golf or GTI

With a car like these Volkswagens, there are lots of ways to upgrade your in-car experience. Here are some of the ways Crutchfield can help.

Custom-designed Focal speakers

Looking for a simple audio solution that sounds great? The audio experts at Focal have created a bespoke speaker kit for Golf models equipped with the base (not Fender) stereo system. The Focal Inside Series kit includes a woofer and tweeter that are designed to mount in the front and rear door locations. To install them, you'll need to drill out the factory rivets, then use the rivets included in the package to install these speakers. Enter your vehicle info to see all the Focal Inside Series speakers that will work in your car.

Add an amp (or two)

A new 4-channel amplifier will help you get the most out of your new speakers. You'll get cleaner power (and a lot more of it), which will result in much, much better sound. A mono amp can provide the juice you need for a new subwoofer, too.

Learn more about adding amps to your system in our Car Amplifier Buying Guide.

Quiet road noise with Dynamat

These are reasonably quiet, well-assembled cars, but they have a few years on them and that's when things get squeaky and loud. A Dynamat Xtreme Door Kit will really maximize the impact of your new system. This heavy-duty insulating material is easy to install, and it really makes a difference. One kit should be more than enough for your Golf.

WeatherTech floor liners

Keep your car's carpeting looking sharp with custom-fit WeatherTech floor liners (WeatherTech photo)

Protect the carpeting

Daily life has a way of destroying factory carpeting, even if you're careful. Floor mats and cargo mats from WeatherTech will help protect your VW's floors from dirt and damage.

Adding car security

Installing a security system in your Golf isn't easy (security systems rarely are), but it's less complicated than it could be. Our Crutchfield Advisors can help figure out what you need to get the job done, but we usually recommend taking your car and new gear to a professional installer.

Let's get started!

Ready to shop? Use our vehicle selector to find the gear that will fit your car or truck. If you have questions of your own, give us a shout via phone or chat.

Free lifetime tech support is included with every Crutchfield purchase.

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