Driven a Thing

The new GLIs are coming in to dealers. I’ve always liked the way VWs drove, felt and looked...when they weren’t broken, that is.

Having sworn off VW/Audi about a decade ago, would the new hot-Jetta impress me? Would it finally convince me to end my ages-old VAG ban?

Starting with the looks, VW continues with what it has always done well. Classy and timeless, always aging better than the competition. LED lighting up front except turn indicators.


The rear isn’t anything too special, but has full LED lighting, including the turn indicators.

Hopping inside, the interior leaves little to be desired. The base infotainment screen size is on the modest side, but not a major complaint. The seat fabric feels upscale and it’s honestly a tough call between this and the easier-to-clean leatherette.


No digital instrument panel here—there may be one offered in the higher Autobahn trim. YMMV: I found the steering wheel oddly huge, even larger than the one in my Jag land yacht.

The most important Oppo features are in full effect: 3 pedals and a gear knob with a proud H-pattern. The general interior styling is a bit robo-angular. A little jarring at first but nothing I couldn’t get used to.


What is fairly disappointing is the rear cabin trim. The doors are literally all hard plastic from top to bottom, except for the arm rests. The other ding is no rear seat A/C outlet—a feature increasingly common in the compact-premium segment.

The drive was exactly as I had expected—easy with a dash of tightness that the base Jetta supposedly doesn’t have. It’s roughly analogous to the Civic Si, but at a higher (by $5k, not something to sneeze at) price point and with a bit more class in its ride quality. Power was decent; there is detectable turbo lag but nothing that a driver couldn’t adapt to.


The clutch is forgiving, no worse than the Civic that I recall driving. The shifter is not quite Honda-precise, but it’s very low-effort and for the first few flicks I found myself in 3rd when really aiming for Neutral.

Casting my VAG hatred aside, the car looks a lot more mature than the Civic (“GRILLES! Look at my giant, mostly fake intake and vent GRILLES!”) and has the requisite VW ride quality that manages to feel more upscale than the rest of the segment. Where the GLI (and Jetta) loses to the Civic is mostly in the rear seat—the Civic is simply a nicer place for the people back there.


IMO it’s a pretty good Si/GLI competition here with no clear winner or loser. To address my anti-VW bias, they certainly do impress in the warranty department, with 6 years bumper-to-bumper. Hopefully that is a statement of confidence in the reliability of their cars today; it seems incredible compared to the 3y/36k mi that my B5 Passat had, and things began to fall apart even before that was up.

Now I wonder whose car that is on the right..

Price is MSRP $28.2k for this GLI 35th Anniversary model which comes with a lot of standard kit. IMO this is the sweet spot; there is a base model at $26k sticker but once inventory builds up you can haggle one like this down to $26-27k. Honestly with VW’s North American / Mexico supply chain set up this way the GLI is the better deal than the GTI, especially for parents with car seats that eat up rear seat space.

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