Can't afford one of those pricey German sport sedans? Don't want to deal with any hushed, envious murmurings when you show up at the office in one? Well, there's a pretty viable alternative in the form of the Volkswagen GLI, a car that brings sporting credentials to the otherwise mainstream Jetta sedan.
Whether you're looking at a new or used Jetta GLI, you'll find competent handling, a strong turbocharged engine and solid European construction at a manageable price. However, don't expect the current GLI to stand toe-to-toe with the GTI hatchback. Unlike in the past, they are no longer the same car but with different trunk designs. The GLI is bigger and its driving dynamics fall well short of both the GTI and other performance-oriented compact cars. Used car shoppers will find that previous GLI generations are more appealing.
Current Volkswagen Jetta GLI
The Volkswagen Jetta GLI is available in base, Autobahn and Edition 30 (which celebrates the Jetta GLI's 30th birthday) trim levels.
Standard equipment highlights on the base GLI include 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Volkswagen's Car-Net telematics system and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio and an iPod interface. Added perks of the Autobahn include 18-inch wheels, a sunroof, a power driver seat, automatic climate control, heated front seats and an upgraded audio system. The Edition 30 features unique 18-inch wheels, an upgraded sport-tuned suspension and special interior trim details. Options include a navigation system package, which also includes a rearview camera, bi-xenon headlights and keyless ignition and entry.
All GLIs use a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that sends 210 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual known as DSG is optional.
The Jetta GLI doesn't offer the tartan cloth upholstery of the GTI, nor its optional leather. The GLI instead makes do with either black cloth or "leatherette" vinyl. The GLI does, however, use nicer-grade materials for the dash and touch points than the regular Jetta, but they still fall far short of the near-luxury GTI.
In reviews, we've found the Jetta GLI to be a likable car, particularly because of its roomy interior, comfortable ride and sprightly engine. Compared to the regular Jetta, it certainly offers more excitement, but its performance, interior quality, value and mediocre observed fuel economy don't compare well to other sporty compact cars like the Ford Focus ST, Subaru WRX or VW's own GTI.
Read the most recent 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Volkswagen Jetta GLI page.