It sounds dramatic, but there are few newer cars left on this planet like the front-wheel-drive Volkswagen Jetta GLI. Offered as a performance version of the perfectly fine-to-rent Jetta, the GLI comes fully loaded with both features and personality. Paramount is its powertrain: a spunky 228-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission is standard. A manual-transmission four-door sedan is as common as common sense. (For a little extra VW offers an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic.) Its closest competitors, the Honda Civic Si and the Hyundai Elantra N are both newer than the GLI, but offer a similar penchant for driving entertainment. While the GLI’s age has left it behind in terms of its former equal, the 244-hp Golf GTI hatchback, it’s still fun to drive. It comes standard with heated and ventilated front seats and leather upholstery. And in a package that completed our 75-mph highway fuel economy test at 36 mpg, the GLI’s continued existence is one worth celebrating, even if it’s been around longer than its competitors.
What’s New for 2024?
The VW Jetta GLI stays much the same for 2024 with the exception of a limited-edition 40th Anniversary model. Only 1984 (the year Jetta GLI was introduced; not a reference to the famous George Orwell novel) will be built. The anniversary edition gets interesting additional badging inside but better than that, drops the starting price of the GLI significantly. It comes standard with exclusively-designed cloth seats.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
The Autobahn is a fully loaded trim level that comes standard with all of the upgrades that were once mere options. This includes adaptive dampers, a digital gauge cluster, leather upholstery, a powerful audio system, a panoramic sunroof, heated-and- ventilated power front seats, and wireless charging. Shoppers can still choose between a manual or automatic transmission, but the latter costs extra.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The GLI is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. (The Mk8 GTI gets a 241-hp version of this engine.) A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is optional. Regardless of transmission, acceleration is significantly quicker compared with the standard Jetta’s 158-hp engine. In our testing, the six-speed-manual GLI hit 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, 0.7 seconds ahead of a similarly-equipped Honda Civic Si. The stick-shift version was easy and satisfying to row. Our only complaint with the automatic was its hesitance to downshift during spirited cornering. Speaking of corners, the Jetta GLI provides feelsome steering, strong brakes, and a compliant ride on its adaptive dampers—but it could definitely use a set of summer tires to match the sticky cornering grip of its hatchback GTI brother.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Since the Jetta GLI shares its turbocharged four-cylinder with two different transmissions, it gets separate fuel-economy ratings. The standard six-speed manual transmission is estimated to earn 26 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. Models equipped with the optional seven-speed automatic can expect to see 26 mpg city and 36 mpg highway, according to its government ratings. We tested a GLI with each gearbox on our 75-mph fuel-economy route, which is part of our extensive testing regimen, and both achieved an impressive 36 mpg on the highway. For more information about the Jetta GLI’s fuel economy, visit the EPA’s website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
While the GLI has the same basic layout and generous passenger space as the standard Jetta, a few bits of red trim spice things up somewhat. We only wish some of the materials that Volkswagen uses in the cabin were of higher quality. Particularly unpleasant is the molded-in stitching on the dashboard as well as the hard and shiny plastic on the doors. At least the GLI has upscale standard features such as a 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster, customizable ambient interior lighting, heated and ventilated front seats, and a panoramic sunroof. The sportiest Jetta is also surprisingly practical. The compact sedan has a massive trunk that managed to hold seven carry-on suitcases.
Infotainment and Connectivity
With an 8.0-inch touchscreen, the Jetta GLI has a user-friendly infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a subscription-based Wi-Fi hotspot. Plus, it has a 400-watt, eight-speaker BeatsAudio sound system and wireless device charging.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The Jetta GLI is loaded with standard driver-assistance technology, including automatic high-beams and lane-keeping assist. For more information about the Jetta GLI’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Standard adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go technology
- Standard blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Volkswagen has an above-average limited warranty and below-average powertrain coverage. To offset the latter, the company provides some complimentary maintenance.
- Limited warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for two years or 20,000 miles
2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI
Vehicle Type: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
Base/As Tested: $31,990/$31,990
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, iron block and aluminum head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 121 in3, 1984 cm3
Power: 228 hp @ 5000 rpm
Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm
Suspension, F/R: struts/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 13.4-in vented disc/11.8-in vented disc
Tires: Hankook Kinergy GT
225/45R-18 91H M+S
Wheelbase: 105.6 in
Length: 186.9 in
Width: 70.8 in
Height: 57.9 in
Passenger Volume: 94 ft3
Trunk Volume: 14 ft3
Curb Weight: 3266 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 6.1 sec
1/4-Mile: 14.6 sec @ 100 mph
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 7.3 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 12.3 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 8.4 sec
Top Speed (gov ltd): 126 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 174 ft
Braking, 100–0 mph: 355 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.86 g
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 30/26/37 mpg
C/D TESTING EXPLAINED
More Features and Specs