By on May 18, 2017

2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI MV Confederation - Image: © Timothy Cain

2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four, DOHC (210 horsepower @ 5,300 rpm; 207 lb-ft @ 1,700 rpm)

Six-speed dual-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive

24 city / 33 highway / 27 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

9.8 city / 7.4 highway / 8.7 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

34.1 mpg [6.9 L/100 km] (Observed)

Base Price: $28,715 (U.S) / $36,740 (Canada)

As Tested: $29,815 (U.S.) / $38,140 (Canada)

Prices include $820 destination charge in the United States and $1,745 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

I was lost. Rather, I was about to be lost.

As I drove an eye-catching white silver metallic 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI onto the MV Confederation in Caribou, Nova Scotia, it dawned on me. I had never driven across Prince Edward Island by myself. But I was about to, if I could find my way.

Mrs. Cain and the kids had already made it to Prince Edward Island, having departed earlier in the week to begin our house hunt after our Nova Scotian home sold in 24 hours. Sunshine and a quick car made me realize that the MV Confederation’s perfectly timed departure would allow for some sorely needed blood pressure reduction, sitting on the deck of a ferry for an hour in the middle of a Friday afternoon.

But I left my iPhone charge cord at home on the dining room table. My phone’s battery was below 5 percent with pictures yet to be snapped. I couldn’t use my phone for directions. I didn’t trust the island signage to be sufficient — we’re not big on signs around these parts. And then a light came on: the ferry’s tourist bureau would have maps. Maps! Maps, my dear Watson. Maps. I studied that arcane sheet for, well, it had to be minutes. In the belly of the ship, with everybody else back in their cars, I spent a few more minutes folding that sucker up with every ounce of dexterity my parents’ genetics afforded me.

Not until I arrived at my Summerside destination did it dawn on me. The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI has a navigation system.

Maybe that’s why it costs $29,815.

Gulp.

2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI PEI map - Image: © Timothy Cain

The 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport we reviewed a few weeks ago can be navi and DSG-equipped, like this Jetta GLI, at $25,150, nearly $5,000 less. The Elantra is also, dare I say it, more fun.

Thankfully, the Jetta GLI certainly doesn’t want for power. Although distinctly less torquey than the 2.0T-powered Volkswagen Golf GTI – the GTI produces the same 210 ponies but 51 additional lb-ft at 200 revs sooner — the Jetta’s 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four is nicely suited to the dual-clutch automatic, particularly in sport mode; less so at low revs.

After I got off the boat and realized supper at my mother-in-law’s was quite likely in the offing, the Jetta GLI made exceptionally quick work of slow-moving traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway. (Yes, I should have taken a shortcut across Route 23, but that map was a distant memory by the time it was folded up. And I found myself entranced by the dulcet tones of Karen Mair on CBC’s Mainstreet, unconscious of the NAV button to the right of the touchscreen.)

2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI - Image: © Timothy Cain

The Elantra Sport, by comparison, is powerful enough, but its 1.6T never feels especially energetic, like it’s champing at the bit and egging you on.

Unfortunately, compared with the supple Elantra Sport, this particular Jetta GLI specimen traversed rough island roads quite roughly indeed. I’ve been in Jetta GLIs before — they’re not supposed to ride like this. But on winter run-flats, even smooth surfaces begin to feel like cobblestone streets.

This negated much of the fun one could have on twisty, rural two-lanes. Turn-in isn’t what you’d expect, mid-corner bumps turn into annoying disruptions, and the Jetta GLI’s chassis is exposed for what it is: not a GTI.

Fine. Entirely acceptable with the right tires. A pleasant daily driver.

But not a GTI.

And not an Elantra Sport.

2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI - Image: © Timothy Cain

That’s not to say that in 2017, in the months before an all-new Jetta’s reveal, the Volkswagen Jetta GLI doesn’t have a number of redeeming qualities. Forget those early criticisms of the Mk6 Jetta. Cheap and decontented? Material quality now, especially in this top-spec car, is leagues beyond what it was seven years ago. That torsion-beam rear suspension of early Mk6 Jettas is long gone, as well. This is a mature performance sedan, if not an outright athlete like its hatchback sibling.

It’s also huge inside. There’s midsize-aping space in the back of the Jetta, a car that stretches only 182.2 inches from bumper to bumper, 10-inches shorter than a Passat. The official trunk capacity specs of 15.7 cubic feet are belied by a shape that permits the loading of a vacation’s worth of stuff. Observed fuel economy of 34 miles per gallon is outstanding. Aside from the roaring tires and some pleasant 2.0T burbles, it’s a quiet and generally refined car. It’s a Mk6 Jetta with enough subdued style to turn heads but without the boy-racer cues that shout for attention. [Maybe Mazda should take note. –Ed.]

2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI - Images: © Timothy Cain

Nevertheless, price matters. Admittedly, Volkswagen is in a discounting kind of mood, but other automakers aren’t opposed to incentivizing their products, either, especially in 2017’s challenging sedan arena. With 2017 Jetta GLI pricing starting at $28,715, to which you’ll add $1,100 for two-pedal operation, the Elantra Sport and Golf GTI aren’t the only cars standing in the Jetta GLI’s way. Besides, it’ll take a bit of a leap for many sports sedan enthusiasts to consider a Hyundai, however unfair. And the $26,415-37,110 GTI’s hatchback and tighter rear quarters are definitive no-nos for many sedan buyers.

But the Subaru WRX has a lower base price and substantially more athleticism. The upcoming Honda Civic Si stickers for only $24,775.

Those are inexpensive and enticing opponents for a Mk6 Jetta that debuted in late 2010, otherwise known as the year you last looked at a map.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net and a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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66 Comments on “2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Review – Potent, Painted, Pricey...”


  • avatar
    threeer

    The more I read about the Elantra Sport, the more intrigued I am by it. The GLI Jetta, not so much. I think it’s a matter of “not enough extra” to warrant the “extra” you pay for the privilege of owning it.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      “The Elantra is also, dare I say it, more fun”

      I tested Elantra Sport Manual. It is total fun, plenty of pep. It’s flying in curves. Seats are great but available only in leather. Now, the problem of this car starts inside. The interior is rental. Some controls are rough. Its dark in it in a bad way. But plenty backroom.

      I will not buy VW for political reasons. Gonna check Mustang this weekend.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      I feel like it’s rightfully hyped. I’m going to be checking one out myself in the upcoming weeks. DSG unfortunately, but it would be my commuter, and the DC beltway is not a place to sit with a stick. I only take my S2000 to work once a week for a reason.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    You know though, I’m not sure the Jetta GLI customer is the same as the WRX or Civic SI customer. Both of those alternatives are very childish, and the SI looks nigh-on ridiculous now.

    The Jetta is more mature (and literally older as well). It’s out there with not much in the way of direct competition. But that age isn’t a benefit here, and nor is the price.

    I think it’ll remain a footnote trim for which very few people care.

    • 0 avatar
      jh26036

      This isn’t 2002 anymore. The WRX isn’t all that childish these days if you equip it to certain trim levels. Sure, it may not be as polished as a GLI but any customer that doesn’t at least cross shop them is not well informed or just have a preference for VW products.

      My 60-year old COO (I estimate he probably takes in $500k after bonus) at the company isn’t a gearhead, but drives a new style WRX. He just likes how they drive, inexpensive, fairly discreet, and works well in bad weather.

      Ironically, his wife just traded in a 10-year old Audi A6 for a loaded WRX with CVT. He admitted that he’s had enough of repair cost to keep the Audi going to 130k miles. His wife picked the Subaru, not him.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        Agreed. A fried of mine (35YO software engineer) just picked up a brand new WRX Limited. Aside from some road noise and extra engine noise than a normal sedan, it’s fairly refined while still being fun. The suspension isn’t crashy or overly harsh either IMO.

        The new Civic Si and hatch look ridiculous, but from 06-15 they were fairly conservative all things considered. Unless you bought a wild color it’s unlikely anybody looking at the car would realize you bought the boy-racer model.

    • 0 avatar
      VW4motion

      Anyone who describes a car as childish is actually just making a childish statement. It also shows a lack of automobile knowledge.

  • avatar
    86er

    I only clicked on this in hopes of seeing some of PEI, which I visited in 2007 and hope to again someday.

    You disappoint me, Cain.

  • avatar
    duncanator

    I had owned an 08 Jetta Wolfsburg (2.0T) and after 120k miles or so, I got a 2015 Audi A3 Premium Plus (quattro) for 29,9. It was an Audi certified car with 8k miles so for the same price as this Jetta, I got what I think is a better car with not many miles. It might be larger inside than my A3, but I love how much better the air condition works in the Audi and how much quieter it is.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Good review, and sums up why this Jetta owner is eyeing a GTI when my lease is up. A couple of things:

    1) The GLI had the independent rear suspension setup from the day this generation was introduced. As time went on, the rest of the line adopted the setup.

    2) This car only comes fully loaded, which (partially) explains the price. An equivalently equipped GTI runs about the same money, but there is also a base “Sport” model that comes in around $25,000. It comes in red. It has the golf ball shifter. And it has plaid seats. Daddy wants.

    3) If you want a Jetta with a hotter engine than the 1.4T, but don’t want to drop $28,000, you can get the SEL or Sport, but both are automatic-only.

    • 0 avatar
      deanst

      GTI + red + plaid seats = my next car, vw reliability be damned

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Spend the extra for the GTI Sport. The extra 10hp is irrelevant, but the all-singing and dancing headlights and the much better brakes are worth the relatively small price of entry. Still has plaid seats. I love mine. Better looking wheels, IMHO, as well.

      I can’t imagine why anyone would want a GLI over a GTI. And I have owned two GLIs (beggers can’t be choosers when buying used).

      VW was practically giving cars away when I bought mine in January. Almost $6K off, and they matched CarMax’s offer for my BMW, a price I was perfectly happy with.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    You’re best off to wait for the MQB Jetta GLI, due this December. You’ll end up with a MK7 GTI with a trunk. A very good thing indeed.

  • avatar
    ajla

    About $200 more puts you into a Passat V6.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      Wow, when put that way this GLI doesn’t stand up at all.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      Passat V6 has the better engine. All that power does not even remotely make it a sports sedan.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “Passat V6 has the better engine.”

        I will not need any additional information to make my call then.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          Well a Ford F150 XL 2.7T has a better engine for the same money. What’s your point?

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “What’s your point?”

            That for $30k in a VW showroom I’d rather have a Passat V6.

            However, if everyone agrees that there is *zero* cross-shop potential between the two, I’ll shut up.

            I really don’t think Jetta vs Passat for very similar money is a crazy comparison idea though. It’s not a Ram 3500 to a Corvette. When I bought my own car I compared a Regal, Charger, Genesis, Cadenza, and Impala. But maybe I’m weird and other people stay in stricter swim lanes.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            It’s funny you compare that to buying a Ram 3500 to a corvette.

            I’m deciding right now between a Chevy SS, and a Powerwagon.

            $34k manual 4 door corvette or $55k PW that’s about to be an outdated model. So yes stranger comparisons have been made which do kinda make it a valid comparison.

            Thinking about waiting til next gen for PW for hopes of more power.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            That’s a tough one.

            I definitely don’t think something like the SS sedan will ever exist again.

            OTOH, the Power Wagon is a seriously cool rig. Plus you have the experience and geography that would allow you to actually use its abilities. The next gen PW might be better, then again FCA might c*ck it up somehow.

          • 0 avatar
            duffman13

            @ajla

            No, I’m all over the place right now too.

            I’m in the market for a new commuter, but up in the air about going from 2 cars to 1, or if I stay with 2, whether I want quiet or refinement. Short list right now is as follows (in no particular order):

            Used Genesis V6 Sedan
            Wait for a used Lincoln Conti
            Elantra Sport
            Sonata Limited as long as the recent promotions hold
            Accord Sport SE
            Jetta SE or Sport 1.8T
            Passat SE or R-line
            370Z Sport (involves selling S2000)
            Mustang GT PP (involves selling S2000)

            So yeah. not strange. Even though my wife thinks I’m insane. I’m leaning towards the non-sport cars and keeping the S2000 if just because I don’t want to commute in a manual, the traffic is too bad.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Yea the SS is looking like the ticket, but the manuals are HIGH demand there are 3 used manual SS’s on Cars.com. So I may end up spending 5-6 months finding the one I want. I love the new Powerwagon. But I have a need for some speed, and that 8-9 second 0-60 is not what I want right now. Like you said the SS may very well be the last of its kind. The Powerwagon ain’t going no where.

            Literally when you start looking at the SS I cannot find a flaw or downside anywhere. It’s truly the perfect all around car. The price is right, the sound is out of this world, the fun, sporting dynamics, and exotic nature of the Holden badge is un-matched.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I have a 2017 Passat v6 as a rental right now (Thanks Hertz IAD!). It is not even remotely comparable to a GTI/GLI. It is a barge in comparison, but a very nice barge. Though I would take one over a Camcordima any day and twice on Sunday. It’s not faster than my GTI, though it does make niceish noises. But it is SOFT. The Passat TSI 1.8t is nicef to drive, IMHO.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      True, but whether that is good depends on how you look at it. The GLI will be better equipped than the base Passat V6, smaller (for those who don’t want a yuuuge car), and far more sporty and athletic. If you drive the Passat V6 you’ll note that it has great power, but it’s not even close to being a “sport sedan”, or even a “sporty sedan”.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      The Passat is a completely different kind of car.

      Assume a similar negligible price difference between the Civic Si and Accord V6. Do you think they would be cross-shopped? I doubt it.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    I cross-shopped the 2017 GLI with my 2017 Mazda 6. They were literally the only new cars that met my requirements of:

    -priced in the mid-20s
    -good “driver’s car”
    -stick shift
    -comfort features – rain sensing wipers, auto lights, automatic CC, modern infotainment, proximity key
    -backseat and trunk size for 2 small children

    The VW has that nice characteristic turbo punch which makes it more fun in daily driving. In the end, the VW lost my vote mainly because it could only be had with a completely black interior (too hot in GA) and was several grand more $$. There was also that nagging question of long-term German turbo reliability. Oh, and knowing the MK7 GLI could very well be right around the corner.

    The GLI was nice to look at and sit in, but the Mazda 6 is a full step up in that department. Completely different look and feel to the car.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    Six year old bland suit with diesel scandal stains priced liked it’s Y2K-era VW popular? Nope.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Nice review, Tim. This car looks subtle, classy, and traditional, and that endears it to me over the WRX and Civic Si. But,

    -End of model cycle and overpriced–purchase only on discount
    -The GTI is newer, quicker, and feels more expensive
    -A Hyundai is being compared favorably to it

    This car was a good buy 4 years ago when it bore a well-equipped base trim and listed for about $25K. Now at $30K? Best look to the competition if you can’t find a dealer knocking $6000 off MSRP like my local one is doing.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    In historical context, it’s nothing short of shocking that VW’s sport sedan is judged less sporty than the equivalent model from Hyundai.

    Given what crapboxes VWs are for long-term ownership, any remaining VW price premium based on the mystique of “German engineering” won’t survive this development for long.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    Was this really on winter run flats?

    If so, I find it reckless and disingenuous to evaluate a cars handling or ride characteristics on such rubber.

    Mr. Baruth does not agree with you on the handing/ride qualities of the MK6/7 GLI FYI.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      “If so, I find it reckless and disingenuous to evaluate a cars handling or ride characteristics on such rubber.”

      So reviewers should decline the cars the *manufacturer* provides unless they like the tire set up?

      Or perhaps they should swap the tires on their own?

      Get real.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The reviewer certainly shouldn’t complain about the ride and handling characteristics in this situation. The car is not equipped as VW intended. Which is probably the fault of the independent company that provides and services the press fleet. I would cut some major slack here.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      where’s yours, then?

  • avatar
    manny_c44

    One thing that always bothered me about this generation of Jetta (I had the TDI version) is just how long the trunk is. I think it kind of kills the look of the car.

    On 18″ summer tires the car really was pleasant to drive though, so maybe the winter tires really killed it in this situation.

  • avatar
    4drSedan

    I really wish I didn’t like VW’s offerings as much as I do. Like dating the stripper that one time, I know she will betray me. It’s just a matter of when.

    • 0 avatar
      duncanator

      Yeah, I hear you on that point. After all the problems with my 08 Jetta I vowed to never buy a VW again, until I sold it and bought an Audi. I just can’t pull myself away from them.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        The interior fit&finish, plus the conservative yet classy styling keep pulling me in, but I haven’t been tempted to pull the trigger on one again until recently (had a B5 A4 that I sold a decade ago).

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      I agree. I sold back the Jetta TDI and bought a Fusion to replace it, and I still find myself ogling VWs on a regular basis. There are usually a couple of GLIs in the parking lot at work, and the interior looks fantastic, absolutely head and shoulders above what I had in the TDI.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I’ve now owned six, from ’84 to ’17 model years, and been perfectly happy with all of them.

  • avatar
    mittencuh

    As a lesee of a 2017 GLI, this review is pretty much spot on with the exception of ride quality. It’s pretty good with normal all seasons with surprisingly little road noise. Yes, for the MSRP, this car doesn’t make much sense, but I was able to negotiate mine (a DSG) down to $24,650 and some on Edmunds have gotten even lower. At those discounts I think it’s a pretty strong value. Residuals are high for leasing as well. Honestly the car wasn’t my first choice but I’ve grown to enjoy it quite a lot.

  • avatar
    rjg

    My main issue with this car (and several other vw models) is that it’s only available with pleather seats. No cloth or leather option. I don’t care how fun a car is or how cheap I can get it if I have to sit on plastic seats. And yes, even cheap automotive leather is way better.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      Have you tried the leatherette? I had it in my TDI and it wasn’t bad. It seemed to be a little hotter in the summer, but that’s nothing that tinted windows didn’t solve. As someone who has small children, they were much more durable/easier to keep clean that actual leather.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 Cloth. My retiring 330i seats are still good looking 14 years on. Even the driver’s seat is still intact….

      I totally prefer a good cloth seat to pleather, which to me is no different than cow hide. You stick to both in the summer….and both are cold in winter. Cloth, please….

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Peak VW was, is and will most likely always be the GTI. Resistance is futile.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    the only way a silver Jetta would be “eye catching” is if it was actively on fire.

  • avatar
    ShoogyBee

    IMHO those wheels look too big for that car.

  • avatar
    gaudette

    I get excited every time I see PEI on this site. Come visit us in Northport!

  • avatar
    DonInYYC

    Ah PEI. Had the misfortune of a two-year exile back in the ’80s. Maybe it has changed but back then it was 10 months of winter, a month of tourists and a nice September. Thousands of inbred Gallants and Outhouses (yes, a real family name in the northeast). Slippery red gumbo. Anne fanatics. Two-party system going back for generations. BUT I did buy a nice Renault 18 wagon to haul the wife and dogs around so it wasn’t all bad! Good luck with the move!

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    Neighbor, an American gentleman in his early 70s who spent most of his professional career in Germany, drives a black 6 speed GLI. The car simply looks fantastic – it LOOKS like it costs $30K easily, and he loves the way it drives.

    I’d buy one.

  • avatar

    My Jetta 1.4S, compared to my Mk6 TDi, shows how much you can differentiate the same basic frame. The TDi was vault quiet, everything inside was done very well, and the suspension/tires were set up real world tight but not punishing. The 1.4 has fuel efficiency tires, slightly softer suspension, and is definitely not soundproofed like the diesel. We all like the 1.4 engine, it has sufficient power for the setup, and is slightly faster than the TDi. The base radio is tolerable, and comes with a nice backup camera, and for my millenial, the essential music bluetooth. My German TDi was the other side of the VW spectrum, but the gap between to the two isn’t all that far away, which says nice things about the Jetta. One the same base chassis, depending on what you hang on it, the car goes from 16k or so all the way to 32k.

    Euro-parking makes that trunk look like a luxury…and we pay way less for these cars than they sell for at home. The German VW catalog has a zillion colors, and many more options. Of course, we don’t want to pay what we consider 3 Series money for the car…so VW sends us stuff trying to figure out our market. The Atlas in the showroom was great, but is functionally the same as my 2008 MDX, showing how late it is.

    Clearly my VW Stockholm Syndrome is intact…. :)

    I can’t in good faith say anything bad about the build quality vs. Germany…looks the same.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    It’ll be interesting to see how much different the VW MQB Jetta will drive vs. the soon-to-be MQB A4 as it loses its current chassis set up for the next generation as a cost-cutting move. Having owned a Torsen style and driven Haldex derived AWDs, I think this is definitely a downgrade.
    I think the Jetta 1.8T Sport was the sweet spot for this generation, even if only a 5spd trans.Brisk performance on 87 octange and a reflash away from legitimately quick. The two toned interior and GLI suspension and 22k price tag was a bargain, sadly lost from the line up now.

  • avatar
    jfbar167

    Had a 2013 GLI for couple years. Overall very nice and ZERO issues. As for the “fake leather”, I actually preferred it to the real deal. It did NOT wrinkle and crack as the (all other prior cars with) real stuff. Tim mentioned the “growl” but failed to realize it was actually a “fart can”(soundaktor) mounted on the firewall. Disconnected that, and it sounded more refined and true. My takeaway from it rather than referring to it as a 30K Jetta, I thought of it as a 40K CC in a more “toss able” and practical body style.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Very much second killing the stupid noise grunter. Did that electronically with my GTI and makes for a much more pleasant car. There is a BIG difference between how the MBQ GTI drives and how this car drives, IMHO. Not that the GLI is in any way bad, just the MBQ Golf is that much better.

      I don’t like how the current A4 drives, so I expect I will like the MBQ version better. But I have zero use for AWD regardless of type in a car.


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