(Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario) For nearly 40 years, the GLi’s mission has been to reinvigorate the Jetta’s overly stylish image.
Posted June 8
an inspiring formula
Rarely have so many angry little cars been featured. Oh, these aren’t high-end sedans, far from it, but caffeinated versions of mainstream models. Dean of this category, the GLi must now fend off the onslaught of livelier, more modern competition while infusing the Jetta with an extra soul.
The small car with a strong temperament is a tradition at Volkswagen. The genre was established in the mid-1970s with the GTi in Europe. It then spread to North America with the GTi again, but also the GLi, designed around the Jetta. Volkswagen has ensured continuity ever since.
His nervous character, the GLi hides it under a discreet look, without any provocation. Connoisseurs will surely notice the scarlet threads that enshrine certain elements of the bodywork, the design of the wheels or the size of the tires that cover them. Only, without a doubt, the GLi monograms soberly announce the color: this sedan is a ball of nerves.
On board, the GLi makes a little more effort to separate itself from the Jetta. With the exception of the black trim with red stripes, specific seat upholstery, or the flattened-bottom steering wheel, many will have a hard time telling the GLi from a Jetta. Quite cold (some may prefer the adjective “classic” here), the presentation certainly lacks cohesion, but the fan doesn’t care. For him, the driving position is more important, as well as the (otherwise very mediocre) support of the bucket he occupies. In the rear seats, passengers will appreciate the free space it offers as well as the luggage that will sleep in the huge trunk.
It’s not just the acronym that excites
Under the hood, the German manufacturer still houses a 2 L powered by a turbocharger that allows it to produce 228 hp. The exhaust sound of this four-cylinder has been carefully crafted by acoustic engineers, and all you have to do, in Sport mode, is pat the accelerator pedal to delight your ears with its wide melody. This mechanics allows effortless 0-100 km/h in 6.5 seconds, provided it is combined with the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The defenders of the tradition will prefer the manual transmission on the (false) pretext that it allows the 2L to give its full potential. To these folks, it’s important to note that the clutch is easy to modulate, but the command remains loose and smooth.
Modified, the running gear gains in firmness, but also in dynamism thanks to the electronically adjustable shock absorbers. Unfortunately, the steering lacks responsiveness and doesn’t amplify this feeling of driving a car at one with the road, as the competition sometimes does (see “Competition” screen). This is not exactly the case, but it is certainly what makes the charm of this GLi. It requires more commitment and more talent than those sports cars that can go very fast even with a chimpanzee at the wheel.
Decked out in electronic crutches, the GLi displays a less playful character than before.
Despite more than twice the power and easy handling, let’s not forget that in almost 40 years, the GLi has grown 17 inches and weighed 1,300 pounds. Much more measured than the original version and its 90 hp, the current version does not drown in indignation, however, if a calm driving is adopted.
Behind the wheel, we like that the suspension doesn’t impose any real sacrifices in terms of comfort. We appreciated the bite and resilience of the braking system taken from the previous generation Golf R.
far from its origins
Despite these promises of orthodoxy, the new GLi only sufficiently evokes the founding myth. Too much – a little too much? – Smooth, the acceleration is formidable (for a gasoline engine of this displacement, of course), but never brutal or especially flexible. We’ve known VW 2Ls that are quicker to jump, more linear, more aggressive and, admittedly, necessarily thirstier than this one.
More soulful than truly fiery, this GLi is no Spartan and (sadly) no nostalgia for the time it first appeared. And, as in the past, the alluring GLI will help sell virtuoso Jettas first and foremost.
Hosting costs related to this report were paid by Volkswagen Canada.
Volkswagen Jetta GLi
From $31,895 to $33,295
Visible at dealerships
Enhanced driving pleasure
Attractive price and guarantee
we love less
Rubber box control (manual)
Cannibalize within range
It ticks almost all the right boxes, except for emotion.
- L4 DOHC 2.0L Turbocharged
- Power: 228 hp at 6500 rpm
- Torque: 258 pound-feet at 4,000 rpm
- Weight: 1484 kg (estimated)
- Acceleration (0-100km/h): 6.5s
- Ground clearance: 146mm
- Standard: 6-speed manual
- Optional: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
- Driving mode: traction
Tank capacity and recommended fuel
- Wheelbase: 2681mm
- Length: 4747mm
- Height: 1471mm
- Width: 1799 mm (excluding exterior mirrors)
What we nicknamed “the Golf with a trunk” is doing quite well in the Canadian market. It occupies the fifth position of the best-selling compact. The partial facelift that it is undergoing this year will not allow it to jump to the front, but it will allow it to maintain its range, which seems to correspond to the expectations of Volkswagen’s leaders. Redesigned shields, an expanded color palette and new accessories sum up the aesthetic changes brought to this model.
When more power means more savings
To uncover the pièce de résistance of this partial redesign, you need to lift the hood. It’s obviously not obvious, but the engine has a larger displacement (1.5 L instead of 1.4 L) than its predecessor. It’s the same engine as the Taos. Between the new and the old there is a difference of 11 hp, but the torque remains the same. More power, but also more savings at the pump. It is in association with the automatic transmission that this engine proves to be the most frugal.
The opinion of the owners
This is my third Jetta, but my first 2021 GLi. What a joy to drive! Power, maneuverability, powerful braking, very easy to position in traffic. It currently has 18,000 km on the clock. Fuel consumption is reasonable (about 8 L/100 km with premium gasoline). I took advantage of a trip to Florida to treat myself. I have always loved sports cars and my 2021 GLi with new technologies makes my life easier.
Oh the red!
I have a GLi since June 2020 and I love it! Comfort, solid handling (the engine is not anemic, as is sometimes claimed) and cargo capacity are strong points. And what about the red inserts that liven up the interior and exterior a bit! However, I must tell you that I am a fan of Volkswagen products. I’ve owned several, including a GTi. From the GLi we can say that it is an anonymous GTi. Also, you have to know Volkswagen to know that the GLi has most of the components of the GTi and even some of the R. A defect perhaps, it’s automatic… I didn’t get to have a manual. On the other hand, with the traffic problems in the Montreal metropolitan area, I don’t have too many regrets.
one second anyway
I have a 2021 Jetta GLi with a manual transmission. Before, I had a 2013 GLi that I liked, but a year after the warranty ended, I resigned myself to changing it due to lack of reliability. So far only positive things to say about this car. The performance, handling and fuel economy are all there. And plenty of room inside for our two kids. It’s not easy to find a high-performance family car with a manual transmission, and the GLi is one of those exceptional vehicles. Too bad the heated steering wheel is not offered. For the rest, we take advantage of it while it is still possible. Whether reliability will be better than my previous GLi remains to be seen.
nothing to point out
I have owned a 2019 Jetta GLi with a manual transmission for almost three years and am very satisfied. It’s extremely hard to find a sport sedan at this price that comes with a manual transmission that’s as fun to drive, comfortable and roomy, well equipped, and fuel efficient as the GLi. Also, for those who fear the builder’s reputation for shoddy quality, I can assure you that I haven’t had any problems to date.
Share your experience
Press We will be posting reviews of the following vehicles soon: Acura Integra, BMW i4, Genesis GV60, Honda HR-V, Porsche Cayman, Subaru WRX, and Toyota 86. If you own one of these vehicles or are waiting for delivery, we’d love to hear from you.
#Test #bench #Volkswagen #Jetta #GLi #symbolic #strategic