2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is affordable European performance
Volkswagen came out with the original Jetta sedan back in 1980 and the Jetta GLI performance model came out in 1984. Over the last 39 years, this compact sedan has been a consistent best-seller for VW. More than 17.5 million Jettas have been sold worldwide.
The reason for the Jetta's popularity is that VW has maintained the perfect mix of affordability and European performance, with a touch of luxury. For 2019, the Jetta GLI performance model still goes for less than $30,000, but it's much more than an economy car.
The basic Jetta uses a 1.4-liter engine, but the GLI receives a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine rated at a potent 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The standard Jetta GLI offers a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment, while the GLI 35th anniversary edition and the top Autobahn trim feature a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. All 2019 Jetta GLI models are front-wheel-drive only.
The Jetta GLI exterior is distinct from the basic Jetta, with red accents and sport wheels, and a color palette that emphasizes the sporty nature of the car. There's only one real color, called Tornado Red. But among the silver, gray, black, and white options, the Pure Gray is the one to have. If you buy the mid-grade 35th Anniversary trim, the 18-inch wheels have red line highlights, and it looks fabulous against the gray.
Inside, the Jetta GLI lives up to its promise of a near-luxury performance sedan. The basic S trim and the 35th Anniversary offer heated cloth seats, while the Autobahn trim comes with heated and ventilated leather. The seats are supportive and comfortable. The Autobahn edition of the GLI adds a panoramic sunroof and VW's Digital Cockpit all-video dashboard.
The infotainment system includes a 6.5-inch color touchscreen display in the base and 35th Anniversary trims, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen in the Autobahn trim. VW does not support Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, but offers Car-Net App-Connect to perform the same services. A rear-view camera is standard. A premium sound system by BeatsAudio is available, and well worth the extra money.
On the road, the 2019 VW Jetta GLI is a pure pleasure. There's plenty of power and the 7-speed DSG transmission is crisp and certain. Active adaptive suspension is included on the 35th Anniversary trim, and this adjusts the suspension to suit the road you're on. The Jetta GLI is confident, smooth, and completely enjoyable.
If you're looking for a sport compact sedan at an affordable price point, the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI delivers European performance at an economy car price. I recommend you take a test drive in the Jetta GLI and experience it for yourself.
2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI
Base price: $25,995
Price as tested: $28,985
Type: Compact sedan
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (228 hp, 258 lbs-ft)
Transmissions: 6-speed manual; 7-speed dual-clutch
EPA estimated mileage: 25/32
Overall length: 185.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,217 pounds
Final assembly: Puebla, Mexico