test bench | Volkswagen Jetta GLi: Symbolically more than strategically

(Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario) For nearly 40 years, the GLi’s mission has been to revitalize the Jetta’s over-chic image.

Posted at 11:45am

Eric Le Francois

Eric Le Francois
special cooperation

An inspirational formula

Rarely have so many angry speedsters been presented. Oh, these aren’t high-end sedans, far from it, but caffeinated versions of mainstream models. As the dean of this category, the GLi must now fend off the onslaught of livelier and more modern competition while infusing the Jetta with an extra soul.

The spirited small car has a long tradition at Volkswagen. The genre established itself in Europe in the mid-1970s with the GTi. It then spread back to North America with the GTi, but also with the GLi designed around the Jetta. Since then, Volkswagen has ensured continuity.

The GLi conceals its nervous character under a discreet look, without any provocation. Connoisseurs will surely notice the scarlet threads that anchor certain body elements, the design of the rims or the size of the tires with which they are coated. Only the GLi monograms soberly announce the color: This sedan is a bundle of nerves.

  • The GLi conceals its nervous character under a discreet look, without any provocation.

    PHOTO PROVIDED BY VOLKSWAGEN

    The GLi conceals its nervous character under a discreet look, without any provocation.

  • With the exception of the black trim with red scratches, the special upholstery of the seats or the steering wheel, the lower part of which is flattened, many will have difficulty distinguishing the GLi from a Jetta.

    PHOTO PROVIDED BY VOLKSWAGEN

    With the exception of the black trim with red scratches, the special upholstery of the seats or the steering wheel, the lower part of which is flattened, many will have difficulty distinguishing the GLi from a Jetta.

  • In the back seats, passengers will appreciate the clearance offered, as well as the luggage that will sleep in the huge trunk.

    PHOTO PROVIDED BY VOLKSWAGEN

    In the back seats, passengers will appreciate the clearance offered, as well as the luggage that will sleep in the huge trunk.

  • In almost 40 years, the GLi has grown by 43 cm and weighed 574 kg.

    PHOTO PROVIDED BY VOLKSWAGEN

    In almost 40 years, the GLi has grown by 43 cm and weighed 574 kg.

  • Defenders of tradition will prefer the manual gearbox on the (false) pretext that it allows the 2L to reach its full potential.

    PHOTO PROVIDED BY VOLKSWAGEN

    Defenders of tradition will prefer the manual gearbox on the (false) pretext that it allows the 2L to reach its full potential.

  • In Sport mode, stroking the gas pedal is enough to enjoy listening to its luscious melody.

    PHOTO PROVIDED BY VOLKSWAGEN

    In Sport mode, stroking the gas pedal is enough to enjoy listening to its luscious melody.

  • Scarlet accents distinguish this Volkswagen Jetta GLi.

    PHOTO PROVIDED BY VOLKSWAGEN

    Scarlet accents distinguish this Volkswagen Jetta GLi.

  • Under the hood, the German manufacturer still houses a 2-liter engine powered by a turbocharger that produces 228 hp.

    PHOTO PROVIDED BY VOLKSWAGEN

    Under the hood, the German manufacturer still houses a 2-liter engine powered by a turbocharger that produces 228 hp.

1/8th

On board, the GLi hardly makes any effort to detach itself from the Jetta. With the exception of the black trim with red scratches, the special upholstery of the seats or the steering wheel, the lower part of which is flattened, many will have difficulty distinguishing the GLi from a Jetta. Rather cool (some will prefer the adjective “classic” here), the presentation certainly lacks cohesion, but the layman doesn’t care. The riding position is more important to him, as is the (very average, by the way) support of the shovel he or she adopts. In the back seats, passengers will appreciate the clearance offered, as well as the luggage that will sleep in the huge trunk.

It’s not just the acronym that’s appealing

Under the hood, the German manufacturer still houses a 2-liter engine powered by a turbocharger that produces 228 hp. The exhaust note of this four-cylinder has been meticulously crafted by the acoustic engineers and all you have to do is caress the accelerator pedal in Sport mode to indulge your ears with its luscious melody. This mechanism makes it possible to effortlessly shoot from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.5 s when coupled with the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Defenders of tradition will prefer the manual gearbox on the (false) pretext that it allows the 2L to reach its full potential. For these folks, it’s important to note that the clutch is easy to modulate, but the command remains lazy and soft.

Modified, the chassis gains in tautness, but also in dynamics through electronically adjustable shock absorbers. Unfortunately, the steering lacks responsiveness and doesn’t reinforce that feeling of driving a car one with the road, as is sometimes the case with the competition (see Competition screen). That’s not entirely the case, but it undoubtedly accounts for the charm of this GLi. It requires more commitment and more talent than those sports cars, which can go very fast even with a chimpanzee at the wheel.

Covered with electronic crutches, the GLi shows a less playful character than before.

Despite more than twice the performance and simple handling, one mustn’t forget that the GLi has grown by 43 cm and weighed 574 kg in almost 40 years. Significantly more moderate than the original version and its 90 hp, the current version doesn’t choke with indignation if you rely on a calm driving style.

At the wheel, we like that the suspension doesn’t really sacrifice comfort. We appreciate the snap and endurance of the braking system, borrowed from the previous Golf R generation.

Far from its origins

Despite these orthodox confessions, the new GLi only evokes the founding myth far enough. Very – a little too much? – smooth, acceleration is formidable (for a petrol engine of this displacement, of course), but never brutal or particularly flexible. We know VW 2 L’s that are faster, more linear, more aggressive and, admittedly, inevitably thirstier than this one.

More rousing than truly fiery, this GLi isn’t spartan and (unfortunately) doesn’t inspire nostalgia for when it first appeared. And as in the past, the suggestive GLI will primarily help sell virtuous Jettas.

Hosting costs related to this report were paid for by Volkswagen Canada.

Volkswagen Jetta GLi

price range

From $31,895 to $33,295

Visible in stores

now

consumption

8.3L/100km

We love

Complete equipment
More driving fun
Attractive price and guarantee

We love less

Rubbery box control (manual)
cannibalization within its reach
Strict presentation

Our verdict

It ticks almost all the right boxes except for emotions.

Technical worksheet


PHOTO PROVIDED BY VOLKSWAGEN

Volkswagen Jetta GLi

engine

  • L4 DOHC 2.0L turbocharged
  • Power: 228 hp at 6500 rpm
  • Torque: 258 lb-ft at 4000 rpm

perfomance

  • Weight: 1484 kg (estimated)
  • Acceleration (0-100km/h): 6.5s
  • Ground clearance: 146mm

transmission

  • Standard: 6-speed manual gearbox
  • Optional: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
  • Driving mode: traction

tires

Tank capacity and recommended petrol

Dimensions

  • Wheelbase: 2681mm
  • Length: 4747mm
  • Height: 1471mm
  • Width: 1799 mm (without exterior mirrors)

Second start


PHOTO PROVIDED BY VOLKSWAGEN

The Volkswagen Jetta ranks fifth among the best-selling compacts in Canada.

The one we called “Golf with a trunk” is doing quite well in the Canadian market. It ranks fifth among the best-selling compacts. The partial overhaul carried out this year will not allow him to jump to the top, but to keep his rank, which seems to be in line with the expectations of Volkswagen management. Redesigned shields, an expanded color palette, and new accessories summarize the aesthetic changes made to this model.

When more power means more savings


PHOTO PROVIDED BY VOLKSWAGEN

Volkswagen Jetta GLi engine

To discover the piece of resistance of this partial restyling, you have to lift the bonnet. It’s obviously not obvious, but the engine has a larger displacement (1.5L instead of 1.4L) than that of its predecessor. It’s the same engine as the Taos. There’s an 11 horsepower difference between the new and the old, but the torque stays the same. More power, but also more savings on the pump. In conjunction with the automatic transmission, this engine turns out to be the most economical.

The opinion of the owners


PHOTO PROVIDED BY VOLKSWAGEN

Volkswagen Jetta GLi

Complete satisfaction

This is my third Jetta but my first GLi from 2021. What a pleasure to drive! Performance, handling, powerful braking, very easy to position in traffic. He currently has 18,000 km on the clock. The consumption is reasonable (approx. 8 l/100 km with premium petrol). I used a trip to Florida to treat myself. I have always loved sports cars and my 2021 GLi with new technologies makes my life easier.

HLRC

Ah, the red!

I have had a GLi since June 2020 and I love it! The comfort, the solidity of driving (the engine is not anemic as you sometimes say) and the load capacity are strong elements. And what about the red inserts that spice up the interior and the exterior a bit! However, I must tell you that I am a fan of Volkswagen products. I’ve had several, including a GTi. We can say of the GLi that it is an anonymous GTi. Also, you have to know Volkswagen to know that the GLi shares most of the GTi’s components and even some of the R’s. A defect maybe, it’s automatic … I didn’t manage to have a manual. When it comes to the traffic problems in the greater Montreal area, I don’t regret it too much.

Madeleine H

Anyway, one second

I own a 2021 Jetta GLi with manual transmission. I previously had a 2013 GLi that I liked, but a year out of warranty I resigned myself to the replacement due to lack of reliability. So far there are only positive things to say about this car. Power, handling and fuel economy are all there. And plenty of interior space for our two children. Finding a high-performing manual family car isn’t easy, and the GLi is one of those exceptional vehicles. Too bad that the heated steering wheel is not offered. For the rest, we’ll take advantage of it while it’s still possible. It remains to be seen if the reliability will be better than my previous GLi.

Eric B

Nothing to report

I have owned a 2019 Jetta GLi with manual transmission for almost three years and I am very satisfied. It’s extremely difficult to find a sport sedan at this price point fitted with a manual gearbox that’s as fun, comfortable, spacious, well equipped and fuel efficient as the GLi. For those who are afraid of the manufacturer’s bad reputation, I can assure you that I haven’t had any problems so far.

David S

Share your experience

The press will soon be posting reviews of the following vehicles: Acura Integra, BMW i4, Genesis GV60, Honda HR-V, Porsche Cayman, Subaru WRX and Toyota 86. If you own any of these vehicles or are waiting for delivery, we’d be happy to read.

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