Entry Price: $26,995
Price as Tested: $27,890
This week, were driving the all-new 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI, delivered in a special 35th Anniversary livery and sporting a 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine coupled to a six-speed manual transmission. Although still classified as a Jetta, this new GLI is now a standalone Jetta performance sedan that starts at $25,995 in S trim. Our GLI Special Edition starts at $26,995, while the third member of the GLI family, the Autobahn, starts at $29,195.
Several things make the GLI stand out and are not to be confused with the “regular” Jetta line. First is what sits under the hood, namely a 228-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine delivering 258 lb-ft of torque with a choice of either the six-speed manual or a special seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The lower priced Jetta models are not as powerful and offer “normal” non-dual-clutch eight-speed automatics.
Second is the suspension. Unlike the other Jettas, the GLI now rides on a fully independent four wheel suspension with a multilink rear just like the sibling performance hatchback Golf GTI. Not surprising is the new 2019 GLI now shares platform time with Golf GTI.
However, even the “normal” Jettas are quite nice cars and very popular choices amongst compact car shoppers. Now in its 7th generation, our test drive Jetta is 1.2-inches longer in the wheelbase than the 6th generation model and this new design is pretty much a ground up rebuild. GLI shows well, especially sitting next to other VW sedans like the upscale Passat line.
Our 35th Anniversary GLI features 4-mode selectable adaptive chassis control, 18-inch Hankook summer tires on special black alloy wheels with red stripes, 35th Anniversary badges, black roof and side mirrors, black rear spoiler and anniversary stitching pads on the seats and floor mats and scripted door sills.
As for pricing, the Jetta family from Volkswagen offers numerous economical choices well below our upper price GLI. The entry level Jetta S with a six-speed manual, (not to be confused with the performance GLI model) starts at just $18,745 and is quite a buy for the college commuter or on-the-road business person.
When equipped with a recommended $450 optional safety driver assistance package, which adds VW’s Blind Spot Monitor, Forward Collision Warning with Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist) and heated rear mirrors, you can park one in your driveway for a retail of $20,090 including $895 delivery. If you want the 8-speed automatic transmission, add another $800. (The above mentioned safety items are standard on all of the more expensive Jetta and GLI lines).
Jetta trims then progress to SE at $22,155; R-Line at $22,995; SEL at $24,415; and SEL Premium at $26,945. These Jettas receive motivation from a 1.4-liter turbo four that develops 147-horsepower. All are proven performers and Volkswagen’s six-year, 72,000-mile overall bumper-to-bumper warranty is one of the best in the business.
Fuel mileage city/highway is good across the board if not outstanding. The 1.4 delivers 28/40 while our GLI 228-horse 2.0 still delivers well at 25/32. The choice is yours as these Jettas are all noteworthy performers. Additionally, and even at a final $27,890 retail for our GLI 35th Edition Jetta, it’s easy to recommend a Jetta to any age demographic out there from 18 to 80.
Standard on the GLI 35th Edition is a Composition Media 6.5-inch display with AM/FM/HD, Apple/Android and Bluetooth for enhanced listening. The interior features sporty additions, like aluminum pedals and special dashboard performance oriented gauges.
As for handling, 18-inch Hankook summer tread tires improve GLI cornering and stopping abilities while the suspension is tuned for both comfort and performance. There are four driver select modes of Normal, Eco, Sport or Custom for your driving preference. All GLI models are 0.6-inch lower than the standard Jetta trims and are similar in performance capabilities with the Golf GTI, including identical drivetrains with limited slip differentials. However, unlike the Golf GTI hatchback, the GLI is a new performance sedan, and that’s the way Volkswagen wants it.
In addition to the standard safety equipment like Intelligent Crash Response, every Jetta GLI Anniversary Edition features all expected airbags, high-performance four-wheel ABS disc brakes with red calibers, traction controls, keyless start/entry and much more. VW’s attention to overall safety is rewarded with an overall Five Star government crash safety rating, a notable plus when comparing all compact, front drive models.
Inside, Jetta GLI is aesthetically pleasing and roomy. The 35th edition seating, special dashboard, 60/40 split rear seat, Bluetooth, remote keyless entry, push-button start, all the powers, and more make for a sporty atmosphere and comfortably designed cabin. Your Volkswagen dealer awaits your visit to discuss all Jetta models, from S to GLI.
Cargo room is excellent, especially for a compact car. The trunk is long and deep enough you won’t have any problems adding larger items or huge grocery orders into your Jetta sedan.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 105.6 inches, 13.2-gallon fuel tank, 3,217-lb. curb weight, 5.0-inch ground clearance, 14.1-cu. ft. of cargo space and a 36.4 ft. turning circle.
Jetta in any form is a prime example of Volkswagen engineers delivering midsize dimensions in a compact design. Throw in that wide range of pricing, and you’ve got yourself a winning combination.
But if you want a true performance sedan, drive the 2019 Jetta GLI in any state of dress. It’s the best of the bunch.
Likes: Roomy interior, large trunk, 2.0 turbo engines, GLI performance.
Dislikes: Prices rise quickly on upscale models, some expected amenities optional.
-- Greg Zyla writes weekly on cars for More Content Now and GateHouse Media.