• 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

The Golf GTI sedan you’ve been asking for!

LISTEN 15:06

The 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is the latest performance-oriented version of the compact sedan. It’s based on the seventh-generation Jetta what was unveiled for the 2019 model year, and just like its predecessor, it rides on underpinnings borrowed from the Volkswagen Golf GTI. More aggressive than ever design-wise, the 2020 Jetta GLI is also the most powerful GLI ever built. Powered by a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, it comes with 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. For the first time ever, the Jetta GLI comes close to the Subaru WRX, although it still doesn’t have an all-wheel-drive system. Find out more about the new Jetta GLI in the review below.


  • Sportier than standard
  • GTI-inspired features
  • Red fascia stripe
  • Honeycomb grille
  • Aggressive bumpers
  • Trunk lid spoiler
  • Sporty diffuser
  • Round exhaust pipes
  • Black trim on Autobahn model
2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Exterior
- image 821604
The horizontal and vertical slats in the standard grille were replaced with a honeycomb mesh

The new GLI is essentially a slightly sportier version of the standard Jetta. It features the same oversized grille and sporty front bumper, but combines design cues seen on the Golf GTI. For instance, the horizontal and vertical slats in the standard grille were replaced with a honeycomb layout, while the horizontal trim that splits the element in two is finished in red, just like on the Golf GTI. But instead of a red "GTI" badge, the sedan sports red "GLI" lettering.

Volkswagen also upgraded the standard headlamps to LED projector units and LED daytime running lights. Below, the center vent features a honeycomb mesh, while the fake side outlets have black surrounds and a black plastic inserts with fins instead of foglamps. Overall, the Jetta GLI looks a lot like a modernized Golf GTI up front.

2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Exterior
- image 821224
The diffuser-like element incorporates small fins and round exhaust pipes

The GLI’s profile looks rather generic though. Outside the "GLI" badge on the front fender and the 18-inch, aluminum-alloy wheels that are exclusive to this car, the GLI remains identical to the regular Jetta. The sporty suspension lowers the four-door 0.6 inches closer to the ground, but that’s barely noticeable.

Around back, Volkswagen added LED taillights as standard and glued a small spoiler on top of the integrated trunk lid spoiler of the regular model. The bumper remains identical to the standard Jetta, but there’s a diffuser-like element worth mentioning thanks to its small fins and round exhaust pipes that replace the usual trapezoidal outlets. These are also finished in chrome for a more exclusive look. A red "GLI" badge on the trunk lid rounds off the rear fascia.

Opt for the slightly more exclusive 35th Anniversary model, and you also get black wheels with red stripes, black roof, black mirror caps, a black rear spoiler, and 35th-anniversary badges.


  • All-black cabin
  • Red stitching
  • Perforated leather on Autobahn
  • Leather steering wheel
  • Heated seats
  • Push-button start
  • Optional HMI Display from Golf GTI
2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Interior
- image 821591
The "GLI" badge makes things even better by adding features taken from the Golf GTI

The fact that the Jetta is a fresh design already makes the interior a nice place to spend time in. It looks modern, crips, and stands out in its segment as a premium-type cabin with plenty of cool features. The "GLI" badge makes things even better by adding features taken from the Golf GTI, like the red stitching on the steering wheel, gear shifter, armrest, and floor mats and sportier front seats. The latter come in black in every trim, but while the base cloth seats have grey piping, the perforated leather upholstery in the Autobahn model sport red accents.

There’s also a Diamond flag decor trim, while the 35th Anniversary model adds unique seat tags, floor mats, and door sills. The Jetta GLI also comes with an extended list of standard features, like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, automatic headlamps, keyless access and push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, and auto-dimming rear-view mirror.

2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Interior
- image 821596
The GLI comes with an extended list of standard features, like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated seats, and push-button start

The Driver Personalization setting, which includes setups for driver seat memory, driver assistance system preferences, temperature, ambient lighting color, and radio presents is also standard. You also get App-Connect with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink smartphone integration, as well as the 10-color ambient lighting.

You can further customize the Jetta GLI with features from the options list, which includes the HMI display from the Golf GTI and the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit display. The latter comes with a reconfigurable display with unique GLI graphics and the possibility to position navigation data in front of the driver. Other features you can select include a sunroof, 400-watt BeatsAudio system, Volkswagen Car-Net vehicle services, SiriusXm radio, Voice Control, a second USB port, power driver seat with memory and lumbar support, ventilated seats, and remote start.


  • 2.0 TSI form Golf GTI
  • 228 horsepower
  • 258 pound-feet of torque
  • Standard six-speed manual
  • Optional seven-speed DSG
  • Start/stop system
  • Sporty suspension
  • 0 to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds
2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI emerges with extra power, clever suspension
- image 820332
The new GLI boasts an extra 18 horsepower and 41 pound-feet over the old model

The Jetta GLI is a full-fledged Golf GTI under the skin. Motivation comes from the same turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. That’s identical to the current Golf GTI and an 18-horsepower and 41-pound-foot boost over the previous Jetta GLI. That’s also an extra 81 horsepower and 74 pound-feet over the regular Jetta.

All that oomph travels to the front wheels through either a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed automatic. The DSG is obviously optional, yet another setup that’s similar to the Golf GTI. The automatic also features a start/stop system that improves fuel economy by stopping the engine during idle when the brake pedal is pressed.

2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Exterior
- image 820241
Expect the new four-door to hit 60 mph in less than six seconds

Volkswagen has yet to release performance figures, but the new Jetta GLI should be notably quicker than the old sedan, which needed 6.7 seconds to hit 60 mph from a standing start. Expect the new four-door to get there in less than six seconds. Top speed is likely limited to 155 mph, just like the Golf GTI.

But how does it compare to its rivals? Well, the GLI doesn’t have many rivals, as most vehicles in this niche have less 200 horsepower. The Toyota Corolla, for instance, generates only 140 horses in its most powerful version, while the Honda Civic comes with a 174-horsepower rating. The Civic Si version comes closer tho, thanks to a 1.5-liter four-cylinder mill rated at 205 horsepower and 192 pound-feet. That’s a 23-horsepower and 66-pound-foot deficit though, so you’re better off with the Jetta GLI in the performance department.

2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Exterior
- image 820247
Like any sporty model, the GLI benefits from a Sport mode, which is tuned for more dynamic response

The Subaru WRX is a worthy performance-oriented sedan that the GLI might go against. But this Japanese four-door is notably more capable thanks to a 2.0-liter flat-four mill that cranks out a solid 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of twist. That’s 30 horses more and identical torque. The good news is that the extra 30 horses don’t much of a different in a 0 to 60 mph sprint, but there’s some bad news too, as the WRX features an all-wheel-drive system

Getting back to the Jetta GLI, you can drive it through four individual modes. There’s the basic Normal setup, which provides an ideal balance for city and highway cruising, and Eco, which optimizes everything for improved fuel consumption. The latter comes in handy in slow moving traffic if you have the start/stop function that comes with the automatic transmission. Like any sporty model, the GLI also benefits from a Sport mode, which is tuned for more dynamic throttle and shift response and a slightly more aggressive exhaust note. Finally, you can use the Custom feature to adjust steering, throttle, front differential, engine note, and climate control settings individually for your very own bespoke driving mode. The 35th Anniversary model adds a fifth Comfort mode.

Engine 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injection EA888 TSI®
Horsepower 228 HP
Torque 258 LB-FT
Transmission six-speed manual (standard) /seven- speed DSG (optional)

Suspension and Brakes

2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Exterior
- image 820243

The Jetta GLI might not be a track-ready car, but it rides on a modern, independent suspension setup that brings together a strut-type layout in the front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear. Volkswagen doesn’t provide much info, but it mentions that the Jetta GLI comes fitted with the same VAQ electronically controlled, torque sensing, limited-slip differential and variable ratio electric steering as the Golf GTI. This means it’s safe to assume that the two cars share almost the entire suspension, which is good news. The 13.4-inch, vented front brakes are shared with the Golf GTI and Golf R. Opt for the 35th Anniversary Jetta GLI and you also get the DCC adaptive damping system for a more dynamic ride.


2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Exterior
- image 820239

The GLI’s safety feature package is based on the regular Jetta, but it comes with a few extra standard equipment. The bundle for this model includes Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist), Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Traffic Alert, and the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System. The latter helps slow the vehicle down after a collision, thus reducing the chance of additional impacts. It also comes with a tire pressure monitoring system and the Intelligent Crash Response System, which turns off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors, and activates the hazard lights in the event of a crash that deploys the airbags.


2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Exterior
- image 820228

The Volkswagen Jetta is quite affordable at $18,745, but the GLI will cost notably more than that. Actually, it might become the most expensive Jetta in the lineup and surpass the range-topping SEL Premium model, which comes in at $27,695. This sticker will put it on par with the Subaru WRX, which retails from $27,195 before shipping and options.


Honda Civic Si Sedan

2018 Honda Civic Si Sedan High Resolution Exterior
- image 712178

The Honda Civic is one of the Jetta’s traditional rivals and the only one to offer a version that comes close to the GLI. The cool thing about the Civic SI is that it looks really menacing, even in sedan form. Its front fascia, big spoiler on the trunk, and coupe-style roof suggest a high-performance drivetrain under the hood, while the cabin is packed with plenty of premium-like features and state-of-th-art technology. Highlights include sports seats, a digital instrument cluster, carbon-like trim, and a big infotainment display. Because it’s based on the EX-T trim, it also comes standard with dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SiriusXM radio, and a 450-watt, 10-speaker audio system. But despite it’s aggressive appearance, the Civic Si isn’t as powerful as the Jetta GLI. Power comes from a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 205 horsepower and 192 pound-feet, a 23-horsepower and 66-pound-feet deficit compared to the German sedan. The not-so-good news is that you can’t order an automatic transmission and that the drivetrain features only two driving modes, Normal and Sport. The Civic Si Sedan starts from $24,300, which means there’s a big chance it will be significantly more affordable than the Volkswagen Jetta GLI.

Read our full story on the 2018 Honda Civic Si Sedan.

Subaru WRX

2018 Subaru WRX High Resolution Exterior
- image 700230

With cars like the Toyota Corolla or Chevrolet Cruze not offering performance-oriented versions to take on the Jetta GLI, we have no choice but to look at the Subaru WRX. A milder version of the rally-inspired WRX STI, the WRX doesn’t look as aggressive as the Civic Si sedan, but it has what it takes to give the Jetta GLI a run for its money design-wise. However, its interior looks somewhat poor compared to the Jetta’s, although it has goodies like heavily bolstered seats, a seven-inch infotainment display in the more expensive trims, a flat-bottom steering wheel and nice looking materials. But the big highlight lurks under the hood in the form of a 2.0-liter flat-four engine, rated at 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, it offers an extra 30 horses compared to the Jetta GLI, which makes it the most powerful car in this comparison. Another big plus is the all-wheel-drive system and the big brakes. A six-speed manual does the gearing, while the suspension setup provides high-performance cornering capability. Pricing for the WRX starts from $27,195.

Read our full review of the 2018 Subaru WRX.


2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Exterior
- image 821614

The GLI has been the cool, beefed-up member of the Jetta family for a few decades now, but the latest version thanks things to a whole new level. Sure, it’s still a Jetta with Golf GTI underpinnings, but the sportier, more refined looks of the new-generation sedan adds character and turns it into a proper performance-oriented compact. The more powerful engine also moves it closer to the cool Subaru WRX and placed it well above its only notable competitor, the Honda Civic Si Sedan. Needless to say, the Jetta GLI doesn’t have much competition to worry about except for the WRX, which actually sits in a league of its own thanks to its all-wheel-drive system and race-inspired suspension. The Jetta GLI’s only downside is that it could be a bit more expensive than the WRX. The Jetta GLI needs a GTI badge and an all-wheel-drive system to become perfect!

  • Leave it
    • Subaru WRX has AWD
    • A bit expensive

Further reading

2019 Volkswagen Jetta Exterior
- image 758222

Read our full review on the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta.

2017 Volkswagen GLI - Driven High Resolution Exterior
- image 735269

Read our driven review on the 2017 Volkswagen GLI.

2015 Volkswagen Jetta High Resolution Exterior
- image 548759

Read our full review on the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta.

Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read full bio
About the author

Today, Volkswagen of America, Inc., unveiled the new 2019 Jetta GLI at the Chicago Auto Show. In 2018, Volkswagen completely overhauled the compact Jetta to cater specifically to American buyers, with bolder design, more interior space than the outgoing model, and new technology. Building on the success of that model, today’s GLI ups the performance ante with more power, sharper handling, and features shared with GTI and Golf R.

“Volkswagen has long been synonymous with small, sporty cars,” said Scott Keogh, CEO, Volkswagen Group of America. “The redesigned 2019 Jetta proved once more that its combination of design, technology and value continues to resonate with buyers. The 2019 GLI takes the Jetta foundation and adds performance features from the Golf GTI to give buyers a true sport sedan.”

While the 2019 GLI features the MQB architecture, coupe-like profile and oversized grille of the redesigned Jetta, it adds sporty styling cues that hint at its beefed-up powertrain. Featuring a sport suspension, the GLI sits 0.6 inches lower than a regular Jetta, giving it a more planted look. Standard LED projector headlights with LED DRLs flank a black honeycomb grille with red accent line that harkens to the GTI. Golf R brakes, with red-painted calipers, stand out in the sleek 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels that are exclusive to GLI. In the rear, standard LED taillights are joined by a spoiler and unique rear bumper with finned diffusor and dual chrome exhaust tips to give it a truly unique rear view. A 35th Anniversary model features unique black wheels with a red stripe, a black roof, black mirror caps, black tail spoiler, and 35th anniversary badging inside and out.

Inside, the GLI transforms the Jetta’s modern cabin with nods to the Volkswagen performance family. A black interior sets the stage for red accents to pop throughout—red stitching is used on the steering wheel, shifter, armrest and floormats. Comfort sport seats feature red stitching no matter the material; cloth seats on the base model add grey piping, while red accents peek out of the Autobahn’s perforated leather seats. Diamond flag décor trim reinforces the sporty nature of the car, as does the standard leather-wrapped sport multifunction steering wheel and available sport HMI display from the GTI. The 35th Anniversary model has unique seat tags, floormats, and sill kickplates.

The 2019 GLI is powered by Volkswagen’s 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injection EA888 TSI® engine, making 228 horsepower (achieved with premium fuel) and 258 pound-feet of torque, 18 more horsepower and 41 lb-ft more than the previous GLI. This engine, shared with GTI, features variable valve timing on the intake and exhaust sides, as well as variable exhaust valve lift.

The power is taken to the front wheels via a standard six-speed manual transmission, with an available seven- speed DSG® dual-clutch automatic transmission. Automatic transmission models come standard with a Start/Stop system designed to improve fuel efficiency. This technology stops the engine during idle when the brake pedal is held (such as when waiting at a stop light). When the brake pedal is released, the engine restarts.

The Jetta GLI features an all-around independent sport suspension, with a strut-type setup at the front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear. The brakes are shared with the Golf GTI and Golf R, using 13.4-inch diameter vented front discs. Like the GTI, the GLI is fitted as standard with Volkswagen’s VAQ electronically controlled, torque sensing limited-slip differential that helps to eliminate understeer, as well as variable ratio electric steering. The 35th Anniversary model is also fitted with the DCC® adaptive damping system.

Driving Mode Selection comes standard, and allows drivers to customize their vehicle’s dynamic behavior. This system includes four modes to choose from: “Normal,” “Sport,” “Eco,” and “Custom.” Normal mode gives a balanced drive experience, while Sport is tuned for a more dynamic throttle and shift response, tighter steering, and a more spirited exhaust note. Eco mode optimizes shift points, throttle response and climate control settings for improved fuel economy. Custom allows a driver to tailor the steering, throttle, front differential, engine note, and climate control settings. The 35th Anniversary model with DCC allows the driver to adjust damping settings and also adds a fifth “Comfort” mode.

An impressive list of creature comforts and technology come standard on GLI. To keep passengers comfortable, heated seats, dual-zone Climatronic® automatic climate control, automatic headlights, KESSY® keyless access with push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror are standard.

Standard technology features include Driver Personalization, App-Connect technology that offers compatible smartphone integration with the three major platforms—Apple CarPlay™, Android Auto™ and MirrorLink®—and 10-color customizable wrap-around ambient lighting. Available features include a sunroof, the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit display with unique GLI graphics, 400-watt BeatsAudio® system, Volkswagen Car-Net® connected vehicle services, SiriusXM® radio, Voice Control, a second USB port, power driver seat with memory and lumbar, ventilated seats, and remote start.

The GLI’s technology features extend beyond the cabin to include a comprehensive suite of standard safety and driver assistance technology. Standard features include Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist), Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Traffic Alert, and the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System.

Every GLI model will come with the People First Warranty, America’s Best Bumper-to-Bumper Limited Warranty. The warranty provides coverage for six-years or 72,000-miles (whichever occurs first), and the warranty can be transferred to a subsequent owner throughout the remainder of its duration.

The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI will be available in two regular trim levels and a 35th Anniversary Edition. It is expected to begin arriving at U.S. Volkswagen dealers in the Spring of 2019.

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Press release

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