VW is one of the few brands that won't let the sedan die, while the rest of the world moves to crossovers and SUVs, and still offers the Volkswagen Jetta GLI as its compact performance sedan. Yes, the Passat is dead after next year, but VW's humble Jetta will soldier on, probably breaking back into six figures worth of sales in this rebound year. The compact sedan nameplate gets a new grille and bumper, and new color and wheel options for the midcycle update, and we got a chance to take a spin in the hottest model, the GLI.
Not quite a Golf GTI clone, the GLI sports the same EA888 engine as its hatchback cousin, but the sedan makes only 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, as opposed to the 2022 GTI's 241 hp and 273 lb-ft. The Jetta GLI, which competes with the new Honda Civic Si, Kia K5 GT, and Hyundai Elantra N Line, feels one step behind the new Golf in tech, which is good, and one step behind the Golf in performance, which is less good. Let us explain why.
For the 2022 model year, the Jetta GLI has received a few minor updates to keep it fresh. VW has updated the exterior with new bumpers front and rear, a revised color palette, and fresh wheel designs. The new honeycomb grille is also restyled. VW says that the wider dual exhaust system has "improved acoustics" this year. Inside, VW has equipped a new leather steering wheel with touch functions. The latest MIB3 infotainment system comes with an eight-inch touchscreen, and the brand's 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit is standard too. In terms of trims, last year's GLI S falls away - there is now just one GLI trim with two transmission choices.
See trim levels and configurations:
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
The Jetta GLI has always been a more mature prospect than the Golf GTI, and that hasn't changed despite VW's latest styling updates. The sedan has been the recipient of new bumpers and fresh wheel designs. These haven't drastically changed the car's appearance, but it's certainly sportier than less powerful Jetta models. The GLI gets a honeycomb grille treatment with the characteristic red line running through it. LED projector headlights, a power panoramic sunroof, and 18-inch machined alloy wheels are all standard. VW will add a rear spoiler to the back if you wish. No remotely sporty car seems complete without an optional Black package these days and the GLI is no different; this pack will darken the wheels, roof, and mirror caps.
The Jetta GLI is both longer and taller than the new Honda Civic, but both cars are around the same width. The VW's dimensions include a length of 186.9 inches, a width of 70.8 inches, a height of 57.9 inches, and a wheelbase stretching to 105.6 inches. At 3,272 pounds, the Jetta GLI manual is well over 300 lbs heavier than base Honda Civic Si. With the automatic transmission, the GLI's weight increases to 3,355 lbs.
VW has introduced a few new colors to the 2022 Jetta lineup like Kings Red and Oryx White. However, VW hasn't made it abundantly clear which colors will be included for the GLI variant. It does, however, state that the GLI will be offered in a choice of five colors. We've already seen the GLI in hues like a moody grey and a feisty red, and these look particularly good when specified together with the optional Black exterior package, which adds a black spoiler to the rear, blacked-out mirror caps, and a black roof.
Mechanically unchanged for the 2022 model year, the new Jetta GLI retains its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It produces a useful 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. That peak torque figure is available from just 1,500 rpm, so the GLI doesn't have to be driven with a heavy foot to make smooth, rapid progress. As before, power is sent to the front wheels exclusively. According to independent tests, the Jetta GLI can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in around 5.6 seconds when equipped with the dual-clutch automatic gearbox. With the standard manual, it's only a few tenths slower. That's impressiveperformance and makes the GLI genuinely fun, as we found on our test drive. The GLI is no sports car but that isn't what it's meant to be. The top speed is limited to 126 mph but that's still fast enough to get you into trouble. We don't expect the new Honda Civic Si - down on power at 200 hp - to match the GLI in a straight line.
VW perfected the combination of an FWD drivetrain and a turbocharged four-pot in the GTI hot hatch, and it's managed to replicate this successful recipe in the Jetta GLI sedan. The 2.0-liter TSI engine makes 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, although VW specifies that the peak power output requires the use of premium fuel. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is optional. Both gearboxes have their merits; the manual has a reassuringly positive shift action, while the DSG executes quick, smooth shifts and ultimately makes the sedan a little quicker.
There's a little turbo lag to contend with when setting off, but the GLI's throttle response at above 2,000 rpm is excellent. This is a spicy performance sedan that doesn't have any glaring weaknesses, even if a turbo-four is never going to be the most absorbing power plant in the world.
The refreshed Jetta rides on the company's excellent MQB platform, which underpins a bunch of other cars and crossovers with four-cylinder engines. Body rigidity is up, which helps both handling and ride. The GLI was always sharper than the basic sedan it was built on, and that's still true as we tested the sedan on North Carolina's amazing mountain roads.
The Jetta GLI has coil springs and an antiroll bar in front and a multilink rear suspension with gas-filled shocks tuned for sportier driving. The GLI sits about a half-inch lower than the regular Jetta too, and on the road that translates to quick changes of direction with minimal body roll. And it does soak up most of the crunched-up pavement around corners without affecting the steering adversely. VW's VAQ front limited-slip differential puts power to the outside wheel, shoving the driver through corners without understeer.
It has an electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion setup with a speed-sensitive ratio. That means at speed it firms up while maneuvers at slower speeds are lighter. The Blue Ridge Parkway and the surrounding roads keep a limit of about 45 mph, which means we felt a good bit of weight in the steering through the turns, though most of the road feel was tuned out. Still, it's a small car, which makes it easier to feel what the chassis is doing without having to get all of your information from the steering wheel.
The GLI comes standard with adaptive dampers, and modes for Eco, Comfort, and Sport, each changing the damping, throttle, and steering characteristics. We found Sport mode completely adequate for daily driving with the more sensitive throttle but without a lot of harshness from the suspension.
According to the EPA, the 2022 VW Jetta GLI will return 26/37/30 mpg city/highway/combined in manual guise. With the automatic transmission, those figures are 26/36/30 mpg. Compared to last year's models, gas mileage for both models has improved by 2 mpg combined. The GLI will be able to cover about 396 miles based on its 13.2-gallon gas tank capacity. We landed right around that city number, considering we were testing on curvy NC roads.
Although the EPA hadn't published official gas mileage ratings for the Jetta GLI at the time of writing, we have little reason to believe that these will differ from last year's figures. That means you can expect 24/35/28 mpg city/highway/combined for the DSG-equipped model and 24/33/28 mpg for the manual. However, VW itself has shared different figures for the 2022 GLI; it says the DSG model will manage 26/36/30 mpg and the manual will do 26/37/30 mpg. If VW's figures are accurate, the GLI will be able to cover about 396 miles based on its 13.2-gallon gas tank capacity. We landed right around that city number, considering we were testing on the curvy NC roads
The VW Jetta GLI has a classy and sophisticated interior design. Besides a few harder plastics in certain areas, it feels solidly screwed together. A couple of improvements have been made this year, such as the fitment of a new leather-wrapped steering wheel, a standard eight-inch touchscreen interface, and a standard 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster. It's all easy to use and understand, and the displays are crisp. Because the high-spec Autobahn trim is the only one on offer for the 2022 model year, the GLI comes standard with features like a 10-color ambient lighting system, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, forward collision warning, and blind-spot monitoring.
We loved the GLI's seats, which are upholstered in perforated leather with just the right amount of cushion and middling-to-good bolsters. Under the black leather is some red material that shows through the little perforations to give the seats a modern, artsy look. Both front seats are power-adjustable and include lumbar support.
The latest generation Jetta is bigger than those that came before it, which means plenty of space for people and stuff. The driver's seat provides great visibility and the cockpit as a whole feels spacious with the sunroof equipped. We'd put three adults in the backseat and expect minimal complaints unless they are basketball players who need more than 37.4 inches of legroom.
Like most cars in its class, the Jetta GLI gets a lot of hard and textured plastic on the dash and doors, but the touchpoints are soft and we do appreciate the red stitching to match the seats.
Leather upholstery in Titan Black with a red underlay, along with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, is standard on the Jetta GLI. It also gets attractive red contrast stitching, and the effect of the 10-color ambient lighting system looks good at night. The manual model has a leather gearshift knob while the DSG-equipped model gets an aluminum gearshift knob. Both variants have stainless steel pedal caps. A black headliner is standard on the GLI.
The Jetta GLI has a reasonably sized trunk offering 14.1 cubic feet of capacity. That's exactly the same as what's on offer in the new Honda Civic Si. For daily needs, the GLI offers enough space. The 60/40-split-folding rear seatback can be dropped for when you need to accommodate larger items.
Interior storage includes the usual door pockets, a well-sized glovebox, a center console storage area, and cupholders front and rear. The rear cupholders are found in the fold-down center armrest.
As mentioned previously, the lower-spec S trim falls away this year, leaving only the better-equipped Autobahn. This is good news if you want a fully loaded sedan. As standard, the GLI gets an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat linked to a memory system. Both front seats are heated and ventilated. Keeping the cabin cool in summer and toasty in winter is a dual-zone automatic climate control system. The Jetta also has a 10-color ambient lighting system, an auto-dimming interior rearview mirror, keyless access with push-button ignition, wireless phone charging, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a power panoramic tilt-and-slide sunroof. The DSG model gets remote start as well.
The safety specification is equally generous. Included as standard are a rearview camera, forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, rear traffic alert, lane assist, and IQ.Drive. The latter system allows for semi-autonomous hands-on driving. VW's Digital Cockpit Pro with 10.25-inch display is standard.
The Jetta GLI comes standard with the company's new digital gauge cluster along with its MIB3 interface and an eight-inch touchscreen. The setup includes navigation, SiriusXM, wireless charging, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a bunch of USB-C ports, which are illuminated making them visible at night. Over-the-air updates for the navigation system are included. The GLI comes standard with a BeatsAudio stereo system too, with a 12-channel, 400-watt amplifier along with eight speakers and a subwoofer.
The key to the infotainment system is the knobs, which it has for volume and tuning. That's in opposition to the new Golf GTI setup, which has no knobs and only buttons and took us a long time to get used to for basic functions. In practice, the GLI's setup is way easier to use than the newer version on the GTI. The volume and tuning knobs are easy to find when not looking and it's simple to swap in and out of Apple CarPlay. Like most of these systems, it features a bunch of icons on the main screen, that drop into deeper menus for settings and the like. Hard buttons feature quick access to the map, media, and phone functions.
Although the 2022 model hasn't been rated by J.D. Power yet, the 2021 VW Jetta GLI attained a rather average 75 out of 100 rating from J.D. Power, with a specific quality and reliability score of 76/100. This score is well behind other competitors like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. On a positive note, the 2022 GLI has not been recalled for any issues. The 2021 model was subject to three recalls. The problems were for a faulty rearview camera that affected images on the display, front seat tracks with missing bolts, and airbags that could deploy improperly.
The Jetta GLI is sold with a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty and complimentary scheduled maintenance for the first two years or 20,000 miles in the USA. By comparison, the Hyundai Elantra N offers a much more comprehensive warranty.
In its safety review of the Jetta GLI for 2022, the NHTSA has so far only rated the sedan for the side-impact and rollover tests. It scored the full five stars for the former and four stars for the latter. Last year's VW Jetta GLI crashworthiness reviews were more comprehensive; the 2021 model attained a four-star rating for the frontal crash and a five-star overall safety rating, so it's clear that the GLI is a safe sedan. Over at the IIHS, the 021 Jetta received only Good scores in all crashworthiness tests. However, the headlights were only rated as Marginal at best.
The Jetta GLI comes with an array of active and passive safety systems that matches up well to the competition. All the usual items are in place, including a rearview camera, tire pressure monitoring, and six airbags: dual front, dual front-side, and curtain airbags for both rows.
Driver-assistance features are plentiful. The GLI comes with forward collision warning including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection. It also has adaptive cruise control, active blind-spot monitoring, rear traffic alert, a lane-keeping system, high-beam control, automatic post-collision braking, and an intelligent crash response. IQ.Drive is a hands-on, semi-autonomous system that features capacitive steering and a lane-centering system, which is standard fit. GLI models with the automatic gearbox get emergency assist with semi-automated vehicle assistance in case of a medical emergency, additionally.
The Jetta GLI is the best Jetta to buy, hands down. The new 1.5-liter TSI engine in the standard Jetta is fine, but if you have a single enthusiast bone in your body, the GLI is the one to get. There's just no compromise. It doesn't get super stiff with massive tires and no suspension give, and the six-speed manual is one of the easiest gearboxes we've ever driven. If we were teaching someone how to drive a manual, this would be the car we'd use.
The GLI gets a little added spice with the red accents, inside and out - even non-car fans would be able to tell this isn't just a regular Jetta, which is good since these aren't particularly eye-catching designs. And, buyers won't even lose on utility: Jettas have enough space for up to five passengers, and more than 14 cubic feet of trunk space, before you fold the seats down.
The upcoming Civic Si will likely give the GLI a run for its money, as will some of the Hyundais. We'll note here that small cars these days are just so much better than they were a few decades ago. The Honda will be more fun to shift, but it will be down on power compared to the GLI. If you don't want a hatchback for some reason, and honestly you should want one, the Jetta GLI should be high on your list of test drives in the compact space.
The 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI has a higher base price than before, although that's mainly because last year's base trim has been discontinued. The high-spec Autobahn is the only remaining trim and it begins at an MSRP of $30,995 in manual guise. The price of the Jetta GLI rises to $31,795 for the automatic derivative. These prices exclude a destination charge of $995 in the US. How much more can you spend on the GLI? Not much at all since there's only one package and few other options on offer.
The 2022 VW Jetta GLI is now offered in just one trim, the Autobahn. It comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine producing 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Power goes to the front wheels via either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. No other configurations are offered.
Outside, the GLI wears 18-inch wheels and comes with LED headlights, a power panoramic sunroof, a GLI-specific honeycomb grille, and rain-sensing wipers. The interior is kitted out with a 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster and an eight-inch touchscreen interface. Leather upholstery is standard, and both front seats have heating and ventilation. Other standard features include dual-zone climate control, a power-adjustable driver's seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 10-color ambient lighting system, and a nine-speaker BeatsAudio sound system, which includes a subwoofer.
There are numerous safety features like active blind-spot detection, adaptive cruise control, rear traffic alert, IQ.Drive, and lane-keep assist.
Only one package is offered for the GLI. It's called the Black package and it adds 18-inch black wheels, a black roof, black mirror caps, and a black spoiler. It costs $595.
The Jetta GLI comes in one well-equipped trim for 2022. That includes the gen-three EA888 engine with 228 hp, brakes from the last Golf R, adaptive suspension, the VAQ electronically-controlled front limited-slip differential, a sport exhaust, 18-inch wheels, IQ.Drive assisted driving and more, for just $30,995 with the six-speed manual, excluding destination.
If you want the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, it will set you back a further $800 for a total of $31,795 without handling and delivery fees. The only option to add o is the Black Package, which adds 18-inch black wheels, a black roof, black mirror caps, and a black spoiler. We'd certainly skip the dual-clutch transmission, though VW is very good at it, but we do like the black accents. Regardless, you're out of the dealership for less than $33K and with a slightly bigger vehicle than most of its competitors.
A new Honda Civic Si has just landed, making this an intriguing match-up of sensible family sedans for the keener driver. The Civic Si isn't as powerful and produces 200 hp and 192 lb-ft from its turbocharged engine. Unlike the Jetta, the Civic is only offered with a manual transmission. We haven't driven the Civic Si yet but we expect it to be the slightly sharper sedan of the two, although the more powerful GLI is likely to be quicker. In terms of pricing, the Civic Si starts at around $3,700 less, although the Jetta GLI Autobahn is loaded with features. The Civic is a newer overall sedan so we wouldn't be surprised if it edges out the Jetta, and it comes with some nice tech like a large nine-inch touchscreen interface and a rev-matching system from the Civic Type R. These are both great performance sedans at a reasonable price, although we're inclined to side with the more affordable Civic Si at this point.
Although there is only one letter difference between the GLI and the GTI here, the Jetta and the Golf are quite different for 2022. Besides the addition of a trunk at the back, obviously. As before, the GTI will appeal to a more youthful clientele than the more conservative GLI. Despite being a hatchback, the GTI actually has a larger trunk than its sedan sibling. It's also a little cheaper and produces more power from its turbo engine with 241 hp and 273 lb-ft. This, together with its lighter weight, should make the GTI hatch even more fun to drive. Both cars come with the choice of a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Since these are performance cars aimed at the enthusiastic driver, and because the Golf sacrifices nothing in terms of practicality, it's the more exuberant GTI that gets our vote.
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