We love the Volkswagen Golf GTI, but sadly there are some buyers that refuse to drive a hatchback, no matter how many times we say the GTI is one of the best cars you can buy. Well luckily Volkswagen has an answer for those buyers that only want a high performance sedan – the 2019 Jetta GLI. It borrows its turbocharged engine from the GTI and even a few other goodies to turn the regular Jetta into a fun to drive compact sedan.
The 2019 Jetta GLI is based on VW’s MQB platform and under the hood it has the same 2.0-liter turbocharged engine as its GTI brother. the four-cylinder generates the same 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. as the GTI. Buyers can choose either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission.
Besides the sportier engine, the Jetta GLI also gets an independent multilink rear suspension, a firmer suspension, a limited-slip differential and the 13.4-inch front brakes from the Golf R. If you opt for the 35th Anniversary model, you’ll also get adaptive dampers, which can soften or stiffen the ride based on your preferences.
Once inside you’re again reminded of the Golf GTI, since the Jetta GLI shares the same steering wheel. But that’s where the similarities end. The interior of the GTI feels more luxurious than the Jetta GLI, since the latter has harder and more drab materials. We wish it came with the cool plaid seats from the GTI. You can get the cool Digital Cockpit, which does make it look a bit more upscale, but it’s only available on the top spec Autobahn trim level.
Compared to the GTI, the Jetta GLI does offer a bit more interior space, which is largely felt in the rear seat, which has almost two-inches more legroom.
So how does it compare to the GTI on the road? From a stop the Jetta GLI comes to life almost immediately. The engine is eager to play and get you moving down the road. The Jetta GLI accelerates just like the GTI and even its body control is on par with the much-loved hatchback. If it wasn’t for the lower quality instrument panel, it might be easy for you to forget that you’re driving the Jetta GLI, instead of the Golf GTI. We also wish the GLI’s seats were as supportive as the GTI’s.
The good news is that the Jetta GLI won’t make you pay extra for all the fun, since it’s rated at 25 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.
On paper the Jetta GLI has two main competitors, the Honda Civic Si and Subaru WRX. The Civic Si offers less power and only comes with a manual transmission. The WRX may cost more than the GLI, but it comes standard with all-wheel drive.
The new Jetta GLI is finally what we would effectively call a GTI sedan and although some of the materials are bit more bargain basement than the the hatchback, there’s one area where it excels – its price. The 2019 Jetta GLI starts at $25,995, which is $1,600 cheaper than the GTI.