Sitting on top of the Volkswagen Jetta lineup, the GLI is the performance-oriented vehicle of the bunch.
Like the rest of the Jetta family that has grown with a new hybrid model added to the diesel and gasoline offerings, the GLS four-door sedan is now built in Mexico instead of Germany.
And while it is what I would consider somewhat conservatively styled, it does stand out from the rest of the Jetta fleet with a distinctive front end and other features that set it apart.
The market for this type of vehicle may be limited, but the GLI could be considered the perfect compromise for the driving enthusiast who doesn’t want to sacrifice performance at the expense of family and/or business needs for a four-door sedan.
Our 2013 Jetta GLI test car came in a brilliant Tornado Red—a colour that drew several positive comments from neighbours and friends.
The base Jetta starts at just under the major $15K mark ($14,990 to be precise), but when you get up into GLI territory, the price jumps to $28,990.
Throw in the Technology Package, which includes all the features of the Sport and Leather packages (optional at $5,650) and voila, the cost is now $34,640 plus freight and PDI of $1,395. Not inexpensive to say the least.
While the sportiness and performance does come at a price, for those enthusiasts who desire it, the cost is certainly far south of what many other near luxury sport sedans would set you back.
The GLI is powered by VW’s ubiquitous 200 hp 2.0-litre DOHC turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine with direct injection that produces 207 lb/ft of torque. It will propel the car from 0-100 km/h in a little over seven seconds. Not bad at all, although I did notice a bit of turbo lag under hard acceleration.
In the GLI, the 2.0-litre turbo is mated with a six-speed DSG automatic with Tiptronic and sport mode. DSG stands for Direct Shift Gearbox, which in essence delivers the best of both an automatic and a manual transmission.
DSG is managed by a pair of electronically controlled clutches that shift faster, provide better acceleration and also reduce fuel consumption.
The 2.0-litre turbo is one of four engine options in the Jetta lineup, which comes with a base 170 hp 2.5-litre 20-valve inline five-cylinder engine. Also available is a gas-electric hybrid, and what I believe is the best of the bunch, a penny-pinching 2.0-litre inline common rail diesel engine.
The GLI comes outfitted for the driving enthusiast with sport seats and sport suspension. You would expect a vehicle in the mid-$30s to have a nice interior and the GLI doesn’t disappoint, although it is a tick below Audi or Volvo class.
The Vienna leather seats in the test car had attractive red stitching, carried over on the flat-bottomed steering wheel, parking brake lever and shift lever. The dash pad is made of soft touch material and the dash and door panels feature a silver metallic trim.
The front sport bucket seats were very comfortable. In the rear there is decent legroom and space for three adults.
With its sport suspension, the ride is on the firm side, but the GLI makes up for it with superior handling compared with the other Jettas.
Outside, the GLI stands out from other Jettas with its black honeycomb grille air dam, bright red brake calipers and 18-in alloy Bathurst alloy wheels.