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Interactive Review: 2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI


Joining us this week for a review is the 2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 6-Speed manual with Autobahn Package and Navi. The Jetta in this trim stickers at about $26,445 (the fleet manager is getting me the actual sticker later), and has very few options left to select other than automatic transmission and small accessories.

In May 2011, we reviewed a 2011 Volkswagen Jetta SE 2.5. During that week, I took the Jetta on a 750 mile trip. I had no love for the 2.5 liter 5-cylinder included in that car. The fuel economy I observed over my 750 mile highway trip didn't even match that of a V6 Chevrolet Camaro and the power wasn't even close. Like most 5-cylinders, that Jetta also had a rough feeling under hard acceleration. About the only positive thing I could say about the power train was that it had good torque to scoot around town with. It looks like Volkswagen might agree with my opinions. Recently rumors have popped up that Volkswagen will replace the 2.5 5-cylinder with a smaller displacement turbo charged 4-cylinder.

The interior was letdown if you didn't keep your perspective on this car's entry price. It was built well enough, but there were lots of button blankouts and dial deletes. Driving this car for 750 miles, I had to keep reminding myself, "$16k base price... $16k base price". Considering $16,000 barely gets you into a FIT over at Honda... that makes the lower end Jetta a not-to-bad proposition.

So the question becomes: Can the budget minded Jetta, that bases just above $16,000, be transformed into a performance sport sedan worthy of the GLI badge at $26,000. After 70 miles so far today, the Magic 8-Ball says: "Signs point to yes"

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17 Comments

No fair...the red one I had last week didn't have any options. :P

Or rather, the one I had wasn't the Autobahn or Autobahn & Nav trim.
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more important than the question of can it be made into a performance sedan...does it still show the significant budget/engineering cuts thats been so glaringly obvious across VW as of late??
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The integration of the navigation system and HVAC controls in the center console looks cheap. The rest of the interior looks quite nice.
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The rims/tires do set it off nicely... sort of how a nice set does the same for a BMW.
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If you have owned, or merely driven, a Mk IV or MkV Jetta. The 6th Generation will be a hard pill to swallow. It is literally like going from a Lexus to a Scion. The previous two generations are possibly the poshest compacts in the world, with interiors and tactile qualities easily beating the competition by a wide margin. In certain aspects, beating even a Mercedes C-class, BMW 3-series or Lexus IS. Essentially, they were Audi class in every respect. The new Jetta is well below that standard -- no better than a Corolla really and in some sense worse than Hyundais.

Having said that, it is important to look at it anther way. Volkswagen Group was selling VWs that are essentially built like Audis. Even though they sell for 3~4K more than the competiting small cars margins are slim for VW. This doesn't make sense for VW to position VW as a luxury-entry when they don't have a brand situated below it. So this adjustment makes sense even if it will be poorly received by VW faithfuls. VW needs to be the Toyota fighter. If you want a Posher Golf or Jetta, you can always buy an Audi A3.
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The GLI is a great looking car and a sweet package... but then I like the more pedestrian versions of the car as well. I looked at a Tiguan before buying my Patriot. I just could not swallow the pricetag, even for a base 4 motion it was $27k.

The Jetta is priced more appropriately and I believe the GLI is a screamin' deal.
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No fair...the red one I had last week didn't have any options. :P

Or rather, the one I had wasn't the Autobahn or Autobahn & Nav trim.


The red one I had two weeks ago was in the Autobahn trim but without the Navi.
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No fair...the red one I had last week didn't have any options. :P

Or rather, the one I had wasn't the Autobahn or Autobahn & Nav trim.


The red one I had two weeks ago was in the Autobahn trim but without the Navi.


I was hoping it would more/less be a GTI sedan.

It isn't.
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The Fender Audio in this car is FANTASTIC even to my hobbled ears. I don't generally comment on audio systems because my hearing doesn't really pick out the details that everyone else seems to comment on. VW included a demo CD with the car showcasing a variety of music and the clarity was amazing.
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The integration of the navigation system and HVAC controls in the center console looks cheap. The rest of the interior looks quite nice.


The SE center stack for comparison

Posted Image
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My time with the Jetta GLI is coming to an end. The car has plenty of pull up to the highway legal speed limits in this area, but after that, the wind goes out of the sails. The handling is also not what I would expect of a car wearing the GLI badge. It's better than a Cruze or Civic to be sure, but not by enough to warrant the GLI designation. The car handles at what I would expect a base Jetta to handle if this were 2004.

Tomorrow we'll switch into something bigger and softer, so get any last minute questions in about the 2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI
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How is the Radio/Navigation unit? Is it easy to use or a pain?
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Any comparison notes to the GTI?


I love the GTI, and still think the GLI falls a little short...
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How is the seat adjustment range and the seat controls? Haven't been in a new Jetta, but have driven a couple previous generations and always found the seat controls to be weird...
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I got used to the seat controls myself...pretty quickly.
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Any rattles? Buzzing noises? Road noise? Impact harshness?
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No rattles and road noise is well muted. On the highway, it's just another mid-size family car, so that could be a good thing or bad thing depending on your point of view. One thing I didn't like about the seat control is that there is no control of seat bottom tilt, but if you raise seat up, it feels like it is tilting you forward in the process. Seat back control is very difficult to reach.
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