Obviously, the Jetta-based GLI isn't as nimble as the lighter, Golf-based GTI, our two-time Automobile of the Year. Nonetheless, the GLI is one fun car, and I think it's underrated. The GTI is truly great and deserving of all of its awards, but as a family man, I'd prefer the more spacious and slightly less nervous GLI.
The only problem is that after analyzing the specs, I'm not so sure that the GLI really does have more space. Both cars share a 101.5-inch wheelbase, but the GLI trades the GTI's hatch for a spacious trunk, which adds more than a foot to the car's length, not to mention more than 200 pounds to the curb weight. What's more, Volkswagen says that the GTI has a hair legroom in the back seat, versus the GLI. Cargo volume in the GLI rated markedly higher and your luggage is more secure, but you lose the GTI's hatchback versatility. The GLI does have larger rear doors, though, which are very important for loading kids into the back.
The GLI we tested was heavily optioned, but a bare-bones GLI costs less than $700 more than a base four-door GTI. The choice for the hard-core is still "GTI," but a family guy like me might not mind carrying around the GLI's couple-hundred extra pounds and consequent fuel-mileage compromise for the benefits of the bigger rear doors and separate luggage compartment.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor