2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Review

Fresh off a complete re-design for the 2019 model year, the Volkswagen Jetta continues in 2020 with a  few updates. The car now comes with Car-Net which is the brand’s latest infotainment software. You can subscribe to having Wi-Fi access inside the car. There are also adaptive shock absorbers that allow the driver to adjust the settings.

Let’s backup to last year for a minute because the new model was quite a significant step forward for the Jetta. First and foremost, it was significantly larger. The wheelbase was extended about an inch and a half and the vehicle’s overall bumper to bumper length increased 2 inches and the width increased by an inch.  

The exterior design is very contemporary and quite pretty. There are a lot of similarities to an Audi (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 vehicle pictured here in bright beautiful red is the 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.

The cabin has a very 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. I love the position of the start-stop button located next to the shifter. What’s missing is a heated steering wheel for those cold winter months.

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.

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.

Volkswagen will let you get behind the wheel of a base model Jetta for as little as $21,245 which is very reasonable. 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 $31,945. 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. For those of us with larger families and who require a bit more space to store things than the GTI, the GLI remains a great option.