Car Review: Jetta GLI turns up the fun factor in the compact sedan market

You might know the name VW Golf GTI — the sporty, small, five-door hatchback that is a hoot to drive.

The Jetta GLI is transformed into a sports sedan with the 2.0L turbo four and is available with the manual transmission that you find in the smaller GTI. The engine really wakes up the Jetta sedan with 228hp.

This is no boring car. Driver involvement is high when you select the manual transmission, a rare item these days. The clutch is light and easy to modulate and smooth launches were never a problem.

The GLI handles the corners like a sports car and less like a compact sedan. The adaptive chassis control makes this a fun car to push on back roads while it still makes for a comfortable daily driver.

The Jetta might be a compact sedan, but you wouldn’t know that on the inside. You have a good deal of space upfront or even for passengers in back. The Jetta GLI with the top Autobahn trim level comes nicely equipped with heated and ventilated leather trimmed seats. These seats were the most comfortable I have sampled in the Jetta’s I have driven.

The digital instrument panel replaces the normal instruments with newer technology and a large touch screen means the Jetta GLI feels and looks more modern than before.

The Jetta GLI gets some styling enhancements to set itself apart from other Jetta models. The GLI has a special grill, bumpers, lower body extensions and a rear spoiler to give a sportier look than I can ever remember for a Jetta. The Pure gray paint works nicely with the 18” wheels that look similar to Golf GTI models.

Cost: $30,745; as tested $32,035

MPG: 24 mpg city and 33 mpg highway; I managed 28.5 mpg in 198 miles of mixed driving.

Safety: Front assist; adaptive cruise control; park distance control front & rear; forward collision warning & autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitor; lane-keep assist & traffic jam assist; active blind spot monitor & rear cross traffic alert; automatic post-collision braking system.

Options: $295 Pure Gray exterior

Things to know: The Jetta GLI turns the compact sedan into a fun-to-drive car that happens to have four doors. With upgraded technology and plenty of space, the GLI marches to its own sporty fun beat.

Pros:

  • Improved style with special GLI body tweaks
  • Ample space for front and back seat riders
  • A fun-to-drive sedan with powerful engine and a manual transmission

Cons:

  • Fewer GLI models are available at local dealers
  • Some might find the style a bit bland
  • The GTI Autobahn model is priced over $30,000, luckily the lower S trim level cost less.

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