By on November 12, 2021

2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI. Tim Healey/TTAC

The 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI may be changed, but its character remains the same.

Just like with the heavily updated Golf GTI, that’s cause for a sigh of relief.

Perhaps even more so, since the Jetta GLI doesn’t get the same high-falutin’ interior treatment. Thank God for keeping it old school.

Indeed, this Jetta GLI is a lot like the previous one, at least in terms of persona. Just like with the GTI, Volkswagen managed to make necessary updates without screwing things up.

(Full disclosure: Volkswagen flew me to Asheville, North Carolina, and fed and housed me for two nights so I could drive the Golf R, GTI, and Jetta GLI, plus any other current VW I wanted to. They offered socks in the same pattern as GTI seats and I left them behind.)

The changes to the GLI are minor – a reskin of the front and rear, new wheels, and new available paint finishes. The interior is “revised” but not as thoroughly as that of the Golf R/GTI. The GLI is now available in only one trim – the top trim.

2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI. Tim Healey/TTAC

The Jetta also gets reskinned and picks up a new 1.5-liter engine. One was on hand in North Carolina but I had no chance to drive it.

GLIs retain the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and power is unchanged at 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is standard, with a seven-speed DSG automatic available. Power goes to the front wheels – no AWD option here.

Inside, the biggest change is that a digital gauge cluster is now standard. As noted above, however, the GLI does NOT get the haptic-touch control treatment that the hatchback Golfs do. Yes, that means there’s a volume knob. Rejoice!

2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI. Tim Healey/TTAC

Because the car doesn’t change much, it retains the Jekyll/Hyde character that draws fans of sleeper sedans. Drive it sedately, and it’s a quiet commuter that hardly feels different from the “regular” Jetta.

Throw it into Sport mode, however, and the car comes alive. Hell, you can even surface the dark side while in Comfort – ask the tourists I surprised when I pulled out of a scenic lookout and punched the gas. The car went from whisper quiet to providing a head-turning, booming exhaust within seconds.

To be clear, the GLI’s handling is more limited than that of the smaller, sportier Golfs. I came closer to the limit sooner, and I managed to squeal tires at some pretty slow speeds while second-gear cornering on the famed Rattler highway. The car was predictable, with understeer showing up.

Those minor flaws aside, the car remains more fun than the standard compact commuter, and it’s a better urban runabout than the high-strung Honda Civic Si (outgoing, anyway, haven’t driven the new one yet) or the downright rude Subaru WRX (which is also redone for this year, and again, we haven’t laid hands on the new one). The GLI remains the choice for the hot-compact intender who wants to be relaxed during the daily grind.

2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI. Tim Healey/TTAC

The strut-type front suspension remains, as does the multilink rear with anti-roll bar. GLIs ride 0.6 inches lower than other Jettas and are more stiffly sprung. DCC adaptive damping is part of the package.

Despite that, comfort is mostly not sacrificed. The car rides nicely in sedate commuting. There is some body roll when pushed.

It can be a tad noisy, though. Tire noise was noticeable, and the engine makes its presence known above 3,000 RPM or so. And the exhaust note can get a bit boomy and echoey.

The clutch/shifter in the manual work well enough. The gearbox isn’t a true joy to row, but it’s no chore, either, and it’s just fine for the back-road blast.

I’d also recommend it over the DSG. Not because of any nostalgia for stick-shifts, but because the DSG sometimes decided to shift up when I didn’t want it to, even when I was using the paddle shifters to override its logic. It also tended to revert back to automatic mode before long if I didn’t touch the paddles. It’s a fine transmission for commuting, at least, but if you plop down GLI money, you’re likely planning to drive in anger at least once in a while, and if that’s your plan, you’ll be best served by the manual.

I’m glad VW left the cabin mostly alone. I like the digital gauges but I also like the ease of use of old-school knobs and buttons. Interior space remains roomy, and most materials up front seem class/price appropriate, though some cheap stuff sneaks in, mostly in the rear and/or below the beltline.

The reskin is so minor that most folks might not even notice. I certainly didn’t get chased down by a curious (and knowledgeable) enthusiast the way I did when piloting the Golf R a few minutes later. The car remains handsome in a conservative way, and very much NOT a head-turner. Which is good, if the sleeper aspect of this car appeals to you.

2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI. Tim Healey/TTAC

Since GLIs are essentially sharing equipment with top-trim Jettas, they get LED lighting, panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, cooled front seats, leather seats, dual-zone climate control, a 10.25-inch gauge display, USB-C ports, navigation, satellite radio, Bluetooth, wireless phone charging, wireless smartphone mirroring, premium audio, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. One feature that they don’t get – heated rear seats. Wheels are 18-inch, as opposed to the 17s that other Jettas run on.

Options are limited to a rear spoiler and a Black package that gives you black wheels and other exterior trim bits.

VW’s IQ.DRIVE suite of driver-aid systems is standard. It includes lane centering, forward-collision warning, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, active blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and more.

2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI. Tim Healey/TTAC

Fuel economy is listed at 26/37/30 for the stick and 26/36/30 for the DSG.

Pricing starts at $30,995 for the manual and $31,795 for the automatic, with the destination fee adding $995.

What we have here is a car that’s mildly changed but mostly staying the same. The biggest change – the digital gauge cluster – is nice but not a major improvement. And that’s fine, since the car remains a delight to drive when pushed and a quiet commuter the rest of the time. The GLI’s dual personality suits it just fine.

What’s New for 2022

The 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI gets a minor exterior refresh, new gauges, and other minor tweaks and changes.

Who Should Buy It

Someone who wants a sporty compact that isn’t high-strung during daily commuting.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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44 Comments on “2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI – Still Jekyll and Hyde, and That’s Good...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    “the DSG sometimes decided to shift up when I didn’t want it to, even when I was using the paddle shifters to override its logic.”

    That’s weird. It auto upshifted in manual mode?

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Yeah, it kinda went to auto mode then shifted up. I think it thought I had stopped paying attention/was revving it too high. I’ve experienced this with other automatics with paddles, to varying extents.

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      If you use the paddles but leave it in “D,” after (maybe) 10 or so seconds without using the paddles, it’ll go back to full auto mode. And regardless of mode, you can’t bounce it off of the rev limiter at all. It will automatically upshift. It is helpful for getting past slow drivers on exit ramps and not mess with the shift lever.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I wish that when you actually put a paddle-shifted ANYTHING in a dedicated “manual” mode, that it would just bounce off a rev-limiter. Below redline, if the manufacturer feels they must!

        Even weirder, though, is paddles in HYBRIDS, which are mostly used to vary the amount of regenerative braking! What’s! The! POINT??!! I had a Honda Insight dealer loaner a few weeks ago which was so-equipped, and I was like “how about a console button instead of paddles!”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    VW bodywork is the poster child for boring these days.

    And I keep waiting for the black wheel craze to end. That feature turns me off to entire trim levels that have it.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “I’d also recommend it over the DSG. Not because of any nostalgia for stick-shifts, but because the DSG sometimes decided to shift up when I didn’t want it to, even when I was using the paddle shifters to override its logic.”

    What, the VW guys didn’t tell you about ESC Sport mode? Pull up a chair.

    First, to keep it in manual mode all the time, flip the gear lever over to the right. At that point, you can either use the gear lever like a “tiptronic” or use the paddles. The transmission won’t shift automatically unless you flip the lever back to the left.

    But for the real fun stuff, you need ESC sport mode. That’s different than putting the car in sport mode with the drive selector – you push down the ESC button to the right of the gear lever for about five seconds, and about 90% of the nannies go to sleep. In this mode, ABS is still active, ESC will still kick in if you do something monumentally dumb, and you do get unwanted upshifts from time to time, but otherwise, the car’s pretty much all yours. The DSG also downshifts far more cleanly in this mode and holds revs far longer (but not indefinitely). ESC sport mode also unlocks the launch control system.

    I keep my GLI in Sport/ESC Sport mode pretty much all the time.

    I’ll be here until Thursday. Tips appreciated.

    (On a different note, I’m kind of disappointed they did away with the base, cloth-seat model. It was a lot cheaper than the Autohahn, and on VW/Audi product, the fewer electronic gizmos to break, the better.)

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      Your last sentence is the exact reason why I stuck with the “S” model. They did have a couple Autobahn models available, and still in my price range, but I wanted a bit less risk down the road with expensive electronics. I do wish I had the virtual dash because you can do a lot of customization with it, and the better stereo would have been nice, but the extra features like cooled seats, sunroof that will likely leak, leather seats that are either too hot or cold depending on the season…the “want vs. need” argument took over. I just wish there was a stick shift GLI anywhere in the Midwest USA when I was shopping.

      I didn’t get the summer performance tires on mine (it has the common Hankook tires) so it doesn’t have ultimate GTI levels of grip. But they are kind of quiet on the highway and will last a while, and given that most of the miles on it are commuting miles, they’ll do.

      And the wipers are finally fixed again. And the funny thing was that the service department was able to duplicate the odd volume control problem with the loaner Passat so they have to fix that!

      • 0 avatar

        Keep in mind no matter how fancy the Jetta it Golf you’ll still have vinyl on the seats.

        • 0 avatar
          theflyersfan

          The 2022 Passat I had as a loaner had the V-Tex “leatherette” upholstery. The material felt more durable and rugged rather than premium. Given that the car was so new, the plastic odor that came off of them was rather powerful as well.

          The material is perfect if you have juice box toting kids that jump in the back while caked in mud. But for an almost $30,000 car, they should have stuck with cloth or go with real leather. At least the cloth in the GLI feels better compared to some of the burlap sack that passes for cloth in many cars in that price range.

          • 0 avatar

            I think that’s one of the differentiators where it’s held back to let Audi be the luxury car. Just like metallic paint in white and red.

          • 0 avatar
            SPPPP

            VW insists that the pleather is a premium material, but US consumers know it’s what the perp area of a paddywagon gets for a reason… and it’s not luxury.

  • avatar
    make_light

    I like this car, and will probably be looking to buy something in this class when the car market is more stable (hopefully) next year. But the refreshed Forte looks good and is $6k less. The new Elantra N-Line doesn’t look good, but is built on a new platform and also $6k less. I’m wondering if this is truly worth the extra cash.

    The one thing I like about the new Jetta’s in general: They don’t have super squat, low to the ground designs. Sedans just keep getting lower with less and less ground clearance. Some of us are tall guys who live on terrible roads, an inch of ground clearance can be a big difference.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    This is a car I really want to like but I just know better. The digital gauge cluster and panoramic sunroof are just begging for problems. Both are examples of why the old base GLI was the one to go with. Also, IQ.DRIVE was optional on the base. Tim, can it all be turned off? I think the only way to have this car is to lease it – and not for one day longer than the term of the bumper-to-bumper warranty.

  • avatar
    dusterdude

    I actually like the looks of this car (other than the black rims as others have noted). Problem is the quality of the Jetta has really slipped in recent years. My son has a 2008 Jetta – 2.5 Liter – 5 speed. The car has >230K KM and runs like its brand new ( no engine or transmission issues at all- touch wood ! ).

  • avatar
    Mike-NB2

    My ’19 GLI remains the car that I like most of the 16 cars I’ve owned over the years. It’s going on three years old and the honeymoon isn’t over yet. The only reason I’ll be trading it in next spring is because a dream car for me for years has been the R and I’m going to pull the trigger on that.

  • avatar

    I don’t think history will look back fondly on this generation of the Jetta. The styling to me is awkward and poorly proportioned, and I can’t get past that.

    • 0 avatar
      AK

      I agree. It just looks bloated.

      Shame too because I’d have a sedan over a hatch but not when the sedan looks like this.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      @Corey,

      It’s the photography – BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

      No, but seriously, today’s cars (November 15, 2021) are Better In Every Way than Anything Ever. Which of course includes styling, and if you don’t like the way the vehicle looks the problem is with You and Not Us. Because Automakers are Awesome. And VW is one of the Most Awesome. (I learned all this on TTAC.)

      [Suddenly realizes that I am replying to a Corey Lewis comment on a Tim Healey writeup and questions the life choices which led to this moment.]

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Styling is a subjective thing – I like it, personally – but this generation was a curious evolution. The new base version isn’t nearly as fun to drive as the old one was. On the other hand, the last-gen GLI was weak-ish sauce, and this one finally got the mechanicals it deserved.

      Either way, the interior is a huge improvement.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    The wheels are a disgrace, a definite step backwards into the “winter steelies without hubcaps” cheap look. And why put red painted oblong circles on scoops on the outer edges? Suggestions of cooling airflow for the front tires while going for pole position at 150 MPH?? lol. Just dumb.

    In summary, nothing improved, negative changes.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Styling wise it is similar to the Korean cars. Seems like a decent vehicle with only one major flaw, and that is the emblem.

  • avatar
    SPPPP

    The updated GLI looks OK, but the pricing seems rather, uh, aspirational. Nearly $32k plus destination? Not an easy sell.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    This thread is pretty much over, but for any future GLI buyers, y’all need to know that the wipers failed again last night. Dry weather, running the washer fluid to get some junk off of the windshield. Driver’s side suddenly slowed down and then stopped while the passenger side wiper crashed into it. Four failures in less than a year. 11,500 miles.
    I’ve let the local VW dealer know that we will be dealing with Volkswagen of America now. There will either be a buyback or the lemon law will come into play. The car has been out of service for over a month now and this is a severe safety risk. Who is going to take a chance driving in the rain in this car? Wet at night? Forget it. I’m going to be doing over 1,800 miles around Christmas through the mountains, where there will be snow. Not in this car. Would you put your family and friends in this car?
    Some cars are just built under a bad sign. Maybe there was a contest in the factory to see who could build the biggest PoS and I drew the short straw. But the wipers, and the microphone, and the overhead console, and the engine computer, the violent idle, the infotainment flashes, the trim pieces, and the growing drum section of rattles from the passenger side just says this car was thrown together and shoved out the door.
    I had to vent. I’m just so fed up at this point where I’m about ready to recreate Clarkson vs. a Hilux but with a GLI. I’ll leave it in the North Sea for good though.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’m really sorry to hear that. Sounds like you got a lemon and the wiper issue is 100% unacceptable. What state do you live in?

      So far, so good with mine @7,000 miles. Had to top off the coolant the other day, but that’s #E888life (I had a whole jug left over from the old Audi). I was informed I was due for an oil change when I wasn’t (the computer was tracking the build date of the car, not the mileage), which is annoying, but whatever. Ran over a nail and had to have the tire patched.

      Aside from that, zero issues. (Knocking on wood.)

      Let us know how it goes.

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        @FreedMike – I’m in Kentucky. Their lemon law rule is tougher than others. I was reading up on it. It takes 4 attempts to fix or 30 days in repair. Most states use a 3 strikes rule. However, I think there is a federal law that might overrule that and make it easier. When things ease up a bit at work, I’ll dig more into that.

        I haven’t had to add any coolant in mine, but I did have to add oil. I didn’t wait for 10,000 miles for my first oil change. I got it done around 7,000 miles due to it being the first and I had some long highway trips ahead. But before that change, my low oil alert came up and that’s not an alarm to ignore!

        I haven’t heard back from the dealer yet. The car is undrivable in the rain, and it’s supposed to rain on Thanksgiving. Not cool…

        This is similar to my sister and BiL’s (now gone) A3. It started life under a bad sign and went downhill from there. It needed a new engine and transmission. It quite literally fell apart around them. And the GLI is strongly related to the A3. But their A4 was flawless. With the exception of an electrical gremlin, the other Audis in the family have been flawless. My sister’s new Tiguan has been fine. So why my car? Was it built on a Tuesday morning after a long weekend?

        • 0 avatar

          Just a thought, but the dealer may be willing to give you back what you paid for it (in these ridiculous times) so you can get a not-VW?

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Building on what Corey said, you may want to just get the wipers fixed (again), and then trade the car in.

          • 0 avatar
            theflyersfan

            It’s at that point. Inventory is just so light and I don’t want a truck. I wanted to hold out and see in person and how much dealers wanted for next year’s CTR, Integra, and Z. But I don’t think it’s going to hold out that long.

            The Mazda dealers in the area have inventory in the single to low-double digits. But it’s a long weekend coming up and that is a perfect time to start looking around.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            You can spend your Black Friday shopping cars. There’s an upside to everything!

            I did a search in the Cincinnati area for the Accord Sport 2.0T and the 3 with the turbo – a few are out there. Those would be at the top of my shopping list, but YMMV.

            I think you actually might be in a good trade position with your GLI – it’s a ’20 with very light miles, there aren’t many ’21s out there, and the upcoming ’22 is going to be a lot more money.

            Let us know how it goes!

          • 0 avatar
            theflyersfan

            @FreedMike – fitting you said a turbo Mazda3. I was so. bloody. close. to signing the papers on one. The VW dealer came back with a better offer and I like how the GLI drove and felt. Heart, not mind, won out.

            I’m an IT guy at a fulfillment center (not Amazon) and my Black Friday is likely going to be spent here and praying that everything stays up and running with the 4-day through Cyber Monday crush. I’ll find time.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            The 3 is a touch pricey, and I wasn’t crazy about the tiny back seat, but it’s a fine car, and AWD would have been nice.

            Strangely enough, though, I came away from the test drive feeling that it was a LOT slower than the GLI, which it isn’t.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @flyersfan:

            Here you go…your new car, from my local VW/Audi facebook group.

            https://www.facebook.com/commerce/listing/446417090262203?media_id=0&ref=share_attachment

            “Modded so the warranty’s voided and it won’t pass emissions but emissions aren’t due until 2026.”

            Asking price? Thirty grand. Cheap!

            I think I need to quit this Facebook group.

          • 0 avatar
            theflyersfan

            @FreedMike – the page didn’t load…something about it being under maintenance…lol!!!! ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I’m sympathetic. PA’s lemon law is 3 strikes in a year, which I utilized with my 05 Odyssey.

      Prior to that, my 02 Passat had multiple problems that moved around the car like whackamole. A couple items occurred twice, but it never qualified as a lemon. The last straw was the low oil light at 30k miles which meant it burned 3 quarts in 3000 miles.

      I agree with the others. Trade ASAP. It would be hard to get a worse car.

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