2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn w/Navi Sedan (2.0L 4-cyl. Turbo FWD 6-speed Automated Manual)
Driven On 8/28/2012
This rating has been carried forward from a prior year because the newer model has no substantial differences.
The Volkswagen Jetta GLI is the sedan's attempt to capture the legendary GTI magic, yet it falls short of that goal with unsorted dynamics, questionable value, and compromised usability.
PerformanceWe expected a little more from the sportiest version of the Jetta, but acceleration, braking, and handling numbers are, at most, competitive. Driveability suffers from choices VW made in the tuning of the car, not because of the equipment.
The 200-hp engine serves up enough power to uphold the promise it makes, but non-linear power delivery should be addressed. The DSG transmission adds to the awkwardness.
Non-linear bite from initial application is compounded by spongy pedal feel. Braking distances and resistance to fade were acceptable.
Electric-assist power steering is expectedly friction-free and unexpectedly informative. Good effort build-up with speed and very good precision.
Sticky tires provide the GLI with admirable handling limits. Intervention from non-defeat stability system is harsh and lengthy when limits are approached.
Overall drivability suffers because of unintuitive disconnect between driver and car with elastic power delivery, lurching transmission from a stop, and a soft brake pedal.
ComfortCombining supportive seats, well-controlled ride, and a quiet cabin, the Jetta GLI proves sporty intentions do not have to mean a harsh ride as well.
Heated, faux-leather front seats of the GLI are comfortable and highly adjustable. Rear seats are a little upright, but still suitable for adults.
Even with its GLI-specific sport suspension, this car still offers good compliance and a smooth ride.
There's some engine noise at idle, but it's subdued while accelerating. Wind noise can be traced to outside mirrors, but it's well within our 'good' rating nonetheless.
InteriorVolkswagen have a solid reputation for building a nice interior, and the Jetta GLI is no exception: Easy access, solid ergonomics, good materials, and decent storage. Execution is tarnished by a cumbersome audio/navigation system.
With the exception of the terribly clumsy user interface on the premium audio system and navigation system, the Jetta's interior ergonomics are sound.
Typical compact sedan access is augmented by a tilt/telescope steering wheel and ample-sized doors.
Unlike some cars in its segment, the overall open airy feeling of the cabin actually translates into room for people in both the front and rear.
Good sight lines are not obscured by thick pillars; reverse camera is a plus on upper-tier trim levels.
At over 15 cubic feet, the Jetta's trunk is large for its class. The 60/40 split-folding rear seats are standard. Plenty of small storage within the interior.
ValueJetta GLI Autobahn with Navi commands a high price that doesn't add up in our book. So-so performance, questionable drivability, mediocre fuel economy, and a clumsy user interfaces. Other Jetta models offer better value.
Build Quality (vs. $)
What meets the eye and greets the ear indicates a solid and well engineered sedan.
Paying the extra money for this top-tier GLI trim doesn't necessarily net top-tier equipment. No leather, no added sport, although the audio system's sound quality is good.
Priced between $26K and $29K with the promise of something extra, the GLI Autobahn's price doesn't make sense for what you get compared with a regular Jetta.
Rated by the EPA to earn 24 mpg in the city, 32 mpg on the highway (on premium fuel,) expect to earn about 25-27 in typical mixed-use driving. Similar to V6 offerings in the class.
The basic warranty is 3 years/36,000 miles and the drivetrain is covered for 5 years/60,000 miles
The first 3 years/36,000 miles are covered by no-charge scheduled maintenance (oil change, tire rotations, etc.) and 24/7 roadside assistance.
Fun To DriveThe promise of the sportiest Jetta (GLI) isn't upheld with engaging dynamics. Instead there are dynamic challenges that detract from what could have been a fun sedan.
The Jetta GLI is a good Jetta, but not what we'd call special or sporty. The isolated ride is a metaphor for the rest of the driving experience.
We imagine the Jetta GLI is intended for those who desire a European driving experience in a value-added compact package. In the end, there are too many missing pieces.