Expert Reviews

Day-by-Day Review: 2016 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

Day 1

This week's car is a rare bird indeed, at least I do not see them around very often and we haven't reviewed one here on in a few years. The Jetta GLI is the sedan version of the popular hot hatch by the same manufacturer the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

My tester is the Autobahn edition of the GLI in one-trim, one-price form. Okay two prices, manual and DSG versions, but everything else is included for the price. You get quite a bit for your dollar here too, especially if you are looking for a powerful solid platform that offers performance and German feel.

What's included? First of course is the 210 hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine that also boasts 207 lb-ft of torque plus the choice of a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed DSG (dual-clutch automated manual) and a few basic colours (grey, silver, white, black and tornado red).

Notable features include: Bi-Xenon headlights, Fender premium audio system, leather seating, sunroof, blind spot monitoring, keyless entry and start and 18-inch Mallory alloy wheels.

For those that want a GTI but prefer a trunk to a hatch there isn't much selection out there, but how is it to live with day in and day out? Stay tuned.


Day 2

At first glance you don't notice the fine details of the interior of the GLI, and then after closer inspection you realize there is a lot of attention to detail here. From the red stitching on the shifter and seats to the red accent pieces along the piano black trim pieces.

Minor details that when put together as a whole make the interior of the GLI stand out as something a little more special than a standard Jetta. For those that prefer a trunk over a hatch the GLI obviously delivers that feature, but also provides you with 60/40 split folding seats with release levers in the trunk for easy use. The back seats are also roomy in both head and leg dimensions making the GLI a comfortable place even for backseat drivers.

Up front of course the 2016 model has been updated with a new infotainment system that is now easier to use, much more responsive than previous versions and also more feature rich. The system actually has the ability to read text messages to you and you can respond to them with canned phrases or for the first time that I have seen you can type your own reply right on the screen. There is warning about distracted driving and it is pretty darn distracting but it lets you do it while moving as well.

The rest of the interior is standard Volkswagen fair and if you are familiar with the brand you will feel right at home. A nice cushion for your left elbow and an adjustable arm rest in the centre for your right elbow as well makes long trips comfortable. A tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power driver's seat with manual lumber and heated seats add to the comfort factor.


Day 3


The GLI is one solid car on the road. Like most all German cars it feels like it is carved from one solid block as there are no vibrations or shimmies or other odd feelings going on beneath you as you carve the corners or scamper down the highway.

Scamper the GLI does, the spring to 100 km/h ends in a flash and if you need to quickly merge into a tight gap at 50 or 60 km/h just go for it because the DSG transmissions quick shifts and the power deliver of the GLI you can basically go from zero to 50 km/h in a blink of an eye. In fact it always seems like I”m going way too fast in the GLI.

Thankfully I noticed the speedometer is showing about 6 km/h too fast because I seem to be constantly creeping into naughty range with this car as it is so smooth on the highway. It isn’t all that quiet though there seems to be a lot of road noise, but that could simply be the low-profile 18-inch tires.

Brakes could use a little more initial bite for my liking in a vehicle like this but they do work well and are easy to modulate. The DSG transmission still feels like a first-time manual driver when backing up or doing slow crawl maneuvers but you do get used to it. Once on the move the shifts are so lightning fast the only way you know they occurred is because the revs changed on the tach.

Visibility is great all around and even though the GLI has blind-spot detection I haven’t really felt the need to even glance at the lights which are pretty small but still visible on the outsides of the mirrors. Parking the GLI is easy with a good turning radius and parking sensors all around to keep you from bumping into cars in either direction.


Day 4

It's quick, it's comfortable and it is stylish and fun to drive. There isn't much to not like about the Jetta GLI except that perhaps it could have a little more power to be competitive with the new Golf GTI that offers quite a bit more torque.

But that reduced power does come with a few perks. The required regular fuel instead of premium is a bonus with the GLI and the fuel economy I achieved over the week of spirited driving was impressive. I averaged 7.0 L/100 km which is pretty incredible consider the capabilities of this car and my heavy foot at times.

Like most Volkswagens I tend to like them more at the end of the week than at the beginning and there is no exception here. The only niggle for me was the road noise which I noticed when I first picked up the car but of course you get use to the levels after a few days and it no longer bothers you as it isn't really loud.

Overall the GLI is a great car that performs well in all areas.


Model: 2016 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn
Pricing: $36,195
Options: N/A
Freight: $1,605
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $37,900