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Are You There Golf? IT’S ME, JETTA

Car Reviews

Are You There Golf? IT’S ME, JETTA

Are You There Golf?


*With an apology to author Judy Blume…

Of the many cars I’ve owned, one I’d like to have back was our ’79 Scirocco, VW’s ‘sporty’ take on the Golf platform. My wife and I didn’t have it for long (it was replaced by a 3 Series, after I began selling BMWs), and while fine for a family of three, it would not have worked well for a family of four; that ‘addition’ came in ’83. But while we had the Scirocco it was genuine fun, with an immediacy from its drivetrain and a very real connection to the road. And while the Jetta GLI delivers some of that same immediacy and connection, its day-in/day-out utility is far greater, with a platform far more expansive.

Of course, if you’ve googled Volkswagen recently you know the buzz is all about VW’s I.D. Buzz, which in 3-row, U.S.-spec was previewed to American media earlier this summer. Although it doesn’t faithfully recall VW’s earlier, air-cooled Microbus, it successfully captures the essence of the ‘60s in a way that Chrysler’s Pacifica or Toyota’s Sienna minivans never (EVER!) will. And the I.D. Buzz is one of just several EVs which will be offered by Volkswagen in the next few years, while the number of sedans is down to just two. And the Jetta – in base and GLI form – is half of that inventory. 

Despite the modest number of sedans, you probably won’t confuse Volkswagen’s Jetta with anything else on area showrooms, as its sheetmetal remains – in my opinion – overtly Germanic. This is far removed, however, from its Golf-with-a-trunk origins of 40+ years ago. Slightly longer than a Civic sedan (186.5 inches) on a wheelbase slightly shorter than the Honda’s (105.7) and with essentially the same width, the Jetta’s footprint hits – again, in my opinion – that sweet spot between sport and utility without, of course, being a sport utility. 

The sheetmetal has a design language that falls short of ‘Achtung, Baby’, and (regrettably) doesn’t recall Audi’s A7; that, of course, was left to Hyundai’s Sonata. But it does reliably – albeit quietly – reflect what you think when considering a German sedan: practical, and with little pretense of being a sports coupe. And I’d like to give a shout-out to the Jetta’s greenhouse, which provides driver and passengers with plenty of glass area, whether you’re in Munich or, uh, Midlothian. 

Inside, despite today’s Jetta design sitting at the ‘mature’ end of its product cycle there’s enough tech integrated into the dash to keep 30-somethings entertained, while 60-somethings can remain reasonably sane. The gauges, while electronic, at least look to be analog, and the HVAC controls are located immediately beneath the GLI’s touchscreen. On that touchscreen I found the Sirius/XM station I wanted, while my 10-year-old grandson pulled up the classical station he was interested in; the classical composition was performed, I think, by one Friedrich Fahrvergnügen…

Under the hood is Germany’s variation of the Chevy V8, laid out as a turbocharged inline 4 displacing 2.0 liters, generating 228 horsepower and, for your daily driving needs, 258 lb-ft of torque. This is more than enough to enthusiastically propel the GLI’s 3300 pounds, especially when connected to the Jetta’s available 6-speed manual. The GLI’s handling is spot-on, while I wish the steering had more feel and the shifter more precision. The whole platform feels wonderful if/when you can find a twisty bit, but would also be completely appropriate on I-20, headed into the ‘Western Sector’ of the U.S.

With an all-in window sticker comfortably under $35K, VW’s Jetta GLI impresses as very good value. Earlier this summer while driving BMW’s 330i, I noted the very real desirability of a 3 Series for under $40K – when the reality is a starting point in the mid-$40s, and going rapidly up from there. The Jetta GLI isn’t a 3 Series, but for those on a specific budget it may be something better.

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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