GLI: Competent Handling, Strong Turbocharged Engine at a Manageable Price

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Volkswagen GLI

It is often said that the GLI is to the Volkswagen Jetta what the GTI is to Golf. While this is true in a certain way, the GLI still offers pretty impressive features, more space and other cool stuff.

Introduced back in 2012 in its sixth generation variant, the Volkswagen GLI or Jetta GLI is one of those cars that might confuse car observers on the road. The keen-eyed among them will likely spot what is undoubtedly a Volkswagen Jetta, but if it somehow stands out from the rest – it’s a GLI for sure. This powerhouse of a car has received major updates every year and has consistently been VW’s sales champion. In other words, more Jetta GLIs have been sold annually than the Beetle, Passat, and Golfs combined. Here’s what you need to know about this car.

A Separate VW Entity

The GLI hides the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine under the hood as the last generation Golf GTI. The difference is that the GLI’s powerhouse doesn’t incorporate the variable valve timing feature, and racks up “just” 210 horsepower and 207 lb.-ft. of torque (as opposed to the GTI’s 220 horses and 258 lb.-ft. of torque). The GLI is essentially a rocket on wheels. Put your foot down and you won’t hear any turbo whine, high-revving hysterics or torque steer. What you will be treated to is a throaty linear roar coupled with you being pushed back into the seat and the car being nothing short of teleported down the road. Transmission-wise, a six-speed manual is standard while a dual-clutch transmission (DSG) is optional. The latter is very approachable and offers plenty of comfort in daily driving, but the manual is where the fun is at.

Takes the Cake Trim-Wise

You’ll find that entry-level Jettas include pretty basic equipment with a number of optional packages on higher trim levels. On the other hand, the GLI comes stocked with impressive features such as 18-inch “Mallory” alloy wheels, LED darkened taillights, illuminated vanity mirrors, a Cross Differential System (XDS), GLI sill plates, blacked-out headliner and pillars, front fog lamps, ambient lighting, aluminum sport pedals, six-way adjustable front sport seats and much more. When it comes to the upholstery and cabin feel, expect to see a dark shade of Titan Black leather with red accent stitching on the dash, doors, seats and steering wheel. The driving soundtrack, apart from the beautiful roar of the engine, is the job of a Fender Premium Audio system with eight speakers and a sub.

It’s Clearly Sporty. But is it Practical?

You’ll find near-midsize accommodation inside with tons of legroom in the second row and an astonishingly large cargo space. This is thanks to the slightly stretched wheelbase compared to the Golf GTI (+20 millimetres), and the sporty suspension further adds a dose of confidence despite the interior comfort. Styling-wise, the GLI is as eye-catching as ever with red painted brake calipers, a unique and very aggressive black honeycombed grille with added red trim, chrome tips on the tailpipes and more. Yet, the GLI doesn’t seem too sporty or ridiculously childish as a result of its countless race-like features and details. If anything, it has a more grown-up demeanour.

The Volkswagen GLI can be said to be exceptionally well priced in a select and small sub-class. That price tag includes one of the most spacious compacts on the market, Volkswagen’s MIB-II infotainment unit, a technology that’s up to date like Apple CarPlay and an upgraded interior stocked with pretty cool bells and whistles. It is well-equipped overall and while it’s not really the four-door GTI you want deep down, it is an amazing car in its own right. Think of it as the GTI’s older, more serious and responsible brother who still doesn’t mind letting loose on the occasional weekend.