Full 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI gets a 10-horsepower increase, the addition of Car-Net, VW's new telematics system, and some minor changes to equipment levels. To celebrate 30 years of the GLI, VW has also introduced an "Edition 30" trim level.
Although it's sold as a separate nameplate, the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is essentially the highest trim level of the Volkswagen Jetta sedan line and takes many of its sporty cues from its hatchback cousin, the VW GTI. Perhaps you're drawn to the 2014 Jetta GLI because a sedan more closely fits your needs or feels more grown up than a spritely hatchback. Unfortunately, the current GLI is not as entertaining to drive or as well trimmed as the GTI and is merely one of many quick sedans you might consider in this price range.
In its defense, the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is still fun to drive. Thanks to its powerful turbocharged engine, precise steering and steady handling, the GLI will put a smile on your face more readily than the typical small sedan. But unless you simply have to have the best Jetta that VW makes, we're not convinced it's worth the extra money over the standard Jetta.
This is especially true now that Volkswagen is offering a new 1.8-liter turbocharged engine on regular Jettas. Mind you, the upgraded 2.0-liter turbo engine in the GLI is quite a bit more powerful than the new 1.8T, but once you're up and going, the cars' driving dynamics are largely the same. Both cars will be just as comfortable and quiet, and interior furnishings are the same. And both have a massive backseat and trunk.
Although we'd steer most consumers toward a four-door GTI hatchback, which is nearly as spacious and more engaging to drive, the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI resides in a pretty unique niche: It's one of only a few small to midsize sedans with sporty aspirations, and that distinction alone sets it apart. If you're really after performance, though, the 2014 Subaru Impreza WRX sedan is much quicker and handles better around corners. The 250-hp 2014 Buick Verano Turbo is also worth considering, especially if you're looking for a sedan with a lower-key personality and a truly upscale interior.
Less powerful cars like the Acura ILX and 2014 Mazda 3 are also worth consideration on the basis of their enjoyable ride and handling characteristics. You could also consider a larger sedan like the Nissan Altima, which handles well for its size and is priced similarly. Overall, there's nothing gravely wrong with the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI, but if you're looking for extra performance from an affordable small or midsize sedan, we'd suggest you drive a few of its competitors before making your decision.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is a four-door compact sedan available in base, Edition 30 and Autobahn trim levels.
Standard equipment on the base GLI includes 17-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, keyless entry, air-conditioning, full power accessories, heated mirrors, height-adjustable and power-reclining front sport seats with adjustable driver lumbar support, cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with a touchscreen interface, satellite radio, a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod interface. Also standard on the GLI is Volkswagen's Car-Net telematics system.
The GLI Autobahn has 18-inch wheels, a sunroof, heated windshield-washer nozzles, a six-way power-adjustable driver seat, automatic climate control, a cooling glovebox, heated front seats and leatherette vinyl upholstery and a premium nine-speaker Fender audio system.
The Edition 30 features 18-inch wheels (with a different design from the Autobahn's), a unique grille treatment, a sport-tuned suspension, the sunroof, the Fender audio system and special interior trim details. If you equip your GLI Autobahn or Edition 30 with the navigation system package, it will also come with a touchscreen navigation system with a rearview camera, bi-xenon headlights with Audi-like LED accent lights, and keyless ignition/entry.
A rear lip spoiler is optional for all GLIs, while black-painted 18-inch wheels are available for the base model.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Jetta GLI is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that sends 210 hp and 207 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while a six-speed automated manual, known as DSG, is optional.
In Edmunds performance testing, last year's 200-hp GLI with the manual gearbox sprinted from zero to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds. That time is a little slow for its class. This year's 10-hp increase probably won't affect 0-60 acceleration much, but once we test a 2014 Jetta GLI, we'll update this review.
EPA-estimated fuel economy is 26 mpg combined (23 city/33 highway) with the manual and 27 mpg combined (24 city/32 highway) with the DSG.
Every 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI comes standard with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags.
VW's new Car-Net telematics system, standard on every GLI, includes automatic crash notification, roadside assistance, remote vehicle access, stolen vehicle location and geo-fencing (which allows owners to set boundaries for secondary drivers). A Car-Net smartphone app lets owners control many of these functions on the go.
In government crash tests, the near-identical Jetta earned four out of five stars for front crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Jetta its best possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. The Jetta received the second lowest rating of "Marginal" in the small-overlap frontal-offset crash test, though. But this test is relatively new and many of the cars tested have posted similarly low ratings.
In Edmunds brake testing, the GLI stopped from 60 mph in 128 feet. That's worse than average for a compact-to-midsize sedan with sporting pretenses, though keep in mind that our test car was equipped with all-season tires.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI's interior is pleasant enough, largely due to the upgrades over the regular Jetta, including some higher-quality materials. It's also pretty roomy -- the rear-seat area is large enough for full-size adults to sit comfortably. The 15.5-cubic-foot trunk is also one of the roomiest you'll find in this class. Should you need more cargo space, the split rear seat features a center pass-through and also folds down.
We like the available touchscreen stereo interface and its redundant dial knob, which is ideal for controlling a portable music player but placement is a bit clumsy. The associated navigation system, however, is a bit of a letdown due to the small screen and limited amount of display information.
You'll largely need to check your sport sedan aspirations when driving the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI. Although precise, the GLI's steering isn't particularly sharp when turning into corners, and the car's braking ability and overall cornering grip are both quite modest. If, however, you're simply looking for a livelier Jetta sedan, then the GLI is a solid upgrade. In addition, it's a good pick for a road trip, as ride comfort is excellent and the cabin is nicely sealed off from wind and tire noise.
The 2.0-liter turbo engine delivers a nice wallop of torque that makes the Jetta GLI feel peppy around town and on fast-moving highways. The engine has a nice soundtrack, too, and makes cool snarling noises that are especially noticeable when it's paired with the conventional six-speed manual. Our favorite of the two gearboxes, the manual is enjoyable to shift and remarkably easy to drive even when you're stuck in traffic. There's also a hill-hold feature on the manual, which keeps the car from rolling back when you're stopped on inclines.
Although the DSG is a great option for households where not everyone can deal with a conventional manual transmission (and a clutch pedal), it's not without its compromises. Most notably, in the transmission's default D mode, there's an annoying delay between when you press the gas pedal and the desired response, and this makes it difficult to drive the car smoothly in normal traffic situations. Switching to Sport mode quickens up the response time, but then the transmission becomes overly eager to downshift and wring out engine revs. Using the DSG's manual shift mode mitigates both issues somewhat, but it takes some of the convenience out of choosing the "automatic" option on the Volkswagen Jetta GLI.