TO THE POINTWhat’s New? The performance-oriented 2006 Volkswagen Jetta GLI gets a powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a choice between two excellent transmissions, beefed-up suspension bits, 17-inch wheels, xenon headlights, and several important interior tweaks over the standard Jetta 2.5. Selling Points: Excellent drivetrain and sport-tuned suspension, and attractive, well laid-out interior, a roomier back seat and perfectly sculpted race car-style steering wheel. Deal Breakers: The driving position may not suit everyone, and the ride may be too firm for some. Our Advice: If you’re looking for an affordable sports sedan, the 2006 Volkswagen Jetta GLI deserves your strong consideration.
DesignInside and out, the 2006 Volkswagen Jetta is appropriately sporty, but we never did get comfortable behind the steering wheel.
While the new Jetta’s rounded lines are a logical evolution of past Jetta generations, its conservative styling can best be described as jauntily generic. Which ultimately may be a good thing for all those car buyers who’d like to stand out from the crowd even as they’re busy blending in.
In fact, you have to look closely to discover the small but significant design details that set the 2006 Volkswagen Jetta GLI apart from its more sedate siblings. Besides the complete lack of a Jetta badge, the car’s aggressive stance, larger wheels, black front air dam and side sills, blacked-out honeycomb mesh-style grille with a red trim, front fog lights, and blue-tinted glass all help make the GLI visually distinct without resorting to the kind of boy-racer styling cues that tend to attract unwanted attention from the local police.
Inside, the changes are equally subtle. The Jetta’s roomy interior is dressed up with a handful of distinctive upgrades, including genuine brushed aluminum accents and special heritage cloth upholstery. Leather-covered sport seats are optional. Add the excellent tactile quality of the interior materials – something VW seems to do better than just about anybody in the business – and you have an upscale interior that looks like it was lifted straight out of a more expensive automobile.
Oddly enough, as much as we like the GLI’s cabin, it’s also the place we found our biggest faults with the car. We discovered the hard way (as did several of our colleagues) to watch our legs when getting into and out of the GLI after whacking a right knee on a low-hanging protrusion underneath the steering column.
Our other criticism has to do with the ergonomics of the driver’s seat. No matter how we adjusted the tilt/telescopic steering column, we found the angle of the steering wheel a bit odd. Add the fact that the manually-adjustable seats don’t allow you to adjust the tilt angle of the seat’s bottom cushion, and it’s no surprise that we couldn’t find a truly comfortable driving position.
Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t include a few words about the GLI’s rear seat. Where the previous generation Jetta was noticeably tight in back, this new version has a decent amount of head and legroom even for six-foot tall adults. That makes us believe that the GLI makes an excellent compromise for buyers who might prefer to drive a sporty compact coupe but need a viable back seat to schlep a couple of kids or shuttle important business clients.