The compact Volkswagen sedan, in GLI guise specifically, enters 2014 celebrating 30 years of providing a four-door trunked alternative to the hatchback GTI.
Thirty years. Volkswagen must be doing something right.
What is the Volkswagen Jetta GLI?
If the Jetta GLI were curry, it would rank at two-out-of-three chilies on the bottle. It’s not scalding hot, but it gets served along with some German spice.
Based on the normal Jetta, Volkswagen replaced the 2.5L 5-cylinder of the previous GLI with a new 2.0L TSI 4-cylinder last year. This year, that same powerplant gets a slight bump of 10 horsepower (for a total of 210 hp). The GLI also receives a sport-tuned suspension and a larger wheel package than more plebian Jettas.
Edition 30 models, available only this year, offer a few more extras.
2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Price and Specs
All GLI models are powered by a 2.0L TSI with 210 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque (the 2015 GTI will have the same horsepower but 258 lb-ft of twist). The turbo mill can be teamed with a 6-speed manual or VW’s ubiquitous 6-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic.
The “base” GLI (which is actually quite feature-laden) starts at $28,290 with a 6-speed manual transmission, 17” wheels, and cloth seating. Automatic 6-speed DSG models add $1,400. Adding all the bells and whistles in the Technology Package (which includes both Sport and Leather Packages) brings the MSRP up to $35,490.
Edition 30 GLI models, which get a host of no-change extras, start at $31,275 with the same 6-speed manual, but are equipped with leatherette seating and 18” wheels. Fully sauced, the Edition 30 with 6-speed DSG and navigation rings in at $34,245, the exact price of our tester.
Driving the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI
While the plethora of GLI badges may con you into thinking its going to blow the doors off other cars, don’t be fooled. Much like its overall appearance, the GLI is quite civilized in its power delivery.
The 2.0L TSI four-pot does motivate the GLI much better than other offerings in the range, and certainly better than the old 2.5L 5-cylinder, but its no WRX or Lancer Ralliart. Instead, equipped with the DSG automatic, the GLI wafts you away with a slight turbo whistle.
Unlike Ford’s emphasis on turbocharging for fuel economy, the GLI is tuned to give you as much power as possible throughout the rev-range. That low-end torque, which never grows old, does come with a price: gas consumption.
Rated at 8.9 city/6.2 highway L/100km, the GLI is fairly efficient on paper, but my torque addiction brought that number up to 9.8L/100km overall. It becomes an even pricier proposition when you realize the GLI runs on premium fuel.
Under the incredibly stiff and solid chassis, the GLI Edition 30 I tested rode on 18” wheels with an independent MacPherson strut setup up front and fully independent four-link suspension in the rear. It’s all given a sport tune, making the ride slightly harsher, but compared to other “hot” compacts, it could be a lot worse.
Braking was also admirable, providing a significant level of feel and performance without requiring a lot of pedal travel.
Unfortunately, our tester had a slight steering issue, with the wheel sitting off to the left about 5 degrees, though it didn’t seem to be an alignment issue as the car was not working against me. Otherwise, pointing the Jetta was quite effortless, offering up just the right amount of wheel weighting.
Inside and Out of the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI
Volkswagen takes their own approach when it comes to interiors. When you sit inside one, you definitely know it’s a Volkswagen, and the GLI is no exception.
Instead of a gussied-up dash and more visual toys than you can pay attention to, Volkswagen’s approach of simplicity works quite well in the GLI. The seats, while leatherette and quite supportive, aren’t overly styled or finished. The dash is fairly typical Jetta fare, except for a couple of discreet touches.
Noise, vibration, and harshness are kept to a minimum, though I do wish more engine noise made it into the passenger cabin, particularly while at full-trot. It was hard to notice the whistle of the turbocharged engine in the car, a noise I actually want to hear.
Outside, Volkswagen loyalists will either say the latest Jetta is a classically styled iteration of the compact sedan or they will flat out call it boring. However, thanks to some very sharp 18” wheels, unique front fascia, LED daytime running lights, and other touches giving the GLI a sportier appearance, nobody could call this version of the Jetta boring.
While the GLI may not be the hottest sedan on the block, it’s far from boring or bad. If anything, it’s a bit grown-up; it’s the performance compact car for those of us who don’t want rock-hard, track-ready suspension setups or twitchy accelerator pedals.
Actually, it’s a GTI Lite with a trunk. Is that really a bad thing? Not at all.
Comparing the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI
Surprisingly, the Volkswagen Jetta GLI isn’t the only four-door compact sedan on the Canadian market with over 200 hp. The mildly hot people’s car with a trunk goes head-to-head with the Honda Civic Sedan Si, Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, Subaru WRX Sedan and, to a lesser degree, the Acura ILX Dynamic, Audi A3 2.0 TFSI, and Mercedes-Benz CLA 250.