|Positives: Entertaining driving experience, still available with a manual transmission, roomy in both rows, comfortable ride, great daily driver.|
|Negatives: Somewhat low rent interior, automatic can be reluctant to downshift.|
|Bottom Line: It's hard to believe the GLI still lives on in a world where crossovers reign, It's one of the few sporty sedans that still comes with a manual transmission (which would be our choice). Autobahn trim is now the only one available, and it comes with a lot of features. You get great driving, a handsome exterior, and plenty of good tech. Get one now while you still can.|
The GLI is a thrill to drive, even though it doesn't have a ton of horsepower. But it still has enough grunt to match the great chassis, steering, and suspension. We're just lamenting the fact that our tester didn't have the six-speed manual transmission.
Ride Quality: The GLI is great over surfaces without feeling bumpy or unsettled. Dial it up into Sport Mode, and things firm up, but it still maintains its everyday composure.
Acceleration: With the DSG transmission, it shifts a tad faster than the manual, hitting 60 mph in less than six seconds, which is plenty quick. The only problem is the transmission downshifts could be faster.
Braking: It borrows its brakes from the last Golf R, which means great bite, progression, and very little fade under hard driving.
Steering: We love the steering in the GLI. It's sharp, responsive, and there's a good amount of feedback. It's a VW through and through.
Handling: The adaptive suspension in the Autobahn trim keeps everything in check when you're in the twisties. There's a tiny bit of understeer, but it's very manageable. You can predict what the car will do, which is exactly what you want.
The infotainment system is very German, meaning you get what you need with little fanfare or flair. But it is a very good system that's intuitive and easy to read. without all the
Infotainment System: The 8.0" touchscreen is far better than the base 6.5" version, and the proximity sensors that pick up your hand motions work quite well.
Controls: The infotainment buttons from the 6.5" screen are gone, replaced by all touchscreen controls. The climate control knobs are easy to work. It could benefit from larger, more intuitive steering wheel control buttons.
The GLI looked great the last time we drove it in 2020. It really didn't need much change, but some may have found it boring. We definitely appreciate the fact that it's sporty but in a subdued way and still quite handsome. The 2022 model year sees mild changes in both front and rear fascias.
Front: The bumper and lower fascia get tweaked with different creasing, red intake trim, and a smoother look. The GLI's maw is still handsome and well-styled.
Rear: The GLI's faux diffuser now gets a honeycomb pattern and bigger round exhaust pipes.
Profile: The GLI is well-proportioned, and we like the fact that there's very little chrome. We could do without the GLI badge on the front fender, which is a bit much for this subdued sports sedan.
Cabin: The interior is mostly good, but there is a bit too much cheap, hard plastic for our liking.
The GLI is about as big as a Passat from a couple of generations ago, so that means plenty of room for four adults. We love the fact that a sporty car like this is a practical sedan.
Front Seats: Supportive and well-cushioned, the front seats are well-bolstered and comfortable. It's not the highest grade leather, but we're just glad they're not vinyl.
Rear Seats: A tall adult can adequately sit behind another tall adult, and the outboard positions are comfy and nicely angled.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The GLI is quiet at highway speeds, and there's sufficient sound-deadening. Push the engine hard, and you can hear it but not to the point of being annoying.
Visibility: Visibility is good all around, and the seating position helps, as well.
Climate: The climate system works very well, blowing plenty of cold air and hot air, as needed. The HVAC vents are well-sized to move enough volume.
The 2021 Jetta might not win awards from the IIHS, but it passes crucial tests that should assure owners that it is a very safe car. In top trim GLI Autobahn, it comes standard with great safety features, too.
IIHS Rating: It misses getting top scores because of the headlight performance. It gets "good" in all crash tests, though, which is the meat of the safety quotient.
NHTSA Rating: The Jetta gets five stars from the federal government.
Standard Tech: The GLI comes with an Intelligent Crash Response System, a rearview camera, Tire Pressure Monitoring System, Forward Collision Warning & Autonomous Emergency Braking, and a Blind Sport Monitor w/ Rear Traffic Assist.
Optional Tech: None.
There's a good amount of both in-car storage and trunk space, although the GLI doesn't excel at either. Owners won't find it lacking except for a trip for four on vacation.
Storage Space: There's a retractable door compartment in the center stack, large cupholders, a sizable armrest compartment, and a convenient phone slot. Door pockets are also decently sized.
Cargo Room: Cargo room is a decent 14.1 cubic feet, the load floor is flat, and the trunk opening is wide.
The GLI does well in terms of efficiency, especially considering the fact that we pushed it most of the time. It should have no problem reaching its EPA estimates, especially with the 7-speed dual clutch automatic.
Observed: 23.7 mpg.
Distance Driven: 108 miles.
Our tester came standard with the stock audio system, and it's a decent, despite the lack of good bass and fullness. It's fine, but you should upgrade if you can.