2015 Volkswagen Jetta GLI SEL

2015 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Review

Who needs an Audi when you can have a Jetta GLI?

By: David Merline

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: August 6th, 2015

For the 2015 model year, the Jetta got a nice freshening-up; new, more stylish front and rear lights, a new grille, aluminum wheels, and a nicely spiffed-up interior.

  • Exterior

    The biggest problem facing Volkswagen AG (and indeed all car makers with "economy" and "luxury" brands) is how do you make your luxury brand stand out once you've upscaled your economy brand? VW is even making its cars look more like its more expensive cousins; the 2015 Jetta features new taillights that are more than a little reminiscent of Audi's.

    But four-door sedans are boring; that's just a fact. It's not easy to make them look like anything other than four-door sedans, and knowing this, VW goes for a minimalist approach, with subtle creases following conventional angles, and a small Hoffmeister kink on the C-pillar to exert its German-ness.

    LED lights surround the rather conservative-looking headlamps to give it a nod to current trends. Although unlike most automakers, who opt for an "eyebrow" effect, putting a row of LEDs above the main lights, VW goes full Cleopatra, opting for a virtual "eyeshadow" effect.

  • Interior

    Changes to the Jetta's interior are subtle but effective. Bits of fake chrome accent the mandatory black plastic of the interior, as does ambient lighting. The steering wheel now sports multi-function controls, and the piano-black center console accents are downright fancy-looking.

    Leatherette seats may be less "luxury car" than true leather seats, but they're no less comfortable. In fact, the entire cabin is un-cramped and well-appointed. The driver gets power seats (because who cares about anyone else, right?), both front seats are heated, and the Fender-branded stereo (actually made by Panasonic) is definitely above-average for the price point.

    The 8-inch infotainment screen may seem modest by modern luxury standards, but it's plenty big enough to make the map and any of its various controls legible, and besides, even VW's low-end infotainment system is more user-friendly and bug-free than most carmaker's top-of-the-line gear.

    The hard plastic on the doors and throughout the dash panel are the only parts of the Jetta that feel cheap. And even they don't feel unreasonably cheap, just cheap compared to a luxury car, for which, save for the cheap plastic, the Jetta could easily be mistaken.

  • On the Road

    The best refinements to the 2015 Jetta have been the ones that affect the driving, unsurprisingly. Structural changes, presumably made to increase safety, have had the added effect of tightening up the Jetta's handling, giving it a fun factor never before thought possible from such a "boring" car.

    With the optional six-speed manual transmission mated to the GLI's turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, the Jetta is one sporty family cruiser. You're not going to win any drag races with its 210-hp engine, but you can whip around corners with the best of them, all the while protected by typical safety features like anti-slip, diff lock, brake assist, etc.

    Sound-deadening is also luxury-car-like in the Jetta; even with the (still non-panoramic) sunroof open, road noise is kept to a non-intrusive minimum. Fuel efficiency in the GLI is quite respectable, although not quite as impressive as the TDI. Still, 23 city and 33 highway are good numbers, and besides, the cost for all that driving fun always goes into the gas tank.

  • Conclusion

    Volkswagen's attention to detail and general German fastidiousness pay dividends in the Jetta GLI, which is as comfortable and as enjoyable as car costing quite a bit more (some of which are made by the very same manufacturer).

  • Specs & Prices

    Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four

    Transmission: Six-speed manual transmission

    Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel drive

    Power Output: 210 hp / lb-ft

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 23 city / 33 highway

    Base Price: $29,280

    As Tested: $30,100 (incl. $820 destination)

    Available Features:

    GLI Package: GLI-exlusive body kit, exterior details, & rear deck lid spoiler, XD5 cross-differential system, HomeLink garage door opener integrated into driver's sun visor, blind-spot monitor with rear traffic alert, VW Car-Net equipped

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