Driving enthusiasts on a budget should pay closer attention to the delightful 2016 Volkswagen Jetta GLI. A relative rarity, the roomy and zoomy GLI is the sportiest version of the popular Jetta sedan, allowing you to effortlessly zip through, around, and past slower traffic at will. Plus, if you choose any of the available colors other than my test car’s Tornado Red paint, the car’s conservative lines and featureless flanks virtually guarantee anonymity and help to mask just how much fun you’re having.
2016 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Review
GLI adds Performance
Turbocharged and equipped with a standard 6-speed manual gearbox, the GLI is to the Jetta what the GTI is to the Golf. It adds power, it adds performance, it adds panache. “It looks like a little Audi.”
Yes, and it drives like a little Audi, but one that costs just $27,740 to start. Unlike an Audi, however, you can’t get real leather for the seats. Volkswagen’s V-Tex leatherette is agreeable enough, though, and four adults ride in supportive comfort and with plenty of room to spare. Who needs a midsize sedan when a Jetta provides all the space a family of four requires?
2.0 Liter Four-Cylinder Engine
Push the engine start button, and the force-fed 2.0-liter four-cylinder starts generating its 210 horsepower at 5300 rpm and 207 lb.-ft. of torque starting at 1700 rpm. Feather the throttle, release the clutch, rev the engine, and a guttural grumble accompanies what feels like a limitless swell of power. Torque is spread across the rev range, making the 3,153-pound car feel stronger and more responsive than it really is. And this is a big part of what makes driving the Jetta GLI so much fun: You can thrash it without getting yourself into too much trouble.
On the Road
Get on the road, run the engine to redline, execute a fluid shift into second gear, and the Jetta GLI reaches 60 mph just as the driver grabs third. Though the car is quick rather than fast, it feels speedy from the driver’s seat thanks to the broad power curve. Flying down a straight stretch of mountain 2-lane with multiple whoops and dips, I experienced one of the Jetta GLI’s few flaws — excessive vertical body motion. Then, in anticipation of the upcoming corner, I muscled deeply into the excellent brakes, engaged the clutch, blipped the accelerator, and matched revs as the stick glided back into second gear.
Perfectly Weighted Steering
Crisp, perfectly weighted steering offers remarkable precision, and though some body roll is evident when diving into a corner, the car feels beautifully composed over most road surfaces. Available Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer performance tires, measuring 225/45R18 and included on my test car, are highly recommended. They provide phenomenal grip, and encouraged me to rip down a well-known road with confidence.
Top Safety Pick
Following the fun, it was time to fill the vacant child safety seat clipped into the Jetta GLI’s LATCH anchors, as well as the booster seat on the other side of car. I swung by the school, picked up my kids, tossed their book bags into the huge 15.7 cu.-ft. trunk (more than many midsize sedans), and shuttled them home at sane velocity, secure in the knowledge that the Jetta earns a “Top Safety Pick” crash-test rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Of course, I didn’t forget to use the new Car-Net App-Connect technology to quickly and easily send my wife a voice text, confirming that our precious offspring were with me, safe and secure in the Jetta.
Do I adore the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta GLI? Yes, I sure do. There is a nimble, graceful, and substantial quality to this car, and you feel as though you’re getting more for less. Indeed, the Golf GTI is more powerful, more sophisticated, and more practical thanks to its hatchback design, but the relatively rare three-box Jetta GLI possesses a charm of its own.
Do you love to drive? Need an affordable, practical, and safe set of wheels? Enjoy owning a car most other people don’t, one with genuine enthusiast cred? Then you’d betta getta Jetta. Just make sure it says G-L-I on the back.