The 2021 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 2.0 Turbo is an example of the modern global automobile industry. Assembled in Mexico with a Mexican-made engine, our neighbor to the south accounts for 38% of the Jetta’s parts, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The transmission is from Germany, as are 24% of the parts used in the Jetta; another 5% come from the U.S. The rest come from elsewhere across the globe. But the result is a vehicle that will please fans of German automotive design and engineering with its spare, unpretentious appearance and crisp maneuverability.
The GLI is the sportiest iteration of VW’s Jetta line-up. Whereas the company once offered a Jetta station wagon, the latest rendition comes solely as a sedan. mainstream Jetta buyers have a choice of S, SE, R-Line, SEL, and top-line SEL Premium trim levels, GLI drivers have a choice of S and Autobahn trim. More importantly, GLIs have larger more powerful engines and a sport-tuned suspension.
Jettas receive some trim updates for 2021, with SE models gaining a standard six-way power driver seat and a cabin accented in contrast stitching on the steering wheel and shifter. SEL models and above are fitted with Volkswagen’s new MIB3 infotainment system.
The 2021 Jetta’s spare, elegant silhouette and crisply angled windshield sweeps from the windshield rearward, reinforcing the crisp, sheet-metal edges that run from the front of the car to the back. Yet its understated front fascia, wearing a special GLI grille and bumpers make it easy to identify as a Volkswagen. Other exterior details, such as the placement of the headlamps and rear lights, door handles and 18-inch wheels, are also nicely executed. The Jetta’s low-key exterior design exudes an air of authority that is appealing, inspiring confidence in the vehicle’s intrinsic characteristics.
While the 2021 Volkswagen Jetta’s cabin is relatively spartan, the overall design of the cabin is well thought out, bringing major controls within easy reach of the driver. Offering a tactile way to handle key functions, such as heating and cooling, the controls’ design allows drivers to leave their eyes on the road. The interior is spacious for a compact car with adequate leg and head room. The workmanship is high quality, with a nicely finished feel. Nothing about it feels cheap or inadequate. After all, the Jetta is hardly inexpensive. The test vehicle cost more than $33,000, and no one wants to pay anything like that for a tacky car.
Choosing the sporty version of the Jetta over lesser Jettas brings with it a larger turbocharged 2.0-liter 16-valve double overhead cam 4-cylinder engine with a stop-start system for fuel efficiency. (Most Jettas make do with turbocharged 1.4-liter four, producing 147 horsepower.) A 6-speed automatic is standard on all Jettas. An 8-speed automatic is optional on most Jettas, while GLIs feature an optional 7-speed automatic.
The seven-speed automatic transmission seems well-matched to the front-wheel drive Jetta, producing 228 horsepower yet returning 28 mpg in combined city/highway driving according to the EPA. The Jetta also comes with different driving modes to suit the driver’s whim while out cruising.
Safety and technology
When it comes to safety, the Jetta is well-equipped for what for an affordable passenger car. It is fitted with such driver assistance features as forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, lane keeping assistance, adjustable cruise controls for stop and go traffic, intelligent high beams and rear-view camera. It’s also comes with rain-sensitive windshield wipers, remote start, satellite and HD radio, and Bluetooth. The test car came with an all-new third-generation MIB3 infotainment system with an 8-inch screen, multi-phone pairing and two USB-C ports. (By comparison, Jetta S, SE, and R-Line are equipped with VW’s MIB2 infotainment system and 6.5-inch color touchscreen.)
The 2021 Jetta GLI comes with a well-tuned and four-wheel independent sport suspension and adaptive chassis. The combination of relatively light weight and 228 horsepower gives the GLI a sporty flair, racing up the freeway and around curves with relative ease. There’s also a lot of low-end torque. The engine produces a nice sound, humming effortlessly, while the 7-speed transmission never misses a beat as it moves through the various gears. The steering is crisp, lending the car’s driving dynamics additional feel. And the brakes are first rate. It’s a great deal of fun to drive.
2021 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 2.0 Turbo Specifications:
|Dimension||L: 185.2 inches/W: 70.8 inches/H: 57.9 inches/Wheelbase: 105.6 inches|
|Powertrain||Turbocharged/intercooled double-overhead-cam 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine; 7-speed automatic transmission|
|Fuel Economy||24 mpg city/35 mpg highway/28 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $26,345; As tested: $33,430 including $995 destination and delivery charge|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
The 2021 Jetta is a good example of why not all motorists have given up on traditional sedans just yet. It is a lot more fun to drive than your run-of-the-mill utility vehicle, with ample room for passengers as well as luggage and/or packages. It’s also easy to park. The test vehicle was intelligently equipped with a nice balance of technology and comfort features. It also looks sharp, exuding a quiet authority that comes with the best of German design that has managed to withstand the test of time. And that’s a wrap.
2021 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 2.0 Turbo — Frequently Asked Questions
Does the Jetta GLI need premium gas?
While Volkswagen states the GLI does not require premium fuel, the company says that the GLI’s full horsepower and torque can only be attained using using premium gasoline.
Is the Jetta a good car?
The Jetta GLI’s reputation an an affordable sports sedan is well-known. According to a J.D. Power survey of Jetta owners, the car was ranked “Great” for driving experience, while Consumer Reports stated that owner satisfaction is 3 out of 5 stars.
Are Jettas reliable?
Volkswagens are known for delivering driving pleasure, with owners saying reliability is “Great”, rating 85 out of 100 in the same J.D. Power survey.