2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

For the past 36 years, the Volkswagen Jetta GLI was considered to be just a “Golf GTI with a trunk.”

For the first several generations, that was actually true. The Golf and Jetta are from the same platform with a lot of components, while sharing body and interior trim parts. In America, the Jetta was outselling the Golf, yet it seemed that the GTI was more popular with the enthusiast crowd than the GLI.

However, Volkswagen developed the current generation of the Jetta by giving it its own identity. Furthermore, they developed the GLI as more than just a “Golf GTI with a trunk.” The result is something truly special – a compact performance sedan that writes its own rules.

That is why we put the 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI to the test. We wanted to see whether there is a real difference between it and the hot hatch standard-bearer Golf GTI.

The Jetta GLI is based from the standard Jetta body style – a sleek four-door sedan with creased lines and a fastback-like roofline. There were no major body updates created for the Jetta GLI version over any of the regular models.

The Jetta GLI adds a specific black grille with a red trim across it. Specific GLI badging is seen up front and on the trunk. There is a small spoiler attached to the trunk lid for added aerodynamics, and a couple of chromed exhaust tips down on the rear diffuser. The Autobahn model that we tested added 18-inch alloy wheels to finish the Jetta GLI’s overall look.

The same theme continues inside of the Jetta GLI. The dashboard layout is the same, including the eight-inch infotainment screen and the Digital Cockpit instrument binnacle. However, you will see the added enhancements that distinguish it from other Jetta models, such as GLI badging and added red accents from the steering stitching to the certain trim elements. The Jetta GLI receives a sportier three-spoke steering wheel seen on the Golf GTI.

Perhaps the best enhancement added to the Jetta GLI are the sports seats. The bolstering is deep, and the quality of the Autobahn’s leather upholstery is quite good. Rear seat room is the same as on normal Jetta models with plenty of leg room, but some headroom for six-footers. Trunk space remains at a generous 14.1 cubic feet.

The real magic of the Jetta GLI is underneath the body and beyond the interior. The 228-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine also offers 258 pound-feet of torque. Our tester has this engine connected to the seven-speed DSG dual clutch gearbox. The result is smooth shifts in Normal and Comfort model, while it will rev up accordingly in Sport mode.

The mention of driving modes is because our Autobahn tester has the DCC active chassis control system. A button on the console opens up a screen on the infotainment system letting you select from five modes, including Eco. For the suspension, there are actually three modes of adjustment to choose from.

In terms of fuel economy, we observed an average of 29.8 MPG.

Driving dynamics have been the hallmark of the performance models from Volkswagen. We noticed a firmer ride than regular Jetta models, but it felt more solid than harsh. In turn, we experienced very good cornering and quick response to evasive maneuvers. In Sport mode, these settings get some sharpening up where corners seem to get carved.

The brakes come from the now-eliminated Golf R. Stopping power is actually pretty good with great pedal feel and solid response to the wheels. The steering system is also very good giving us tight turns and a quick response. Putting the DCC into Sport does weigh down the steering wheel slightly for better control.

The 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI comes in two trim levels. The “base” S model starts at $26,245. Our Autobahn tester came with a sticker price of $31,665.

The Jetta GLI is a unique proposition as a performance-oriented compact sedan. Customers usually just buy a Jetta GLI without shopping for anything else. However, it has a bit of competition from the likes of the Honda Civic Si, Toyota Corolla XSE, Mazda3, Subaru WRX, Hyundai Elantra Sport, and Kia Forte GT.

In all, there is more to the 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI than being a “Golf GTI with a trunk.” It stands on its own as a desirable enthusiast’s sedan that delivers the fun even if it has an all-business approach to driving.

Story Credits: CarSoup Editors

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