2017 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0T GLIPosted on April 12th, 2017
Sporty compact sedan adds spice to the daily commute
By Nina Russin
The GLI is the premium sport grade for Volkswagen’s Jetta compact sedan. Priced from $27,895, it comes loaded with safety and convenience features including a rearview camera with park distance control, blind spot monitoring, keyless start, Bluetooth interface, Fender premium audio system, satellite radio and cruise control.
Eighteen-inch alloy rims are an upgrade from 16-inch wheels on the base model. Automatic headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, rain-sensing wipers and a power tilt-and-slide sunroof make the GLI an appealing yet affordable package. Final MSRP is $28,715.
Engineered for driving enthusiasts
If you think buying a front-wheel drive sedan means jumping the shark, you’re wrong. The Jetta GLI is first and foremost a driver’s car. I liked it better than many more expensive options in the compact segment and at the end of the week-long test drive was sorry to have to surrender the keys.
The GLI’s ace-in-the-hole is its powertrain, including a turbocharged two-liter engine rated at 210-horsepower with 207 pound-feet of peak torque and six-speed manual gearbox. Chain drive eliminates the need for timing belt replacement: something that can be an expensive post-warranty repair.
The front-wheel drive sedan is well balanced front-to-rear. A sport-tuned suspension smooths out the bumps while keeping the chassis nice and flat in the corners.
The engine is as efficient as it is powerful, with 33 mile-per-gallon highway fuel economy. Radiator shutters close at higher speeds to make the car more aerodynamic. An integrated rear spoiler improves aerodynamics in the back. After putting more than 200 miles on the car, the fuel tank remained over half full.
Test drive in Phoenix, Arizona
The test drive included surface streets and highways in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Chandler, Arizona as well as rural roads along the foothills of the San Tan Mountains southeast of town.
Because turbocharged engines develop peak torque at low engine speeds, acceleration off the line and in the 20-to-50 range is excellent. I had no problems moving to the front of traffic on freeway entrance ramps.
Arizona DOT starts most of its highway construction at-this-time of year, ahead of the summer heat. Blind spot monitoring made it easier to merge when workers had blocked multiple freeway lanes off for improvements. The engine’s abundant horsepower also makes it easier to change speeds on the highway when trying to merge into fast-moving traffic.
The six-speed manual gearbox is crisp and responsive, with a relatively light clutch pedal that is quite manageable in stop-and-go traffic. Gears have plenty of range, so the driver doesn’t have to shift constantly. Second gear starts are quite easy.
The four-wheel independent suspension consists of struts with coil springs up front and multi-link setup in the rear. Anti-roll bars on both axles enable drivers to take turns at speed. The manual transmission car is about 50 pounds lighter than the automatic, making it slightly less nose-heavy.
The power-assist electric steering system feels pleasantly heavy at speed with plenty of assist on the low end for maneuverability. On-center response is a bit soft, but I was-able-to perform quick lane changes with ease.
Ventilated disc brakes up front and solid rotors in the rear stop the sedan in firm, linear fashion.
Engineers did a good job of containing engine, wind and road noise so passengers can converse on the highway or enjoy the premium audio system.
Standard daytime running lamps make the sedan easier for other drivers to see in low light. At night, headlamps deliver bright, long beams of light for excellent visibility.
The Jetta’s fold-flat rear seat makes it more practical for buyers with active lifestyles who routinely carry larger cargo. The trunk itself is quite deep. I was-able-to load in a large bike stand and easily clear the trunk lid.
Keyless entry and start saves the driver from fumbling for the key fob after dark. I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust with plenty of lower lumbar support.
While the black leatherette seats are attractive, they aren’t especially practical for the desert Southwest where car interiors typically reach 140-degrees Fahrenheit mid-summer. A no-cost cloth seat option would solve the problem.
Both the center stack screen and gauge cluster are readable in bright daylight and after dark. Infotainment controls are easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate. Dual-zone climate controls keep front seat occupants comfortable in temperature extremes.
Although it lacks the legroom of the larger Passat, two adults should fit comfortably in the Jetta’s rear seats.
The Volkswagen Jetta GLI comes with six airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, intelligent crash response that automatically unlocks the doors, turns on interior lights and shuts off fuel in the event of a serious collision and tire pressure monitoring. Emergency services are part of the standard VW Car-Net package.
Volkswagen builds the Jetta at its Puebla, Mexico assembly plant.
Like: A fun-to-drive, affordable sedan with a high level of standard safety features.
Dislike: Black leatherette upholstery can become dangerously hot in summer.
Model: Jetta 2.0T GLI
Base price: $27,895
As tested: $28,715
Horsepower*: 210 HP @ 5300 rpm
Torque: 207 lbs.-ft*. @ 1700 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 23/33 mpg city/highway
Comment: *Horsepower and torque figures achieved with premium fuel.2017, Best Value 2017, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Jetta GLI, performance, pricing, standard safety, Volkswagen