The Volkswagen Golf GTI has been the number one selling hot hatch in the states and around the globe for a while. So when we heard V-dub was releasing the Jetta GLI, which shares most of its features with the Golf, in the United States, we didn’t know exactly what to expect. I ended up having the chance to drive it, and well… it caught me slightly off guard.
For starters, most of the GLI’s parts are shared with the tremendously fun Golf GTI, the performance version of the normally stale hatchback. The GLI however, is a tamer version of the GTI, but in sedan form. The GLI offers a more sedated feeling compared to the GTI, it feels almost held back. For some, that may be a huge selling point, and the price relays it as well. The sedan costs thousands less than the hatchback, and for nearly the same performance. The sedan does have a slightly more cheaper interior, but all that can be fixed when you step up to higher trims, which only add on to the styling and the interior. If you want cheap, new performance and fun, you’d be perfectly fine getting the base model. The base model itself offers plenty of standard goodies that are great for the normal daily driver.
The GLI shares most of its components with the feisty Golf GTI, as previously mentioned. The Jetta comes with a 228 horsepower, turbocharged I-4 with 2 liters of displacement. That itself comes paired with a six-speed manual transmission, but can come with a seven-speed DCT for $800, which is the one we tested. The turbo does take a little bit longer than one would like to spool, but once it hits, it feels like a smooth rocket ship. Fake exhaust noises haunt the cabin and make the quiet engine feel more like a M4 than a Volkswagen. Those facade noises can be turned off though, and I rest assured knowing that those don’t stick around. Summer tires come standard, and are super sticky and keep you planted to the ground during tight turns. Front-wheel drive also will pull you through the curves that makes it feel more like it’s sending power to the rear wheels, something that I don’t frown upon at all. It’ll sprint to 60 in 5.8 seconds and run the 1/4 mile in 14.4 seconds. The GLI makes the same amount of power as the Golf GTI and it’s one of the car’s biggest features, but how does she drive?
Whipping It Around Dallas
Driving the GLI for a while made me feel like I was in some Porsche from the early 2000’s, pure driving experience. This car is an absolute blast to drive, and spinning it around West Plano roads was a thrill only to be seen by oneself. The GLI turns beautifully, with the front tires yearning for more. The front wheels pull the car gracefully into turns and the DCT shifts exactly at the most perfect times. The car has interchangeable drive modes, Comfort, Normal, Eco, Sport, and even a independently configurable Custom mode. Each mode is distinctive, and you can definitely feel the difference. The shift points change, the steering changes, and the suspension changes as well. The car also comes with a launch control, but to the dismay of many, the stock tires spin way too much, rendering the mode essentially useless. Powersliding seems to be easier than most in this, as I could normally feel the backend wiggling and just wanting to be let free. Chassis flex and body roll are kept to a minimum with a strong, solid frame. The DCT acts masterfully, and shifts smooth, instantly, and at the right time. The GLI also offers a manual driving mode which responds instantly to your input and lets you redline it without an issue.
The Best of Both Worlds
The best feature of the Jetta however, is its duality and ability to function as a near perfect daily driver. Trunk space is a 10/10, with one of the best trunk volumes in its class. It somehow has managed to take the practicality of the Golf, and improve upon it. Fuel economy is average, put perfectly suitable for a daily, 25 and 32 in the city and highway respectively. Strong, catchy brakes also add to the drivability in the city. The manual, will get 33 in the city, and with similar performance and fuel economy, it truly is up to personal preference.
Interior and Exterior Styling
The car is unexpectedly beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. Red trim adorns the exterior and personally feels a bit cliche, but fits into the VW performance lineup. Red trim is even on the wheels which is excessive, but hey, to each their own. Our color was a wolf grey, and looked absolutely perfect on the GLI, personally my cup of tea. The rear spoiler is a bit laughable at how thin it is, and is barely functional. The interior however, leaves a bit to be desired. It won’t compare to the Golf, and I wouldn’t expect it to at this price point. Cloth interior, plastic everywhere, small infotainment screen, and just super cheap feeling. This can be easily fixed with the higher trim, the Autobahn. That’ll give you plenty of goodies like power seats, panoramic sunroof, and even a digital gauge cluster. Opt for the base model, and you’ll still get a terrific bang for your buck. You’ll come out with a plethora of safety features, automatic braking, cruise control, blindspot monitoring, and lanekeep assist. You’ll also get plenty of amenities like dualzone climate control, heated seats, Apple Carplay/Android Auto, and ambient lighting.
For just $28,690, this is a great mix of a sport sedan and a daily driver. It truly impressed me, and blew me back at how much value you get for a super competitive price. Overall, the Jetta GLI is a true competitive sport sedan, and a great option.
Vehicle Provided by Lucas Kist