There’s no mistaking the Jetta. It is, and has been a popular choice among buyers looking to hop into an affordable and fun compact. The styling remains on the safer side of things when compared to the likes of the new Mazda3 (reviewed here) or Honda Civic, though something about the Jetta has it selling at a consistent pace. Volkswagen has one a stellar job at keeping its sedan relevant with minor updates overs the years. With this being the seventh year of the sixth-generation Jetta, it is due for a proper update to keep it nice and ripe for the picking.
This here is the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI, and while it is still a Jetta, nowhere will you find a Jetta badge on this car, as the GLI stands on its own two feet – or its own four wheels. Anyway, the GLI shares the best of both the Jetta and the Golf GTI (reviewed here). This performance-focused Jetta carries many GTI design elements onto its sedan platform, along with similar performance numbers.
The GLI acts as the flagship of the Jetta line, boasting the best performance and the hottest looks. Power is delivered to the front wheels via the 2.0L turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine. It’s good for 210 horsepower at 5,100RPM, and 207 lb-ft. of torque at 5,000RPM. These figures are similar to that of the GTI, with the GTI producing the same amount of horsepower, though with substantially more torque; 258 lb-ft rather than 207 from the updated 2.0T. It’s worth mentioning that as opposed to the modern MQB platform upon which the Golf (reviewed here) family sits, the Jetta still uses the previous-generation chassis and hence doesn’t get the refinement of the Mark 7 Golf.
As per expected, with an upgraded motor comes an additional cost, including fuel, as the 50L tank commands premium gasoline. With the factory fuel ratings sitting at 9.8L/100KM city and 7.1L/100KM highway, it’s easy to say the GLI offers some spirited abilities without compromising on fuel economy. Our real-world test confirms just that with a combined rating of 9.0L/100KM. While our tester came equipped with the six-speed DSG gearbox, a proper six-speed manual is available for the purists out there.
From a dead stop, the GLI will hit 100km/h in just over seven seconds; 7.6 to be exact. While the GTI and GLI share similar engine specs, the GTI outperforms the GLI in this regard by almost a full second, thanks to that extra torque. As far as suspension goes, the front-end sports an independent Macpherson strut, while the rear-end sports a multi-link setup. The GLI rides a little stiffer than the standard Jetta, though one would come to expect this from a performance-oriented model.
The upgraded wheel and tire setup also plays a part in the smoothness of the drive, as the larger diameter makes things a little rough. Still, the 18” Mallory alloy wheels sure do make the GLI pop. The sporty character of this car becomes very apparent when observing key design bits that have been seemingly borrowed from the GLI’s hatchback sibling. The grill has a red trim line that stretches between both headlamps, with “GLI” matted onto the grill in chrome lettering. The grill itself is made up of a honeycomb pattern, both up top and on the bottom. The fog lamps come surrounded by plastic mouldings, designed to emote an aggressive impression, with three split fins extending towards the centre of the car.
Spotted LED DRLs surround the bi-xenon low-beam headlight, a style that was popular on Audi vehicles back in 2010, though now seems little bit dated with the smooth continuous LED lights found in more modern cars. High beam, fog light and front-end turning signals stick with the conventional halogen bulbs. The front bumper is host to two extended lips as part of an fascia kit around the entirety of the car. This same plastic moulding can be around on the rocker panel on either side of the car, as to match the new integrated diffuser found on the rear bumper.
All of this is meant to give the GLI a meaner stance, and it has successfully pulled this off. Above the diffuser are signature LED taillights, featuring solid LED lines as opposed to the spotted treatment the front DRLs have embraced. The trunk lid is fitted with a small but noticeable lip, emphasising the sporty nature of this car even more. All of this car’s beauty is painted in a stunning colour with a less-than-impressive name; White Silver Metallic. While the originality of the name could have been explored, the physical product is one of my favourite colours of the year. It seems to change tones in certain lighting condition, looking grey in overcast skies, all while bright white on a sunny day. Did I mention the factory painted red callipers?
The interior of the cabin is nothing short of solid German engineering. The steering wheel features a red-stitched cross pattern, with a “GLI” badge between the two bottom spokes. The flat-bottomed wheel itself shares the exact ergonomic design as that of the Golf R (reviewed here). It feels firm and very nice to grip while tackling a corner. Red contrast stitching can be found whereever there is leather to be stitched together.
The overall fit and finish is very well done, similar to what one would expect of an entry level Audi (reviewed here). The 6.33” touchscreen display with proximity sensor comes as standard equipment, along with the six-speaker Fender audio system. The infotainment features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard equipment. Keyless entry with push-button start is also included on the basket of options that come as standard equipment in the GLI. The only real weakness here is that the interior of the Jetta feels very, well, old. This will be changed with the upcoming redesign, but for now, while competent, the car is nowhere near as modern as most of its rivals.
Overall, the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is an impressive little machine. However, we don’t see very many of these on the road for one of two reasons; the price, and the other option. The GLI has a base price of $36,395, which comes with essentially every option one would want stuffed into a Jetta, and is also our as tested price. The “other option” is the GTI, the very popular hot hatch that comes with more storage space, a newer platform, and more power for approximately the same price. It comes down to a decision of body style; sedan or hatch?
2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Gallery