2024 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Review: The Last of the Manuals

Mike Schlee
by Mike Schlee
The Volkswagen Jetta remains a manaul transmission choice for enthusiasts. It's a dwindling segment, but we're glad VW is still in it.

2024 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Quick Take

The Volkswagen GLI is celebrating its 40th anniversary. More importantly though, it is tasked with carrying the enthusiast torch as the final VW to have a manual transmission. With the Golf GTI and the Golf R both losing their six-speeds after 2024, the GLI will be the lone soldier.

Is this so-called GTI with a trunk up to the task? Does it offer the fun-to-drive factor that’s still relevant in 2024? We borrow a 2024 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 40th Anniversary to find out that it is a wholly capable sporty compact.

We’re nearing the end of an era. The last of the Volkswagen manual transmission vehicles is upon us in North America, possibly forever.

With the Golf GTI, Golf R, and regular Jetta all discontinuing the manual transmission option after the 2024 model year, there’s just a singular vehicle left with a row-it-yourself option. The Volkswagen Jetta GLI.

What’s New for 2024: Happy Anniversary

It’s interesting that the last manual transmission finds a home in the more niche GLI compared to the Golf GTI. We’re not complaining though, we’re just happy there’s still a stick shift available somewhere, at least for the short-term future.

Rather than dwell on the automated future, Volkswagen is celebrating the past. 2024 happens to be the 40th anniversary of GLI, or the GTI-with-a-trunk as the brand puts it. This has given the manufacturer inspiration for the new Jetta GLI 40th Anniversary Edition.

Last year we spent some time in a regular Volkswagen Jetta and found it to be an appealing, premium-feeling small sedan. For more on how the Jetta performs as a compact family runabout, you can read our 2023 Volkswagen Jetta SEL review here.

This article is strictly focusing on the Jetta GLI.

Exterior Style: Subtly Aggressive

The 2024 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 40th Anniversary is more aggressibely styled than a regular Jetta. It's still an overall conservative design though.

At 186.9-inches (4,747 mm) in length, the Jetta is now larger than a Volkswagen Passat from 20 years ago. Compact cars aren’t so compact anymore. On the outside, the GLI retains many of the features found on the Jetta SEL trim, like projector beam LED headlights, side mirror integrated turn signals and a panoramic moonroof.

The GLI 40th Anniversary edition adds a gloss black front grille, thin rear lip spoiler, black wheels, a black roof, and various red accents, like the faux intakes on the front bumper. Basically, the 40th Anniversary includes the Black Package that’s offered on the more expensive Autobahn version.

Our tester came with Pure Grey exterior paint which, in the United States, will set customers back $395. Lucky Canadians get it free of charge though. Regardless of country, the grey paint is a great contrast to the black and red bits. It makes the car more aggressive looking, well as aggressive as the conservatively styled Jetta can look at least.

Powertrain and Fuel Economy: Punchy Torque

The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the Jetta GLI makes 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. That's less power than the VW GTI, but more than the Honda Civic Si or Kia Forte GT.

Under the hood remains a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Although it is related to the 2.0-liter turbo in the GTI, the GLI only generates 228 horsepower and 258 pound feet of torque. That’s down 13 hp and 15 lb-ft of torque compared to its hatchback sibling.

That stated, it’s still more power than found in the Honda Civic Si or Kia Forte GT. The GLI power unit is also rich in low end torque. It pulls hard from a standstill, only tapering off slightly at higher rpms. Drivers can also set how aggressive throttle response is through the various drive modes – a feature not always found in this class.

A fuel burning performance vehicle should make a little noise, and the GLI obliges. From the outside, the dual exhaust produces a faint burble at idle, that crescendos into a mild wail under full throttle. Inside, the engine note is paired to a subtle synthetic sound that gives it a beefier tone. In Sport mode, the volume increases significantly – louder than we were expecting. Although it’s purely synthetic, we really enjoy the extra audio experience the GLI makes in this performance-based mode.

Hey, look at that. There's a real, honest-to-goodness six-speed manual transmission in the 2024 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 40th Anniversary.

As we’ve pointed out a few times, the GLI can come with a six-speed manual transmission, as equipped in our tester. The transmission is wholly capable, delivering longish throws and smooth engagement. It’s not exceptional or a standout performer, but well-suited for the job it’s designed to do.

With all the low-end torque the GLI makes, the car is able to cruise at a lower rpm than some competitors. In sixth gear, driving at 80 mph, the car cruises around 2,500 rpm. This helps the GLI attain fuel economy ratings of 24 mpg (9.8 L/100 km) city and 35 (6.7 L/100 km) mpg highway.

Handling and Drivability: It's Got the Goods

Volkswagen has upgraded all the right parts to make the 2024 Volkswagen Jetta GLI fun to drive with engaging handling characteristics.

The GLI has the necessary hardware to keep up with the engine's power. There is a VAQ electronic limited slip front differential, a quick 10.6:1 steering ratio, 13.4-inch front brake rotors, 11.8-inch rear brake rotors, and sport tuned suspension. Even the curb weight is decent for the car’s sporty intentions, at 3,274 lbs (1,485 kg).

The car wears modest 225/45R18 tires, which had been swapped out for winter tires during our review. It’s hard to make a full assessment of the GLI’s handling due to this, but even with the squishier rubber, handling is sharp. Steering is the usual Volkswagen fare, light, direct, and well connected to the road. The car responds to directional changes quickly and without drama.

Ride Quality and Comfort: A Good Balance

Since the 2024 Jetta is not really a compact car anymore, full-size adults are able to comfortable fit in the rear seats.

A pleasant surprise is the Volkswagen’s ride quality. Passenger comfort isn’t sacrificed in the name of performance for the GLI, unlike some other performance compacts. Honestly, driving around our local roads, we didn’t notice a huge difference between the GLI and regular Jettas.

Adding to comfort for the driver is a power driver’s seat. The cloth material is soft, and the seats have a good blend of support and cushion. Four adults can easily fit in the Jetta GLI since it isn’t all that compact. As well, an impressive 14.1 cubic feet (402 L) of cargo can be carried in the trunk.

Interior Style and Quality: Subtle Once Again

Like the exterior, the interior of the Jetta GLI has a few more stylish, aggressive upgrades. But overall, the vehicle remains rather conservative.

The GLI’s interior is fairly restraint for a performance model. The contrast stitching, illuminated door sills, and funky pattern on the seats hint that this isn’t a regular Jetta. It’s not boring, nor is it exciting. It’s just practical and useful in a very Germanic way.

From a user experience standpoint, most controls are logically laid out and easy to operate.

Tech and Safety: Kicking It Old School

The driver information center is fully customizable and easy to use. It's a nice touch in this class.

One detail I do like is the older infotainment system. It features an 8-inch touchscreen running Volkswagen’s MIB3 software. Call me old, but the simpler layout and physical buttons make it easier to use on the fly. It’s connected to a 400 watt Beats audio system.

As far as other technology, features expected in a premium compact sedan are present like rain sensing wipers, a heated steering wheel, 10-color customizable ambient lighting, heated front seats, and navigation. Front and center to the driver is a customizable 10.25-inch digital cockpit that’s easy to configure.

Being 2024, the Jetta GLI is stuffed full of safety technology such as IQ.Drive, adaptive cruise control, front collision warning, lane keep assist, and much more.

Value Dollars and Sense: Aggressively Priced, Especially in Canada

The 2024 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 40th Anniversary is aggressively priced in Canada and competitively priced in the United States.

In the United States, pricing for the 2024 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 40th Anniversary comes in at $29,705 including destination charges and the optional paint. That puts it a few thousand above the Kia Forte GT Manual, but slightly below the Honda Civic Si. It’s also a few thousand less than the Golf GTI.

For Canadian consumers, the GLI 40th Anniversary is even more aggressively priced, coming in at an as tested price of $33,345 including destination charges. That puts it basically on par with a Kia Forte GT Automatic, and thousands less than the Honda Civic Si.

Granted, both the Forte GT and Civic Si only come in one trim, fully loaded, but we can’t fault Volkswagen for offering a slightly less option 40th anniversary GLI that still has all the same performance.

2024 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Final Thoughts

Not only is the 2024 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 40th Anniversary one of the few cars in its class left with a manual transmission, it's also quite a good sporty sedan all around.

Although Volkswagen claims the GLI is a GTI with a trunk, we think it’s more of a well-executed small family sedan with an appealing sporty edge. The handling, transmission, and power are all very good in the GLI, but overall, the car is a half-step behind the GTI. This isn’t a knock against the GLI, it’s just that the GTI is so fantastic.

This biggest advantage of the sedan though is that after 2024, the Jetta GLI will be the only North American-sold Volkswagen with a manual transmission. It’s not just Volkswagen that’s cutting back on manual shifters either. Currently, the only real competition is the Honda Civic Si and Kia Forte GT Manual. We’d take the GLI over the Si, and the Forte dies after this year along with Kia’s compact car manual transmission.

Thankfully, the GLI is a well-executed small car that showcases the engaging fun a six-speed and clutch can offer. We’re happy it’s still around, even if its days are numbered.

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Although the manual transmission will remain for the next few years, it won't be there forever. Better get one while you can.


2024 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 40th Anniversary


8 / 10


8 / 10

Handling and Drivability

8 /10

Passenger Comfort

9 / 10

Ride Quality

4 / 5

Exterior Style

3 / 5

Interior Style and Quality

7 / 10


8 / 10

Cargo Capacity and Towing

4 / 5


5 / 5


9 / 10

Emotional Appeal

8 / 10


81 / 100



Manual Transmission

Not Quite as Good as GTI

Comfortable Cabin

Conservative Styling

Engaging Drive

2024 Volkswagen Jetta GLI FAQs

  • Q: How much horsepower does the 2024 Jetta GLI have?
  • A: The car comes standard with 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque
  • Q: Will there be a new Jetta for 2024?
  • A: The 2024 Jetta has a new trim called the 40th Anniversary Edition. Otherwise it is mostly unchanged
  • Q: How much does a 2024 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Cost?
  • A: In the United States the 2024 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 40th Anniversary Edition costs $29,410 including destination charges.



2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder


228 hp, 258 lb-ft





Fuel Economy USA (MPG):

24 city, 35 highway

Fuel Economy Canada (L/100 km):

9.8 city, 6.7 highway

As Tested Price USA:

$29,705 (incl. dest.)

As Test Price Canada:

$33,345 (incl. dest.)

Mike Schlee
Mike Schlee

A 20+ year industry veteran, Mike rejoins the AutoGuide team as the Managing Editor. He started his career at a young age working at dealerships, car rentals, and used car advertisers. He then found his true passion, automotive writing. After contributing to multiple websites for several years, he spent the next six years working at the head office of an automotive OEM, before returning back to the field he loves. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). He's the recipient of a feature writing of the year award and multiple video of the year awards.

More by Mike Schlee

Join the conversation
 1 comment
  • JT JT on Apr 24, 2024

    Are you sure that 2024 is the last model year for the Jetta S Manual and Jetta Sport Manual?

    I can't confirm that anywhere else, but if it's for sure, it would be good to know as I might want to go ahead and buy then.