The attitude of a sporty sedan, not a sport sedan
All that said, drive quick but not crazy-fast, and the Jetta GLI has the right attitude for a sporty sedan but not a sport sedan, with a secure yet nimble feel. The quick-ratio electric-boosted steering is about the best we've felt in a compact sedan—easy to maneuver around tight parking spaces, nicely weighted, and capable of giving some feedback from the road surface.
In all, some of the same things we like about the standard 2012 Volkswagen Jetta, we also like here. With near-perfect ride quality, the Jetta beats most of the compact-sedan competition; seats are supportive in front, and there's enough headroom and legroom for taller adults in back; and there's plenty of trunk space.
So recalibrate your expectations about GLI, and if you're considering any standard Jetta, take the GLI for a drive before you commit. Sport sedan, definitely not. Sporty sedan, indeed.