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2017 Volkswagen Jetta

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Overview (Final Score: A-)

The four-door Volkswagen Jetta sedan has an unbeatable mix of roominess, affordability and a solid driving experience unlike anything available at similar prices from automakers in Japan and North America. Volkswagen has managed to stick it out in the US market through good and bad sales years.

Now many are questioning if Volkswagen has the stuff to bounce back from the recent Dieselgate scandal that robbed the brand of one of its most popular and fuel efficient powertrains. Admittedly it appears that Volkswagen may manage to survive thanks to a high-margin three-row SUV called the Atlas, which will no doubt appeal to buyers of the Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Kia Sorento and GMC Acadia. But will Volkswagen's core fan base, which is fanatical about performance versions of the Jetta sedan and Golf hatchback, be swayed?

It's doubtful that those who love their GTI and Jetta GLI sport sedans will suddenly long for a rather large family SUV unless situational matters force them to sell their fun car. And, oh yes, the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI tested here is a whole lot of fun.


What We Love About the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI:

  • Value for money is unbeatable in the segment

  • Availability of a six-speed manual transmission

  • Fun to drive with a great standard sound system


What We Don't Love About the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

  • Could look a bit more different from entry level Jetta S models

  • Design has been boxy for what seems like forever

  • No diesel engines available in the US with this generation


Exterior View (9/10)

Over the decades Volkswagen has kept the styling of the Jetta sedan formal, Teutonic and much more square looking than some of the jellybean compact sedans out there today. The latest Chevy Cruze sedan comes to mind as a competing visual opposite.

A Jetta for sale in the United States needs to shout stylistically about its sporty, fun to drive German roots. The Jetta has done a great job of defining what Americans think about European cars. (Even if this Jetta is built, as it has been for decades, in Puebla Mexico.) But it looks good even with the GLI's relative lack of EVO-style spoilers anywhere.

Interior Comfort, Quality, Ergonomics (9/10)

As far as interior roominess, even your 6-foot plus high school kids won't complain about sharing the backseat of a 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI. It also has an insanely huge and useful 15.7-foot trunk perfect for holding all the groceries growing teenagers boys consume. There are wide door bins, an enlarged center console cubby with nicely sized cupholders, as well as a tray at the bottom of the dash in front of the transmission lever, where you can plug in your smartphone.

The interior of the 2017 Jetta GLI is covered in Volkswagen's quite durable and serviceable, real-looking black V-tex leatherette. No, leatherette does not mean that it's just cowhide that came from an extra dainty and cute cow. But over the years, Volkswagen has constantly been improving the quality of interior materials in the GLI model to the point that, while it may not feel like a Cadillac, it does feel far more opulent than the inside of a base model 2017 BMW 320i. Which starts about $5,000 higher even without a back-up camera.


Technology (10/10)

We can't say more good things about Volkswagen's latest proximity sensor touchscreen infotainment head unit with CD, SD and a host of VW Car-Net App Connect functions for your Smartphone. As well as the ability to plug in either your iPhone or Android phone into the car via the USB port and utilize either CarPlay or Android Auto, which we think is the slightly more cumbersome to use system when comparing our experience with Apple's quite simple system concept. But both instantly transfer the functionality and settings of your smartphone directly to the center screen.

We're not sure what Fender does to its premium 8-speakers and subwoofer audio systems that allows them to deliver powerful, clear, crisp sound no matter what you are listening to. (This goes for every Volkswagen we have tested with Fender audio, including even the Beetle Convertible which allowed full freeway-speed, top-down terrific sound.) The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI also comes with a back-up camera, rear cross traffic safety alert and a blind spot monitoring system.

The Jetta GLI comes with a built-in navigation system in case you don't want to project a navigation app from your phone onto the screen.

Fuel Economy (9/10)

Exemplary fuel economy is consistently delivered from the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI's 2.0 liter turbocharged 210 horsepower/207 lb-feet of torque 4-cylinder. The 27.8 miles per gallon we averaged during our week of stewardship was quite impressive. The fuel tank is 14.5 gallons. While max engine power is produced when you use premium unleaded, Volkswagen has engineered the motor to run on regular unleaded even if they warn you that it will make the car slower. We tried both and couldn't tell any difference.


Predicted Reliability, Initial Quality Ratings (7/10)

For initial quality during the last model year, the entire Volkswagen Jetta line saw its ratings rise on average to four out of five stars, with only two categories where it earned only three.

But despite the quality improvement JD Power still only gave two out of five stars to the Jetta for predicted reliability. One boost is that the 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder in the GLI has seen use in various Audi models, as well as high end VW models and has shown itself to be very reliable.

Safety (10/10)

As an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety "Top Safety Pick Plus," the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta proves that despite being a bit long in the tooth next to some rivals, it is still an excellent car to have an accident in. Or more precisely, help you avoid getting into one in the first place. (Included on our GLI model was a back-up camera, blind spot warning and a rear cross traffic safety alert system.)

In serious impacts, the Jetta's automatic Post Collision Braking system makes sure that you only hit one thing by automatically braking the car after it detects you have crashed. Also, the intelligent crash response system will turn off your fuel pump, unlock the doors and hit your hazard lights after an impact, meaning even if you are in shock, your Jetta isn't.

Performance (9/10)

The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI comes equipped with a gutsy 2.0 liter 210 horsepower/207 lb-feet of torque turbocharged 4-cylinder that has seen reliable service in various forms across the Volkswagen Group's many brands. This engine is proven to not only provide enough acceleration force to induce unintentional grinning but it is also quite fuel efficient even if you have a heavy right foot. Suffice it to say that the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI will make anyone a better driver. Or it'll make them think so.

Steering feel is communicative and working the 6-speed manual shifter is a joy, as it is quite forgiving, accurate and would be a great unit for a first-time stick shift buyer. The Jetta GLI's suspension is also lowered and tightened up compared to your garden variety Jetta. Accelerating out of a corner the four-door sedan literally hugs the asphalt egging you on to push it even harder.

The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI has very well defined limits and is just quick enough that you'll want to pay attention to your shifting to keep the turbo engine on the boil. In the end, this car left us with a big grin after each drive. Yes, even after going to the grocery store. The Jetta GLI makes the mundane special. And that makes it a winner.


Pricing and Value (9/10)

With only a six-speed DSG automatic on the options menu for 2017, the Volkswagen Jetta GLI six-speed manual comes very nicely loaded for just $27,895 with tax and delivery extra. For the level of performance and number of the latest attractive tech features, as well as having great utilitarian capability, you'd expect to pay closer to $40,000. Thanks to VW for still offering a bargain price and a manual transmission option.

Total Score and Competitive Comparison (72/80, 90%)

The Jetta's competition is somewhat more cramped and about $3,000 to $4,000 more expensive before you start adding options. But if you want all-wheel drive traction, a premium dealership experience and the cachet of the Audi brand, it is worth checking out if your budget can handle it.

We priced out a new 2017 BMW 330i sedan with a manual transmission similarly equipped with a 2.0 liter 248 horsepower inline turbo 4-cylinder and we stopped when the ticker crossed $46,000. BMW makes the 2-Series but that is a coupe and over at Mercedes, their C-Class also has a nice 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder in the C300 but it lives in a separate price class. A separate price kingdom, in fact.

Even top-level family sedans like the Honda Accord V6 Touring and Toyota Camry XSE V6 cost more than the Jetta GLI and don't quite hit on the same fun-to-drive factor that the Jetta GLI has in spades. That leaves the 2017 Volkswagen GTI five-door hatchback, which offers more trim levels, a few more features for the driving enthusiast but for quite a bit more money. The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is a car to fall in love with your heart and head.


Other Jetta Models

Every 2017 Volkswagen Jetta comes with a turbocharged 4-cylinder gas engine and low prices for an entry-level 1.4 Turbo S model. Even without a diesel version for sale, the 1.4 liter 150 horsepower/184 lb-feet feet of torque turbo 4-cylinder base motor manages to swing an average 40 miles per gallon highway and 28 in the city. There is also a more powerful 1.8-liter turbo engine standard on the six-speed automatic only Jetta SEL, which features luxuries like full autonomous forward braking and adaptive cruise control, along with a navigation system, dual zone climate control and more, making it the priciest mainstream Jetta sedan.

The most basic Jetta S models are fine if you want a new car with more power and room than competing models, but it is modestly equipped with plastic wheel covers and cloth seats. It is available with a five-speed manual, as is the smarter Jetta SE that adds features like push button start, the Apple Car Play/Android Auto feature, a sunroof, stylish alloy wheels, blind spot monitoring and heated front faux-leather seats. The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta SE is a bargain and is the mainstream Jetta we would choose simply because it can't be beat from a value and driving enjoyment perspective.

Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
Sedan - FWD
1.4T S 1.4T S Manual 4 Cylinder FWD 17895
1.4T S 1.4T S Auto 4 Cylinder FWD 18995
1.4T SE 1.4T SE Manual 4 Cylinder FWD 20895
1.4T SE 1.4T SE Auto 4 Cylinder FWD 21995
1.8T Sport 1.8T Sport Auto 4 Cylinder FWD 22175
1.8T SEL 1.8T SEL Auto 4 Cylinder FWD 24995
1.8T SEL Premium 1.8T SEL Premium Auto 4 Cylinder FWD 26995
GLI GLI Manual 4 Cylinder FWD 27895
GLI GLI Auto 4 Cylinder FWD 28995

Comparison of 2017 Volkswagen Jetta with Similar Cars

2017 Volkswagen Jetta MSRP Invoice
2017 Volkswagen Jetta $17,895 $17,179
Similar Cars to Consider MSRP Invoice Compare
2017 Honda Civic $18,740 $17,424 Volkswagen Jetta VS Honda Civic
2017 Toyota Corolla $18,500 $17,484 Volkswagen Jetta VS Toyota Corolla
2017 Hyundai Elantra $17,150 $16,621 Volkswagen Jetta VS Hyundai Elantra
2017 Nissan Sentra $16,990 $16,562 Volkswagen Jetta VS Nissan Sentra
2017 Ford Focus $16,775 $16,188 Volkswagen Jetta VS Ford Focus

Car Rankings

Interested to see how the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta ranks against similar cars in terms of key attributes? Here are the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta rankings for MPG, horsepower, torque, leg room, head room, shoulder room, hip room and so forth.

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