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The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is a practical and sporty choice.

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Driving the new Volkswagen Jetta GLI 2.0T brought to mind the joy that we used to associate with 1990s-era BMW 318i sedans.

Maybe it is the robust four-cylinder engine, or the manual transmission, or the buttoned-down bodywork or the less-is-more interior. There's just something about a no-nonsense German-engineered sedan like the Jetta GLI that hits the spot.

Our tester, a red Jetta GLI with the 35th Anniversary package, is a spicy automobile that won't break the bank. As demand for sedans sinks — VW sold fewer than 1,000 Passats last month — it's going to take niche products like the Jetta GLI with a manual transmission to preserve interest in the car market. Most American VW dealerships these days look like (mainly) Tiguan/Atlas SUV stores.

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The interior of the 2019 VW Jetta GLI features cloth seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Frankly, it was a joy to have the Jetta GLI beckoning in the driveway for a week as a more spacious alternative to the Golf GTI, which activates our adrenal glands, too. The 228-horsepower turbo-charged engine in the GLI, mated to a six-speed manual transmission, is an invitation to attack our Chattanooga-area mountain roads.

Fast Facts

› Model: 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 2.0T

› Exterior color: Red

› Interior color: Titan Black

› Engine: 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder

› Horsepower: 228

› Transmission: six-speed manual

› Fuel economy: 32 mpg highway, 25 mpg city

› Local Dealer: Village Volkswagen Chattanooga

› Price (as tested): $27,890

At lower revs, the engine is smooth and sedate, but power — and playfulness — peaks in the 40-to-60 mph range, which happens to be the sweet spot for passing slower traffic during my afternoon commute on Highway 27. Just throttle aggressively, downshift, and the GLI leaps into action. Yee-haw!

VWs are available locally at Village Volkswagen of Chattanooga at 6001 International Boulevard. The dealership had 16 Jettas in digital inventory earlier this week including one GLI like our tester.

 

WHAT IS IT?

A five-passenger compact sedan equipped with a turbocharged engine built for fun. The 35th Anniversary package on the sixth-generation Jetta includes 18-inch black alloy wheels with red accents, a black roof, a special spoiler and 35th Anniversary badges.

 

WHAT DOES IT COST?

Although you can get a lightly equipped Jetta for thousands less, the sporty GLI 35th Anniversary Edition is still a bargain at $27,890.

 


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WHAT WE LIKED

The handsome — but not showy — exterior styling, the crisp-shifting manual transmission, the surprisingly powerful turbocharged engine and the simple dash dials and switches. Incidentally, we continue to be a big fan of VWs "People First Warranty" which covers most repairs (besides wear parts) for six years or 72,000 miles.

 

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

In the South's summer heat, not having HVAC vents exclusive to the back seat is a bummer. Also, the cheap plastics in the interior door panels earn a demerit.

 

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

There aren't many true driver's cars available for less than $30,000. The VW Jetta GLI is one of the few examples of a reasonably-priced import that will fill your days with driving pleasure.

 

BOTTOM LINE

If sporty-practicality describes your car-buying needs, run, don't walk, to your local VW store to test drive the Jetta GLI.

Online: In the market for a new vehicle? To access hundreds of Mark Kennedy's Chattanooga Test Drive columns visit www.timesfreepress.com/testdrive.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.comor 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

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