Strengths and weaknesses:
- interior space.
- rear seats don’t fold flat
- asks for premium fuel
Family sedan Jetta has a fun side
The 2012 GLI is to Jetta what GTI is to the Volkswagen Golf: the fun-loving member of the family.
They’re definitely related, because they share some DNA - a 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder engine and a penchant for finding the fun in even the most mundane of journeys.
A test Jetta GLI arrives dressed in white and carrying a bag full of standard thing, such as welcoming, supportive, black cloth seats with red stitching. The seats are equipped with Volkswagen’s terrific butt warmers that approach “roast” temperatures. The driver’s seat has eight-way manual adjustability which is waaaay too much manual labour for me. I like the ability to move the perch every which way, but I’d rather have power.
The folks in back (never put more than two there) don’t get heat, but they do get a fold-down armrest that also acts as a trunk pass-through. The 60/40 rear seatback folds down to increase an already-spacious cargo area. The problem is that they don’t drop flat.
The GLI has power windows and locks, fast-acting mobile phone connectivity and multi-function trip computer. The leather-wrapped, red-stitched flat-bottom steering wheel houses controls for cruise, audio and trip info.
My ears are treated to the sounds emanating from a well-balanced six-speaker premium audio system with touch screen functions and a six-CD changer.
Visibility is excellent from the driver seat although the test car had some distortion in the bottom inch and a half of the windshield.
The GLI has more room than any other compact sedan with plenty of legroom and lots of headroom. There’s so much space to spread out, it feels more like a mid-size vehicle.
Now it’s time to find out if the GLI is as comfortable on the road, so I slip in behind the flat-bottomed multi-function steering wheel, adjust the tilt/telescoping steering column and buckle up.
I push in the clutch for the six-speed manual transmission and push the start button. The turbocharged four-banger springs to life, putting 200 horses and 207 lb.-ft. of torque at my beck and call.
And I intend to call. Emphatically.
I step on the gas and let the clutch out and the GLI responds with a satisfying surge as the horses answer my call and jump into full gallop. The shift lever falls readily to hand and slips easily through the gears as we gain velocity.
I had better slow down or start practicing my “but officer…” routine, so I opt to drop back to proper highway velocity.
The GLI’s four-wheel disc brakes use their bright red callipers to quickly bring me back to legality.
So much for the straight-ahead stuff. Now to find some corners.
The electromechanical power steering responds well and the fully independent suspension with stabilizer bars handle the humps and hollows of prairie pavement easily, producing a smooth ride. There’s a tiny, but acceptable, bit of body lean in hard corners and the car’s ESP program constantly lurks in the background, ready to intervene if it decides I’m being too aggressive.
On the road, I notice a fair amount of wind noise around the windshield and only a small bit of tire rumble.
But I’m comfortable and I’m happy.
As a sports sedan, the GLI falls a bit short – if you intend to go on the track. Otherwise, you can anchor the car seats for the little ones in the rear seat, buckle your significant other in the passenger side and head out for a thoroughly pleasant Sunday drive.