2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Review

The 2019 Jetta has been completely revamped from the bottom up for this model year and represents a major improvement over the previous generation. It uses the brand’s new MQB architecture, allowing it to build different vehicles of various sizes while saving on R&D costs.

You’ll immediately notice the Jetta’s new looks as well as the fact that it’s significantly larger. The wheelbase has been extended about an inch and a half, the vehicle’s overall bumper to bumper length is up 2 inches and the width has been increased by an inch.

I find the new look very compelling to be completely honest. I see a lot of similarities to an Audi in it (Audi, of course, is owned by the Volkswagen Group). With standard LED daytime running lights, headlights and taillights, a big bold grille and a coupe-like silhouette, it has a very premium yet classy look to it.  

The subject of this review is the recently added GLI trim which turns your basic Jetta into a four-door GTI. There are sporty styling cues that will garner attention from VW fans including a red accent stripe, a honeycomb pattern in the grille, lower side skirts, aggressive front and rear fascias, a finned diffusor and dual chrome exhaust tips. 18-inch wheels and Golf R front brakes, with red-painted calipers, are also standard equipment on every GLI. This was the 35th anniversary edition GLI meaning is came with special black mags with red trim, a black rear spoiler and other 35th Edition badging.

The trend continues into the cabin with a new driver-focused interior that is comfortable and pleasing to the eye. The angle of the dash makes sure that all the functions are within easy reach. Volkswagen’s climate controls are simple and easy to use though I’d point out that the little lights which indicate fan speed are not always easy to see.

The standard touch screen is 6.5 inches but the real treat here is the optional 8.0-inch screen with the digital cockpit as an instrument panel. It’s a beautiful piece of technology that only improves that premium feel further. Red stitching is used on the steering wheel, shifter, armrest and floormats. The seats are firm and comfortable as is the driving position. The sporty steering wheel is among my favorites the industry. More USB ports would be welcome addition as would a trunk that doesn’t bonk you on the head unless it’s opened all the way and clicked into position.

Powering the GLI is the same engine found in the Golf GTI: a 2.0-litre turbocharged TSI 4-cylinder engine making 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The engine features variable valve timing on the intake and exhaust sides, as well as variable exhaust valve lift. Thankfully you can get the GLI in a 6-speed manual for maximum enjoyment but if you’re stuck in traffic in your morning commute half the time you may want to opt for the 7-speed DSG automatic which is what you see here. I’m not going to beat around bush: having the automatic really takes a bunch of the potential fun away from driving this vehicle. I’ve tried both and there really isn’t a comparison.

The independent sport-tuned suspension provides a crisp ride that is worthy of the GLI moniker. The GLI will take corners with confidence and with poise and – thanks to the above-mentioned Golf R brakes – stop on a dime. Volkswagen’s electronically-controlled torque-sensing limited-slip differential helps mitigate understeer and is standard on the GLI. All of this fun can be had at a reasonable fuel economy of around 7-8 L / 100km.

The starting price of a base-model Jetta is a super-reasonable $20,995 and the base Comfortline comes well equipped with the afore-mentioned LED exterior lighting but also LED mood lighting for the cabin, 16-inch wheels, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, the 6.5-inch touch screen and automatic headlights. The GLI starts at $31,695 ($750 more for the 35th Anniversary Edition). It may seem like a big step up in terms of cost to get to the GLI but the larger engine, and all of the other features mentioned make it a fair deal. The GLI is an attractive package that will surely lure a swath of potential buyers its way.

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