By on February 7, 2019

Big, hulking trucks may have stolen the spotlight in the lead-up to the Chicago Auto Show, but Volkswagen still holds an interest in plain ol’ cars. In the interest of preserving your interest in said cars, VW took its new-for-2019 Jetta sedan into the shop and hauled out the surgical instruments.

The first component removed was the standard, thrifty 1.4-liter four-cylinder. Then, VW engineers went to town on the rear suspension, scrapping the low-cost torsion-beam setup. What emerged from the operating room was the 2019 Jetta GLI — a GTI for people who like trunks.

With its new GLI, VW binned the Jetta’s 147 horsepower, 184 lb-ft 1.4L in favor of the GTI hatch’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, good for 228 hp and 258 lb-ft. That’s an improvement of 18 hp and 41 lb-ft over the previous generation’s GLI.

The Jetta’s newfound power travels to the front wheels (they’re 18-inchers) through a standard six-speed manual transmission or optional seven-speed dual-clutch unit. A stop/start system comes with the automatic. VW engineers saw fit to lower the car by six-tenths of an inch for improved roadholding.

Arresting all of this German action are binders borrowed from the GTI and top-flight Golf R. This setup means 13.4-inch vented discs up front and red calipers for that much-needed flash. (Red is a color that appears everywhere on the Jetta GLI, from the seat stitching to the model-specific exterior trim.) While underway, a torque-sensing limited slip diff aids in plow reduction during cornering, while 35th Anniversary models — in addition to their birthday badging and blacked-out external bits — gain an adaptive damping system to keep things level.

Speaking of the suspension, the torsion-beam rear disappears in favor of an independent, multi-link setup for more refined road manners.

Standard drive modes include normal, eco, sport, and custom, with 35th Anniversary models gaining “comfort” as an added perk. Also standard are heated seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry with push-button start, automatic headlamps, and rain-sensing wipers. Connectivity comes in the form of Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and MirrorLink. Those of you interested in setting the mood will no doubt appreciate the 10-color ambient lighting.

Happily, safety isn’t optional on this uplevel Jetta, with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, rear traffic alert, and post-collision automatic braking offered as standard kit. LED lights appear fore and aft.

While pricing isn’t yet available, it won’t be long before VW drops those details. The 2019 Jetta GLI appears on dealer lots this spring.

Image: VW

[Images: Tim Healey/TTAC, Volkswagen]

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65 Comments on “2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI: The Sedan With the Heart of a GTI...”


  • avatar
    la834

    It’s all nice, but the Golf just feels so much more comfortable from the inside than the Jetta that I can’t think of a good reason not to stick with the GTI. So much more attention to detail in the Golf. The interior feels twice the price of the Jetta’s, with soft touch surfaces in the Golf where the Jetta uses hard plastic. Look at the center console – the Golf has a padded armrest that adjusts up and down as well as fore and aft; the Jetta has a plastic cover that doesn’t adjust and is barely long enough for your elbow. It’s a similar ergonomic story elsewhere in the interior. As for trunk space, there’s more in the Jetta but most of it is underneath the fixed bulkhead. The Golf GTI trunk floor can be dropped about 6 inches from the factory-delivered setup when you don’t need a flat floor when the rear seats are folded, and the usable space when done so approaches the Jetta’s. I wish VW would go back to making the Jetta just a Golf with a trunk instead of a hatchback; it would be cheaper to build and be a better car.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Are you talking about the current version or the outgoing one?

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      You should probably go test drive a current Jetta

    • 0 avatar
      Vega

      I think the Jetta interior is the way it is because it is cheaper to build. The current Jetta is a North American special built to still be profitable at US car market price levels. Creating a “Euro-style” Jetta with a Golf-level interior would definitely increase cost.

      Like the Golf the US-Jetta is built on the MQB platform and is virtually identical to the Bora and Lavida models VW sells in China. It is NOT offered in Europe.

      • 0 avatar
        WallMeerkat

        In Europe the last Jetta didn’t sell well as it was based on an older Golf. And it was priced too similarly to the larger Passat. So they stopped selling it.

        Plus it was overshadowed by the cheaper Skoda Octavia, which is a similar shape, uses the MQB platform, but offers fastback hatch practicality in a very similar sedan style outline.

        And not to mention that the sedan market in Europe is dying and the SUV market is growing exponentially, just like the US.

    • 0 avatar
      Tennessee_Speed

      The ’19 Jetta does have an adjustable arm rest. On my ’19 R-Line it can be adjusted up around 1″ which is useful.

    • 0 avatar
      aajax

      Can’t tell what you are comparing to what. There are several trim levels in Jetta, Golf, GLI and GTI.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    Dual exhaust on the GLI finally. But it feels even more generic than the mk6.

  • avatar
    whynot

    The chromeless grille makes the front end of this car so much more attractive.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    I liked the old look better, but I’m sure this one is better to drive now that it finally has the GTI version of the 2.0T and rides on the MQB platform.

    I’m glad VW is still making this car.

    But what were they thinking when they got rid of the torsion beam suspension? Doesn’t VW know what Mazda knows?

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      I’m with you. I’m glad they brought the GLI back. However, I thought the previous gen was much more attractive. It was handsomely understated. This generation, along with the Passat look bloated due to the whale-shark style grill.
      I was really close to getting a 2016, but I’ll be much more hesitant when the time comes this summer.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I am guessing this will be priced substantially more than the 4-cylinder Kia Stinger, which is bigger, and born with nice long warranty. I would likely go with Stinger.

    –Hey TTAC writers….when is a Stinger-GLI comparo gonna happen?

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      The Stinger starts at $33,000. I would expect the GLI to be in the high 20s.

      As for a comparo, it is extremely difficult for us to do that. If we were able get a comparo done, first on the list would be midsized trucks.

    • 0 avatar
      MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

      There IS no comparison between those two- only one has proper RWD and a 10 year/100k warranty.

      What’s funny is, it would take a 20 year/250k warranty to make any sane human buy a VW.

      • 0 avatar
        KevinC

        20/250k? Uh sure. No sane humans are buying VWs now.

        Check the fine print on Kia’s 10/100 warranty. It’s far from b2b – lots of exclusions. Not so for VW’s 6/72, it really is b2b.

        I like what VW’s done here. If they can keep the price south of $30k, this thing should sell like hotcakes.

        • 0 avatar
          la834

          VW warranty is also transferable to the second owner. That should go a long way towards keeping residual value up. I would certainly be more likely to buy a 3 year old/36K mile VW knowing there’s still 3 years left on the manufacturer’s warranty

      • 0 avatar
        R Henry

        I expect I won’t be the only enthusiast cross shopping them.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    How about a GLI wagon? This seems ok wo knowing pricing but I would tend to just buy a GTI since as others have said it just seems nicer inside.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      I’d prefer the Alltrack or Golf Sportwagen 4Motion with the 2.0T.

      • 0 avatar
        nels0300

        I’d take either a Jetta GLI wagon or a Golf GTI wagon, but I’d prefer the Jetta wagon because the back seat on the Golf is tight.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        Adam, yep. There must not be enough demand to offer a special order option. A 4Motion Golf Sportwagen with the 2.0T wouldn’t be a Subaru competitor so much as it would be an A4 Avant on the cheap.

        They could even make it a quasi-rally car and offer it with a manual transmission and market it as the ONLY fun wagen you can get since BMW won’t be bringing another wet noodle 3 series wagon stateside.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Much as I appreciate a handsome, subdued sedan, I’d rather have a hatch. But kudos to VW for the effort.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Toyonda styling has reached a tipping point such that, despite my peer group’s near-flawless collective experience in terms of reliability, I’d strongly consider a VW were I shopping for a new car right now.

      Friends’ collective experience with VW has been mixed (a Dieselgate Jetta wagon and a troublesome CC are among the small number with which I have secondhand exposure), but the most recent of the bunch has been almost completely trouble-free (a 1.8T Beetle convertible; only problem was a passenger side power window that needed fixing about six weeks into ownership and has been fine over the ensuing four years).

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I like it.

    Most reviewers have generally liked the current Jetta other than the really poor stereo in the base version.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I like it too, it’s a car I will consider next time I go shopping.

      In the past I’d prefer the hatch, but the sedan is a little more grown up looking.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      That base stereo is absolute sh#@. I rented one of the new Jettas from Enterprise when my car was in the shop and it sounded like a couple of alarm clock speakers attached together with a coat hanger.

      They should have just put an AM radio in. They should be embarrassed, but as we know, VW has no shame for a lot of things these days.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’d pass on this in favor of a GTI, but the more small(ish) performance cars there are, the better. Here’s hoping it isn’t thirty grand.

    Digging that gray color too – I believe Audi uses a variation of it.

  • avatar
    vehic1

    I believe torque is increased by 51 lb/ft over the previous model’s 207.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    New GLI interior + old GLI exterior = GLI I want. Until then, I’ll keep my GTI.

  • avatar
    SixspeedSi

    Still not 100% sold on the exterior looks, but the interior is so much better (minus the cheap center console).

    We can’t complain about the death of manuals since this still offers it! Go VW!

  • avatar
    duncanator

    Instead of a Jetta GLI, why not just get a CPO Audi? In 2015, I went from a Jetta to a 2015 Audi A3 2.0 quattro with 8k miles for 29,900. In my opinion, it was far superior to my outgoing Jetta and made me rethink spending more for a slightly newer VW. The air condition, noise level, and ride quality was far superior to my Jetta.

    • 0 avatar
      nels0300

      But did your CPO Audi come with a bunch of boogers stuck under the seat and a cushion full of someone else’s farts?

      Also, did the previous owner warm up their car in cold weather, or just let her rip immediately?

      Did they avoid potholes?

      Used cars are a crap shoot, even CPO.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      In fact, CPO means nothing. Dealer goes to auction to get these. It can come from New York City where it was idling 50% of the time. Its either ripped cold or idled or whatever. I would rather buy from private owner.

      • 0 avatar
        MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

        “rather buy from private owner”

        …..who will ALWAYS be totally upfront and honest regarding how they treated it, drove it, maintained it and warmed it up, right?

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Where I live, I can buy from someone who lives in nice house, in the end of the cul-de-sac. For many people here its 1-2 miles drive under 25mph before they get on main road. So they have to drive slow while engine warms up. And then it is all highway.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      The S3 would be more comparable to the GLI, and a 3 year old used or CPO S3 will go for about the same money. I suspect your total cost of ownership on the GLi will be less unless you trade every three or four years.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    As much as I like most VW cars, I can’t step over that this this is Nazi car made in Mexico

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    They actually make an *interesting-ish* Jetta again?

    Huh.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Where do you like your Nazi cars to be made?

    I have no idea whether people are being serious in the comments 50% of the time. (See the autodysomophobic person above.)

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    As Audi abandoned the manual in the b9 A4, this GLI will have some teeth.Now that everyone has a 2.0T , enthusiast buyers are starting to figure who makes a good one. I’m not talking reliability but suitable for a vehicle with high performance aspirations. The new A4 is now a snooze fest without a manual, but at least this GLI will be the only MQB 2.0t sedan with a manual transmission and limited slip diff.Even the S3 sedan can’t say that.Sure you can mod a 4motion Golf SW 1.8t 6mt to achieve similar performance to a Golf R , but who wants to void a 6yr warranty?
    I’ve driven the current A5 with a 6mt and it was a fairly an antiseptic experience , the ATS manual I test drove 4 years ago was more thrilling despite being down 50 hp or so and show w/ all season 17inch tires. Alas, the GM 2.0T is a rough rider . Hopefully , GMs next gen 2.0T will be as smooth as BMW or VAGs.Hopefully with an available manual on the next 3 series fighter.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I never took you as one of those manual hyperbolists who thinks a 3rd pedal makes a Mirage more fun to drive than a 458 Speciale.

      A4 is a 13 second car with a good transmission, AWD and available torque vectoring. It has the same anodyne dieseleque four banger with more power. To me it’s a no brainer but then an A4 costs 50-75% more. But I’m not even sure the A4 was the driver’s car choice in the first place. In any case very silly post

      • 0 avatar
        cimarron typeR

        It actually used to be . The b8 with hydraulic rack/6MT,pre 2013 MY was equal to the e90 328i in my opinion. Not to the ZHP I owned when I test drove them though.
        My point is , Audi basic offering used to be a good driver’s car choice without having to step up to an S Model.
        I woudn’t be surprised if VW moves as many GLIs to GTIs , especially for those who don’t respond to JDM styling cues . Americans just don’t like hatchbacks as compared to sedans, unless you’re a member of an enthusiast /auto forum of course.

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    I won’t be satisfied until I can buy a brown VW GLI wagon with a diesel engine powering all four wheels through a manual transmission. And there better be TorSen diffs front, rear, and center.

    /every loud car enthusiast
    /probably

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I have come to the conclusion that no matter how great VWs are, their bread and butter models are just too effing boring to look at for me to own. I prefer the controversy of the Civic sedan to this complete design resignation.

    • 0 avatar
      syncro87

      It is a tough line to toe for the manufacturers. Go conservative like VW did with the Jetta, half the people roast you for being boring and stodgy. Go radical like Honda did with the Civic and the other half say they wouldn’t be caught dead in one.

      I’d agree with you on the Civic.

  • avatar
    rreichar

    I think it’s interesting. We own a 2017 GTI manual and a 2017 GLI DSG. I drive the GTI and my wife drives the GLI. I like the GLI but everything about the GTI feels dramatically more solid and better put together. I personally don’t really love the GTI look. I much prefer the form factor of the GLI. It sounds like this one, built on the same platform as the GTI, may fix most of the issues I have with the Mk 6. I will wait to see one in person before I judge the looks. So if the pricing is reasonable I could see trading my GTI on one of these. The question then is manual or DSG?

  • avatar
    speedlaw

    I’m glad they went back to IRS. My Ace of Base Jetta S 2017 has it…even on a simple car it does make a difference.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Kinda liking the understated stance of the GLI. Just enough “sport” outside to not be boring, but not so wild as to assure premature aging of the design by year 3. And that blue/gray is pretty swanky.

  • avatar
    theoldguard

    I have always been a fan of the Jetta. I owned a “16V” back in the day and it was a good car. I test drove the newest 1.4 and I liked it but for two things: there just aren’t enough hamsters running on the wheel and the torsion beam is just along for the ride. Like all torsion beam cars I have driven, it feels like a trailer pulled along behind the car. With the GLI, those two problems are fixed, but it does add a concern. I owned a Focus with a PowerShud-d-d-er transmission and am now leery of DCM transmissions. Is VW DCM a tragedy like Ford PowerShud-d-d-er?

    • 0 avatar
      WallMeerkat

      The gearbox is a DSG. By this point most of the early faults have been ironed out. Just make sure the fluid is changed every 40k service.

      • 0 avatar
        johnny_5.0

        I think the fluid change interval went up to 80k miles for the 7 speed DSG in this and the 2019 GTI. And to theoldguard’s question, their DSG is very good and better than the vast majority of automatics on the road today.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Somewhat on topic, it appears from the 2018 and ’19 VW configurators that they’re adding the GLI while dropping the 1.8T Sport. Sad to say, but the tweener engine and conventional auto make more sense for my usage. I image VW crunched the numbers, and it didn’t make sense to offer both alongside one another.

  • avatar
    brodyboy

    The non-metallic grey is pretty cool. But please VW, more colors! Shock discovery this morning: if you go to the Golf R configurator on vw website, they are offering the full range of 42(!)colors available in Germany. Of course, most of them are a $2500 special order, but..at least they are available. Soooo SICK of silver, dull gray metallics, white and black. We have become joyless, unimaginative, unadventurous consumers. I know, I know, it’s the manufacturer’s fears of poor lease residuals, but still.. wouldn’t hurt to at least offer more than just three or four tints.

  • avatar
    pathfinderdoorhandle

    One question: 35th anniversary of what? The GLI? I owned two of the GLI’s predecessors, the VR6 GLX (a ’95 and a ’98) so the GLI is newer than that, twenty years at most. The Jetta itself? That doesn’t seem right either, having also owned a 1980 back in 1982. My recollection is that the Jetta had already been out a couple of years at that time. So that’s more like 40 years ago. Math was never my strong suit but stuff like this always bothers me. Anybody have a clue?

  • avatar
    thekevinmonster

    I actually just bought one of these. US 35th edition, so it’s an S with DCC and striped wheels.

    Pros: it’s everything I liked about my MK6 GTI several years ago, with none of what I didn’t.
    Cons: D is punishment mode, S has clunky downshifts to a stop, so just live in M. Also, the soundaktor is like when a horse whinnies in a movie but it’s not when a real horse would do a real whinny. And, no DSG farts.

    Best part of the DSG: it auto-downshifts as you come to a stop and does it very smoothly (vs S mode which is like HURGH HARD DOWNSHIFT!)

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      I like your description of the soundaktor. Maybe the next Bullitt Mustang will upshift through an infinite number of gears on the highway, like the one in the movie did.


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