i personally think the GLI is ugly, and that is saying alot because i bought a '19 ES! It was on my radar before getting the ES but it was $7k more than the ES (manual, only base trim available, Canada) and IMO not worth it. If you break it down on paper the VW is a better car but also IMO it doesn't compare to the ES even with the tech package. I would buy a GTI hands down over the bloated looking GLI.
I can't imagine the VW being cheaper to maintain either, especially if you used the dealer. An oil change/ basic service on a 17 Jetta 1.4tsi that a friend owns is $120.....my 3.3 Santa Fe is $80 and the ES will be less. At the end of the day my needs were an affordable and reliable commuter that can also provide some fun at a given moment. Looking at Manual vehicles there weren't a ton of options and my ES ended up being the cheapest and what i would consider the "best value" because any cons about it or any "missing" features weren't outweighed by the pros and extra features of anything more expensive. I have no regrets so far!
'19 ES Base. Lava Orange 6mt
'17 Santa Fe XL Luxury