Photography and video by ©2016 Toni Avery

Between Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Volkswagen, which would your choose? It really depends on what you are going for. Sure, the quality and technology found in Mercedes and Audi products, for the most part, doesn’t compromise. But even an entry-level car will run you a hefty amount. Then there’s also that little matter of a manual transmission. For those purists, especially German car purists, still hanging on for dear life, the Jetta GLI is here.

This Jetta is equipped with a 2.0-Liter TSI turbo 4 producing 210 HP and 207 lb-ft of torque @1700 RPM mated to a six-speed manual transmission.

I was immediately impressed with the quick and agile performance of the Jetta GLI. It’s 207 lb-ft of torque @ 1700 RPM is apparent, especially when accelerating from a green light. While the car may appear large in size, it doesn’t necessarily drive like it. With ease of steering, thanks to electronic assist and the ultra easy to shift transmission, I’d say the Jetta GLI is one of the more fun sedans I’ve tested for an easy to swallow price.

The clutch is light, yet the pedal travel from fully depressed is quite far. For my body type, I found that the seating position was awkward at best. No matter how low I adjusted the seat, or how far back I slid it (within the pedal travel) or even how much I adjusted the steering column, I could not find a comfortable position. With just the right bend in my knee for full clutch engagement, I found that my knee would hit the bottom of the steering column. For taller drivers, this may not be an issue.

The Jetta GLI offers smooth handling over most road conditions while turning the wheel during a curve or parking maneuver requires little effort. During heavy acceleration, some torque steer can be felt through the wheel, especially in first or second gear. Braking power is positive with a gradual deceleration during normal braking.

My only gripe is the lack of engine and/or exhaust noise. I know this isn’t marketed as a hardcore sports car, but the performance and handling sort of nudges in that direction. I’d recommend slapping on a nice performance exhaust system to bring the sound full circle.

The exterior of the Jetta GLI features standard 18-inch wheels, sporty front grille, with a paint color of Tornado Red.

Glance at the GLI for a quick second and it might remind you of its more famous, smaller brother, the GTI. The grille offers hints of something sporty under the hood, while the color coordinated side badges continue that thought even from the profile. If finished in one of the other four colors offered (other than Tornado Red), such as Platinum Gray Metallic, those badges stick out even more. The standard 18-inch wheels and more tame rear design bring you back to sedan reality.

Inside the GLI is an all black interior featuring red accents throughout, review camera with park assist, Fender stereo and Sirius XM satellite radio.

With some cars featuring all black interiors, you might feel as though you are sitting in a black hole. The GLI is an exception. The red stitching throughout, sporty flat-bottom wheel, red colored accents on the doors and dash really add just enough color and performance edge to bring you out of what could be a black hole. Plus, the majority of the materials inside the car are either soft touch or overall nice enough. The seats are very comfortable for long distance and city driving and the rear passenger compartment provides ample leg room. And for those long trips, the trunk is quite large with enough room for all your passengers luggage.

My favorite item inside the GLI was the standard Fender stereo. It just might be one of the best I’ve tried in a car. No need to crank up the volume to really hear your music, because the stereo provides crisp, clear and premium quality sound.

With the enthusiast car market becoming a one-upping match for more power resulting in higher price tags, it’s refreshing to drive a car like the Jetta GLI that provides a fun driving experience, relatively sporty styling and a price tag that’s easy on the wallet.

2016 Volkswagen Jetta GLI SE:

Base Price: $26,920

Destination Charge: $820

Total Price: $27,740

Fuel Economy: 23 City, 33 Highway, 27 Combined 

 GirlsDriveFastToo gives the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta GLI SE an overall rating of (out of 5 total):