Few hot hatches command the same respect as the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
The hot hatch segment is dying in the USA, we've been hearing that for years now, and it's true. They've been trampled by crossovers and SUVs, which offer more space, close to the same fuel economy, a commanding driving position, and easier exit and entry. But the Golf GTI is one of the stalwarts of the segment, entering its eighth generation for the 2022 model year and continuing a long legacy that spans decades. It's not alone in the segment as Hyundai still sells the Veloster N, while the Honda Civic Type R is now overpowered and playing in Golf R territory.
The regular Golf hatchback isn't on the menu for an American audience in Mk8 guise, but the GTI lives on, retaining the Mk7's EA888 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, now making 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers are up from the last iteration by 13 hp and 15 lb-ft of torque. As before, the GTI remains a FWD hot hatch, with power routed through either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The dynamic chops are better than ever, but a new, flashy infotainment system is threatening to make the user experience painful through a lack of knobs and physical controls.
The new Golf GTI is the eight-generation of its kind but isn't an entirely different beast from the Mk7 that preceded it. Underneath you get the same MQB chassis and the same 2.0-liter turbo engine, albeit with more power this time around.
The exterior styling is immediately identifiable but features a more dramatic aesthetic with resculpted LED headlights, extruded LED daytime running lights, and a chequered-flag design for the front fogs. The interior now features VW's Innovision Cockpit with a 10.25-inch digital instrument panel and an available 10-inch infotainment/navigation screen.
See trim levels and configurations:
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
The exterior of the new Mk8 VW Golf GTI hatchback is sharper than ever. We like it. At the front, the new car features LED headlights positioned lower in the front fascia with a large honeycomb grille slotting in underneath. We love the optional fog light positioning too, mimicking a chequered flag. The long LED daytime running lights give this new GTI a menacing look that was somewhat missing from the Mk7. The side profile remains more or less the same, although it looks crisper than before. The rear-end sports LED taillights and a big diffuser with a pair of polished exhaust tips incorporated into the design. S and SE models ride on 18-inch five-spoke wheels, while the Autobahn trim gets 19-inch diamond-turned surface alloy wheels. SE and Autobahn models also get LED fog lights, adaptive front lighting, an integrated light bar in the front grille, and a power sunroof.
The 2022 VW Golf GTI is classified as a compact five-door hatchback, measuring 168.8 inches in length and 70.4 inches in width. The GTI is significantly shorter than the 2021 Honda Civic Type R, which measures 179.4 inches, or the 2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback at 175.6 inches. The 2022 GTI is 57.6 inches tall and has a ground clearance of 4.7 inches - all dimensions that are relatively similar to the Mk7 that came before. The five-door hatch tips the scales at 3,113 pounds with the manual gearbox and 3,190 with the dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The GTI has never been an in-your-face type of hot hatch and has traditionally been offered in a range of mature yet attractive exterior paint colors. The 2022 GTI in base form is available in six colors. Atlantic Blue Metallic, Reflex Silver Metallic, and Deep Black Pearl are no-cost options while Kings Red Metallic will set you back $395, as will Moonstone Gray and Oryx White. The Autobahn is offered in a seventh hue, Pomelo Yellow Metallic, for $395 and Oryx White Pearl for the same amount.
Volkswagen has never tried to claim that the GTI is the best performing hot hatchback on the market, and it still isn't, but you're guaranteed a driver's car of the highest order. That has always been the GTi's strong point: it offers one of the most balanced hot hatch driving experiences around. There's just enough power to entertain, and the ride isn't back-breaking, but the overall driving experience is communicative and engaging. The Mk8 feels much lighter on its feet, and despite only increasing outputs by 17 hp and 15 lb-ft of torque, it feels seriously peppy, to the extent that we wouldn't be surprised if VW is underquoting these figures. On paper, the GTI might be down on power, especially when comparing it to the mighty Civic Type R, but independent testing has shown that the GTI can still get from 0 to 60 mph in an impressive 5.1 seconds. As is the standard for German cars, the top speed is electronically capped at 155 mph.
For 2022 you still get a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine powering the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission, or a quick-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. But, this is the new generation of VW's EA888 four-cylinder, which now makes 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, up 13 hp and 15 lb-ft over the Mk7 GTI.
We spent most of our time in the manual GTI, where the stickshift feels a little wayward. It's not vague, per se, but it's not as precise as we'd like. It all felt really slick and easy, but there isn't any feedback in the middle. It's not as fun as we expected to rip through all six.
But as for overall fun, the GTI is a great partner. There might be a little bit of initial lag on take-off, but once we were at speed and jumping between second, third, and fourth, it feels like the GTI never leaves the meat of the powerband. And we like the gentle pops and cracks from the exhaust; they weren't obscenely loud, just loud enough.
We tested the 2022 GTI in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the surrounding area just outside of trendy Asheville, North Carolina, and found it perfectly suited to the tight, medium-speed, twisty backroads. The front-wheel-drive GTI features a coil-spring suspension with antiroll bars front and back. The models we tested had the company's adaptive damping too, along with its XDS electronic differential lock.
All of that makes the GTI turn in quickly, without much body movement. The steering is weighted nicely, but there isn't a lot of road feel. Grip is high courtesy of new 19-inch wheels shod in Bridgestone Potenza tires, and with that front differential, the GTI is rapid when exiting corners. As the weight (and grip) shifts to the outside front wheel, more power is fed to it, virtually pushing the car in towards the apex. In the sportier modes, besides the suspension getting stiffer, the stability control and locking differential let the driver have more freedom to slip around before jumping in and saving them.
There is one weird thing that we'd like to mention here. It's about the lane assist system. It's activated when the car is turned on and normally gives you a little nudge if you're exiting the lane. On these fast, curvy roads it would "see" the turn coming and push you closer to the inside. We'll grant that it did actually help a few times, but more often surprised us as we were setting up for the corner.
As for the adaptive dampers, there was a little more bounciness in Sport mode than in Normal or Comfort, but it was barely noticeable. Those drive modes, changed with a button under the infotainment screen, changing the steering weight, throttle programming, and shift algorithms on the automatic cars.
Whether you buy manual or DSG, the Golf GTI returns almost identical gas mileage figures. According to the EPA, the manual six-speed GTI will manage figures of 24/34/28 mpg city/highway/combined. That's pretty impressive for a performance vehicle of this nature. The seven-speed DSG car will see those numbers improve slightly to 25/34/28 mpg.
With a 13.2-gallon fuel tank, the GTI should, in theory, have a maximum range of 370 miles. In our short but fun time with the new GTI we returned a little over 22 mpg combined. But remember, these are some of the most amazing roads in the US, and we were quite excited to be taking them on.
Volkswagen loves to remind people of the GTI's long and proud history by adding little retro details to the interior, such as plaid cloth seats and a golf ball shift knob on the manual-equipped cars, but the rest of the cabin is thoroughly modern in feel. The 2022 GTI offers a more modern interior design, and we appreciate the grippy steering wheel and lowered instrument cowl that does a lot for forward visibility. The digital cluster is a bit gimmicky though. What's worse than that is that the new infotainment interface is devoid of physical buttons - not even a volume knob. It may look great, but ergonomically, it's a poor exercise in design over usability. In comparison to the Mk7, it looks a lot fresher, but a lot of the plastics used feel cheaper than the older model.
Plaid! If you're going to get a Volkswagen GTI, you have to get the plaid seats. It may be the coolest feature on the inside. They're cloth, which will please the animal lovers. They're comfortable, which will please your bottom. And they're bolstered pretty well for an average-sized adult human. And, unlike the Jetta GLI, the GTI has seat-base adjustment for both height and angle.
The GTI seats five officially, with a good amount of space in the back for adults. There's a pass-through for an armrest and cupholder if you're not filling that fifth seat. Headroom is 38.1 inches and legroom is 35 inches, both of which are bigger than the Hyundai Veloster N.
Ergonomically, drivers can reach the screen and all the controls. There's a new headlight panel control to the left of the wheel and there are big storage spaces in the doors and center. There's more textured plastic than we like. But that's one of those things that you'll be too busy enjoying the drive to notice.
The interior of the Golf GTI has traditionally been more retrained than its more extreme hot hatch competitors, and feels more mature than say a Honda Civic Si, but still offers some nice sporty touches. The 2022 GTI features sport-themed materials such as alloy pedals and red stitching. As you may have guessed already, we're massive fans of the iconic plaid inserts on the cloth seats, housed within a Titan Black surround with contrasting red patches. Higher up in the trim range you also get leather upholstery. All models get a leather steering wheel with perforated leather on the key touch areas, and the signature golf-ball shifter is standard on the manual derivatives.
Practicality has always been close to the top of the checklist for the GTI, and that's why so many people love these cars; they can be used as daily family cars without breaking a sweat, and a big part of that practicality comes down to cargo space. The 2022 VW Golf GTI offers a middling 19.9 cubic feet of trunk space behind the rear seats, which is just slightly less than you get in the Mazda 3 (20.1 cubes), but the Honda Civic Type R decimates both with 25.7 cubic feet. Fold the rear 60/40 split seats down, and you get a useful 34.5 cubes. The GTI gets the usual two cupholders in the front, glovebox, door pockets, and a center console storage bin in terms of small-item storage.
GTI cars tend to be better equipped than your average VW, and the 2022 car provides a decent spec sheet. The base model comes standard with Climatronic single-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, front and rear park distance control, push-button start/stop, an auto-dimming interior rearview mirror, push-button start, and a 30 color adjustable interior ambient lighting system. Standard driver assistance tech on the base model includes blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, pedestrian and cyclist monitoring, and wireless phone charging.
As if that wasn't already comprehensively kitted, the SE adds exterior features such as a power-adjustable panoramic sunroof and an adaptive front lighting system. It receives keyless access, dynamic road sign display, optional 12-way power-adjustable leather seats, and optional ventilation. The Autobahn trim gets a standard 12-way power-adjustable driver's seat with memory, three-zone automatic climate control, heated front and rear outboard seats, leather upholstery, and ventilated front seats. It also adds tech such as a head-up display and high-beam control.
In practice, the climate control is a little annoying. We've used the new Climatronic Touch system on other VWs including the latest Tiguan, but there the haptic buttons and sliders are easier to see and reach. On this GTI, and the Golf R, there's a narrow panel just below the infotainment screen that is angled towards the sky. There are a few grooves to slide your finger in to change the temperature, but it was almost impossible to see or hit while driving.
The GTI is very very good mechanically but the tech is still a little iffy. The 2022 model has the company's Digital Cockpit Pro as standard. That 10.25-inch display takes the place of a traditional gauge cluster. We have no problem with it as it's easy to understand and to control with the steering wheel (haptic) buttons. Though we did hit them a few times when snaking through turns and sawing at the wheel.
The MIB3 infotainment system ships standard with an 8.25-inch screen on the S and a 10-inch screen on the SE and Autobahn and looks good with several different home screens. But in practice, it was a little maddening. To change the fan speed you have to go two menus deep, and moving from CarPlay (wireless, as is Android Auto) back and forth to the native screens took extra presses. The seat heat button on the screen doesn't actually change the seat heating level as expected, it brings you to the climate control page and requires a few more presses.
Other functionality includes wireless charging on all models, while the Autobahn gets a head-up display. Base cars get a seven-speaker system while the SE and Autobahn trims come with a Harman Kardon, 480-watt premium audio system with nine speakers. We only tested the upgraded unit and it was loud and precise with a combination of '90s rap and '70s R&B all day long.
The 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI hasn't had any time to break down yet, but from what we can tell from the Mk7's reliability record, new owners don't have much to worry about. The EA888 engine is tried and tested, and so is the DSG transmission. The MQB platform has been used in a plethora of products, so the only really new bits in the Mk8 GTI are related to the infotainment and the design. VW covers the 2022 Golf GTI with a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, including drivetrain cover for the same distance and time. The corrosion warranty is valid for seven years/100,000 miles and a two-year/20,000-mile maintenance plan is paired with and three years/36,000 miles of roadside assistance.
Unfortunately, there are no reviews of the 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI yet from either the NHTSA or IIHS. Its predecessor managed to score a full five-out-of-five overall safety from the NHTSA, and the IIHS gave the Golf scores of 'good' in most categories.
All 2022 Golf GTI models get a six-airbag system with front, front-side, and side-curtain airbags, ESP, ABS, anti-slip regulation, and engine brake assist as standard. Standard driver assistance systems include adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking, front and rear park distance control, and pedestrian and cyclist monitoring. SE models add dynamic road sign display, and the Autobahn model gets high beam control and a head-up display.
The 2022 Golf GTI is the first model year of the new eighth-generation hatch, but because VW has refined this thing dozens of times over more than 40 years, that doesn't worry us. It's the hatchback that debatably created the hot hatch market and for that alone it deserves a long hard look. We'll admit that although there are a smaller number of these cars on the market, they're the best they've ever been.
The evolved EA888 engine makes it worth the cost of admission, with almost the perfect amount of power for tons of fun on the street without stopping at a gas station every few blocks. With that in mind, the combination of space and utility in this GTI, plus the price and fun factor, put this car on our shortlist of daily drivers if we were buying today.
One question we have to ask ourselves is this, is the Mk8 GTI really much better than the Mk7? Handling-wise, yes, it's purer and feels more organic, but the materials are now flimsy, the tech is overly complex, and you still pay top-dollar for a car that now feels cheaper than before.
The price of the Volkswagen Golf GTI starts at an MSRP of $29,545 excluding tax, registration, and a destination fee of $995. This gets you the six-speed manual gearbox. The mid-range SE sees a notable jump in price to $34,295, and finally, the top of the range Autobahn costs $37,995. Speccing the seven-speed DSG on any model adds $800. For reference, the more hardcore 2021 Honda Civic Type R only starts at $37,895, and the turbocharged Mazda 3 AWD will top out at $33,900.
There are three Volkswagen GTI hatchback configurations to choose from for 2022: S, SE, and Autobahn.
All three models are powered by the same 2.0T engine producing 241 hp and 273 lb-ft. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automatic transmission.
The base model comes standard with plaid cloth upholstery, heated front seats, front and rear park distance control, push-button start/stop, Climatronic single-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming interior rearview mirror, wireless phone charging, LED headlights, and 18-inch alloy wheels. You also get a standard 8.25-inch infotainment display with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth streaming. Standard driver assistance tech on the base model includes pedestrian and cyclist monitoring, blind-spot monitoring, lane assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and autonomous emergency braking, and rear cross-traffic alert.
The SE model adds a power sunroof, adaptive front lighting, and an integrated LED light bar to the outside, while keyless access gets you into a cabin where dynamic road sign display, a 10-inch touchscreen, navigation, SiriusXM, and voice control, a Harman Kardon sound system, and wireless app connect are all standard.
The range-topping Autobahn gets adaptive damping and 19-inch alloy wheels with summer tires. It's the only model with three-zone climate control, 12-way driver's seat power adjustment, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, Vienna leather upholstery, a head-up display, park assist, and automatic high beam control.
The base model can be kitted out with optional accessories such as bike carriers and splash guards, but VW doesn't offer any substantial packages for this trim. The SE can be optioned with the $395 Black Wheel Package, which adds a set of black 18-inch alloy wheels. Also available is the $1,225 SE Leather Seats Package. Not only does this give you leather upholstery, but the driver's perch gets 12-way power adjustment with memory function, and the front seats gain ventilation.
The 2022 GTI comes in three well-equipped trims with an affordable base price. You get lots of standard features (18-inch wheels, keyless entry, the maddening climate control, 30-color ambient lighting), and a few extras. We like the SE the best, which starts at $35,290 because of the adaptive front lighting, the bigger infotainment screen and navigation, wireless apps and the better stereo. For the test, VW only had the top Autobahn trim to sample, and though we love the summer tires (its only option), out here in the Midwest we'd want the all-seasons anyway.
The best things about the GTI are the engine, chassis, and seats. And you get all of those as standard. If you do want the bells and whistles, that's fine too, but you won't be ruing the decision if you buy a base model. No matter what you'll be loving every grocery store, school run, and road trip behind the wheel.
Honda offers two performance versions of the Civic. We're still waiting for the new-generation Type R to officially debut, but until then, the performance torch is borne by the Civic Si Sedan. The 2022 Civic Si Sedan is powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four-cylinder engine producing 200 horses and 192 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual. Its smaller engine capacity helps it beat the GTI in terms of fuel economy with figures of 30 mpg combined to the GTI's 28 mpg effort. But that's the only performance benefit the Honda has, as its deficit in displacement, power, and torque show that it really isn't in the same league as the GTI is. Honda knows this, which is why it costs only $27,300, more than $2,000 less than the base GTI. It's a softer experience on road but has benefits in terms of more rear passenger space and a more intuitive infotainment system.
Ultimately, you buy the GTI for its outright performance, while the Civic Si is a more subdued option for those who enjoy spirited driving but don't make it the crux of their buying decision. For us, the GTI reigns supreme in this competition.
There was a time when the GTI was the elite performance VW, but that role now belongs to the mighty Golf R. This AWD beast punches above its weight division and is the car to go for if you want all-out performance. A 2.0-liter turbocharged engine also powers the Golf R but produces 315 hp and up to 295 lb-ft of torque if you select the DSG transmission. You get 280 lb-ft with the manual. Because power is sent to all four wheels, the R is an entirely different animal on the road; it hooks up and launches out of the hole with anger, and loves to cling on in the bends, no matter the speed. The R will launch to 60 mph in the mid-four-second range. It gets standard adaptive dampers, and the AWD system has torque vectoring and a Drift mode.
Inside, you can expect the same cabin layout and general tech with unique trim options to set this car apart from the regular GTI. Price-wise, the R starts at $43,645, making it circa $14k more expensive. If we had the money, we'd go for the R every day of the week. If you're looking for a hot hatch, why not go for the hottest one there is?
The most popular competitors of 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI: