The Volkswagen Jetta is VW’s top selling U.S. vehicle, and the company gives buyers lots of options for 2012. The Jetta lineup this year has a dozen models, starting at $16,495. The newest model is the turbocharged GLI.

The GLI is the sportiest Jetta yet, and it packs a big punch with its 200-horsepower TSI engine that sends 207 lb.-ft. of torque to either a 6-speed manual or an optional 6-speed automatic transmission. The Jetta GLI proved to be a fun-to-drive sport sedan that really shined when the accelerator pedal reached the mat.

With a starting price of $23,495 the GLI version comes with 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels accented with red brake calipers, sport bumpers, hill hold control, fog lights, chrome window trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls, paddle shifters, red accent stitching on cloth seats that have a manual lumbar support, 60/40 folding rear seats with a center arm rest, an auxiliary jack, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, MDI with an iPod cable, a touch-screen radio and one-touch up/down windows.

The GLI has a new multilink rear suspension and a lower ride height. The result is a planted, firm feeling behind the wheel with flat cornering and stable handling. The GLI is the performance Jetta, with a new honeycomb grille and a deeper front spoiler.

Inside, the sport factor continues with heavily bolstered seats, a flat-bottom steering wheel and aluminum pedals.

While we tested the GLI, there are a whole bunch of other Jetta choices, starting with the 2.0L S at $16,495. The S with a sunroof is $17,645. The 2.5L SE is $18,495; the SE with a convenience package is $19,845; and the SE with convenience and a sunroof is $21,185.

Moving up, the 2.5L SEL starts at $23,195 and has touch screen navigation, keyless entry with push-button start, and Fender premium audio.

The diesel models include the 2.0L TDI Clean Diesel that starts at $22,525, the TDI Clean Diesel Premium is $23,965, and the Clean Diesel Premium with navigation is $25,095.

The GLI models include the tested 2.0T GLI, the 2.0T GLI Autobahn and the 2.0T GLI Autobahn with navigation. For that ride you’ll pay $26,495.

Introduced as an all-new 2011 model, American car buyers have taken to the Jetta, with sales rising through the year. It’s a safe, fuel efficient car that gets a performance boost with the GLI models.

Mileage ranges from 24 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway in the 2.0L engine, to 23 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway in the 2.5L engine, to 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway in the GLI models, all with the manual transmission choice. The clean diesel models get up to 42 mpg on the highway and have a range of more than 600 miles.

The Jetta is also a 2012 Top Safety Pick of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Volkswagen also offers its Carefree Maintenance Program, where scheduled maintenance is covered for the new vehicle warranty period – three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first.

2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

Engine

2.0-liter TSI turbocharged

4-cylinder engine

Transmission

6-speed manual or automatic

Horsepower

200

Test model base price

$23,495

EPA Mileage rating

24 mpg city / 32 mpg highway

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