By on April 11, 2022

2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn

2.0-liter turbocharged four (228 hp @ 5,000 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm)

Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, front-wheel drive

26 city / 36 highway / 30 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

9.0 city / 6.5 highway / 7.9 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $32,990 US / $35,432 CAN

As Tested: $33,385 US / $35,432 CAN

Prices include $1195 destination charge in the United States and $2437 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

I’m well aware that I’m remarkably privileged to do what I do here at TTAC. I’m a car enthusiast, getting paid to go play with cars. Friends often will ask what I’m driving this week, rather than the usual small talk about the weather. A touch of envy seeps into the conversation when I reveal that I’m driving a high-end luxury car or some powerful sportscar.

When it comes down to it, however, I’m using whatever car arrives in my driveway that week as my primary driver: First, to properly evaluate it for you, dear reader, and secondly, to keep miles off the cars in my driveway. But I’ll always need my own cars, as I need to get to my office for the day job and I don’t always have media loaners upon which I can rely. One of my own cars, however, will be reappropriated soon as my eldest turns sixteen in about a week – and my other car – a vintage Miata – isn’t particularly suitable for year-round driving.

So, this is where my privilege comes in – I’ve been using this second career as an extended test drive to find my next daily driver. While those high-end luxury cars would be a lovely addition to the fleet, quite frankly they don’t pay me enough here. So, I’m looking toward more reasonably-priced ways to get where I’m going – and something that provides cheap thrills like this 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI might very well be the ideal choice.

Last week, I discussed a hot Volkswagen. This week, another hot Volkswagen. I haven’t yet been able to line up a Golf R loan – or, for that matter, a bank loan for a Golf R *curses at all three credit bureaus* so this will be it for a while on my People’s Car adventures. Driving both of these back-to-back was enlightening, to be certain – opening my eyes to the mild differences and significant similarities between the pair. I’m not sure how many will be cross-shopping both GTI and GLI – but if you are, I can give some insight.

First, while some commenters felt that I was wrong about diminished interior materials quality on the GTI, please understand I was writing having driven both in close proximity. The GTI, while not on par with luxury marques, definitely feels more premium than the Jetta GLI here. Interior plastics on the Jetta, unfortunately, betray the standards to which many generally hold the countries of origin of the respective cars. The German-built GTI, despite having been nominally de-contented (OF THE KNOBS, for instance) has a more finished feel than the Mexican-built Jetta GLI. I noticed this primarily on the trim lines of the door pockets, where on the Jetta GLI I felt and saw some rough flash leftover.

Conversely, the Jetta GLI retains the well-received MIB infotainment system that’s been around a while – including in the previous-generation GTI. I did, however, experience a few glitches while using the system. Namely – the audio system wouldn’t, you know, play audio.

This happened roughly three times in my week with the GLI. I’d start the car and hear a notification from my phone that Android Auto had connected. Everything appeared on the center eight-inch screen as normal – navigation from Google Maps worked (thank God, as the first time this happened I didn’t quite know where I was going) and the screen displayed the music that should have been playing via Spotify.

But there was no sound. Clicking back over to satellite radio brought me nothing but silence. Stopping the car, cycling the ignition – even opening the door to perhaps trick the car into restarting the infotainment – nothing worked. Only after reaching my destination and parking for half an hour did the audio return. Thankfully, my youngest, who was riding shotgun, decided to serenade me with show tunes – she’s become enamored with musical theater over the past year or so – to replace that which should have been spewing forth from the speakers.

Weirdly, the display in the instrument panel seemed rather flaky during those times that the audio blanked out. Here, I had my singing child reach over and take a photo of the display showing a compass and what my next turn should be – but the route listed would flicker on and off seemingly randomly, and it misspelled the word “Interstate” as “Intersate.” The editor deep within me kept looking for the little red spellcheck lines to appear, but alas, ‘twas not to be.

Infotainment wonkiness aside, as it’s likely an issue easily cured with a single dealer visit or even before delivery with a software reflash – I loved my time driving the Jetta GLI. It’s roomy and comfortable, with just enough bolstering to the seats to not be flung into door panels when hustling around corners. It’s easy to find a comfortable driving position, even if the taller of your too-tall kids decides to sit behind dad. Plenty of trunk space for road trips, too, makes this a great all-arounder.

Styling is as plain as one expects from Volkswagen. The Jetta GLI is, I’m afraid, a boring-looking sedan. It’s not ugly by any means and is definitely dressed up by the flashes of red across the fascia, but it takes a trained eye to spot a GLI among the rental-grade Jettas found elsewhere.

Much as I love rowing my own gears, I’m equally enamored with the dual-clutch (DSG in VWese) transmission here in the GLI. The trans is much more responsive than any traditional torque-converter automatic, making spirited drives accessible to those who don’t want to use a third pedal. From everything I’ve heard from enthusiasts who’ve owned DSG-equipped Volkswagens, they’re remarkably robust even when abused with track duties and/or a lot of extra horsepower.

The cheapskate within me was a bit taken aback when I noticed that this top-of-the-line Autobahn trim was also the only-of-the-line trim available on the GLI. I swore that lesser S and SE models had been available in the past, and confirmed with a bit of searching. VW top spox Mark Gillies tells me that the demand has generally been highest for the Autobahn trim – if I had to guess, however, the all-encompassing “supply chain issues” hitting basically every industry have made it worthwhile to focus on building the highest-margin packages since basically every car that rolls off the line will find a willing buyer at or very near MSRP these days.

Still, I think the 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is a hell of a sport compact bargain – at least when looking at the stablemate GTI. The similarly-equipped GTI I reviewed last week stickers for $6,800 more than this GLI – and GLI I tested had the ($800) optional DSG transmission, versus the six-speed manual in the GTI. The new GTI gets a bit of extra power, a larger infotainment screen, and adaptive vehicle dynamics settings that aren’t available from the Jetta GLI – but if you can live without those extras, I wouldn’t hesitate to jump into the GLI. And I’ve been thinking hard about it for the empty spot in my driveway.

[Images: © 2022 Chris Tonn]

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36 Comments on “2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Review – Window Shopping On Company Time...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    @Chris:

    Ghost infotainment failure? Somewhere, flyersfan’s eye is twitching just like Dreyfus’ did every time he heard the name “Closeau”.

    https://gfycat.com/specificdopeyacornwoodpecker

    Otherwise, I’m going to echo everything you liked about the car, including the seats – the sport seats in the GTI are great, but the seats in the GLI are just fine for spirited driving.

    I have the base “S” version, and my system does decide to “flake out” as well occasionally (in my case, every month or so). Moving the plug from the left hand socket to the right hand one, and vice versa, cures it.

    I’d also echo your concerns about the price here – I’m glad I got my “S” when I did. It was a lot cheaper, and with VWAG product, anytime there’s less electronic stuff to go wrong, you’re better off. Besides, the semi-cheap interior is a lot more objectionable at $33,000 than it is at the $26,000 and change I got mine for. I do miss the pano roof, though – my old A3 had the same unit, and it was great (until it quit working, which cost $900 to fix).

    I’d heartily recommend the GLI, and would also recommend the DSG. Engage “ESC sport mode” if you really want to feel how quickly it can shift.

    I’d also recommend a lease unless you’re into doing your own wrenching. I’m coming up on 12,000 miles, and haven’t had any issues, but I’m not quite ready to trust VWAG product for a long-term buy.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      That you haven’t had any issues in the first year hopefully means they probably squashed the bugs.

      At 60k miles, most modern cars have too many electrical failure points to be trouble free. What’s unfortunate is that routine maintenance costs have gone up dramatically for all cars.

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      It was a very busy day at work and I’m finally getting a chance to catch up here.
      When I got the notification that this review posted, oh boy…
      FreedMike is spot on. The infotainment system in mine is royally acting up. It easily freezes up 5 to 6 times before actually doing something with Android Auto. It started with an eye twitch on this end. Now it’s just a last gasp to get to the finish line with this thing and let VWofA take a full-time stab at this thing.
      The dealer told me the car is coming this week. Just in time for a nice Easter weekend.
      I chose the S trim for the reason that backfired on me. I wanted less stuff in the car that could break. Things like Corey’s epic sunroof issues. I didn’t want a digital dash or power everything. And the omission of the summer tire option spits in the face of the GLI. The all season Hankook tires are used in crossovers. On a sports sedan they are just awful. But they will last a long time and are quiet. Just expect to have some adventures in rain and light snow.
      And those haptic controls on the steering wheel are a pointless change. They make functions far more difficult than easier. If you like resting your palms near them, you will trigger them. But bravo for keeping real buttons on the center stack. And I also have the Pure Gray with the DSG S-trim model. I LOVE the DSG and I’m normally not a fan of automatic transmissions, but this one reads your mind. The turbo doesn’t take long to spool, the midrange torque is addictive, and with 7 gears, highway mileage has jumped over 40 mpg! I HATE those red rings in the lower bodywork. Just looks tacky – like hooker red lipstick on a supermodel. It doesn’t work.
      In the end, I really wanted to love this car. It has a great mix of power, comfort, and size. The interior is awash in cheap plastics and rattles, and for more than 30K now, not good VW. But the quality. This has turned me off of all VAG products now. And I wanted to give the new GTI a chance, but when I sat in it and felt the materials and did battle with the infotainment, I just couldn’t do it again.
      There are plenty of family members who own Audis and VWs and they love them and have been hassle free. But it takes just one awful experience to lose a customer for life.
      Try harder VW.

    • 0 avatar
      EAM3

      My wife has a 2019 Jetta R-Line that has been 99% trouble-free since we got it in the summer of 2019 (the driver’s door latch got a little loose and I’ve had to tighten it twice). Other than that, no issues whatsoever. It drives nicely enough to the point of making me consider a GLI for myself. The thing that drives me nuts is the damn squeaks and rattles. The car only has 26K miles and there are times that you don’t hear anything and other times it sounds like a can full of nuts.

      My 2008 335i, with 56K miles, does not have a single squeak or rattle and feels so much more solid that I think I’ll stick with it for a little while longer.

  • avatar
    redapple

    Love me some VW s. I ve Wanted a GTI for 30 years now but was always scared off by the poor quality stories and horror visits to the dealer.

    And now, i m used to 25 years of trouble free driving the Japanese products.

    I was in Germany 3 years ago. My colleague had a Toureg diesel R line. Whoa. Lust. Awesome.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I think you’re OK for five years or so. After that, they get expensive to fix. My old A3 was very similar mechanically to a GLI/GTI (same platform, engine and transmission) and it was pretty much flawless until 60,000 miles, at which stuff started breaking. Seems that’s pretty much par for the course. Unless you’re a mechanic, or got the car so cheap that you don’t care how much the repairs run, you don’t want the car once that s**tshow starts.

      But I wonder about the reliability of all this haptic-touch stuff they’re putting in the Mk8 GTI.

      And, yeah, the torque on those diesel Touaregs is sick.

    • 0 avatar
      swilliams41

      Last summer I drove an A6 Avant turbodiesel from Cologne to Munich then back up to Frankfurt. It was great, 110-120 on the unrestricted areas on the Autobahn was fine. The car was great, I was tired out, and those speeds require a lot of concentration. VW group does make some nice veichles.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    I’ve had a 2011 Mk6 GTI, a 2015, Mk7 GTI, and am now driving a 2018 Mk.75 GTI. The Mk6 and Mk7 each had one mechanical issue while I owned them both up to approximately 120K miles and the Mk7.5 has had no repairs in 92k miles. I have a Mk8 Golf R is on order. I wouldn’t hesitate about owning a GLI, but also wouldn’t try to drive it to 200k miles either.

    • 0 avatar
      jeanbaptiste

      I’m still enjoying my 2016 GTI S after 70,000 miles. I think it pays to get less options on VW for longterm ownership. I’m so glad I don’t have a sunroof on mine!

      • 0 avatar
        redapple

        Jean, Freed, and Lich.
        I hear you. Good experiences. But remember that TTAC writer with the white Golf stationwagon? Freeking scary bad hassles. i dont need that in my life. My list of troubles is long enough.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          @redapple:
          I’d say Corey’s Golf had one issue – the sunroof – and the dealer botched the repair repeatedly. The impression I got was that they FINALLY fixed it, but by that point he’d had enough. Wouldn’t have been my call, but it wasn’t my car. Mechanically speaking, the car sounded solid.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    I had a similar music-won’t-play electronic gremlin in my Mk7 GTI as Chris did in the article, but mine would usually resolve when I rebooted my iPhone _and_ the car (not one or the other), so I can’t be sure whether that was Apple’s problem or VW’s. Otherwise the car was pretty much faultless. I leased it for all the reasons people mentioned, which was a great solution until I had to give the car up and regretted it (but wasn’t willing to buy it out).

  • avatar
    jh26036

    Back in early 2020, VW had trouble giving these things away. I bought my brand new 2019 leftover GLI S DSG for just under $21k, something like $7k under list. It was my first ever automatic car and no regrets, thing was an excellent ride and quite economical when driven conservatively. Gas tank was way way too small. Interior was definitely low rent in a bunch of areas but the steering wheel was straight from the GTI, beautiful piece.

    I think with this new Autobahn only trim, the GLI just isn’t as compelling. I eventually sold the car a year later since I no longer had a commute.

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      I tried to talk a friend into buying a leftover 2020 GLI that had been sitting on a dealer’s lot for about a year in early summer 2020, for about $5-6k below sticker, but she didn’t bite and bought a used Mazda 3 instead. It’s not even my car and it’s still one of my great automotive regrets.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I agree with what other commenters have said. The “S” and “SE” trims were more compelling offerings given the Jetta’s material quality and tendency to have fancy stuff break.

  • avatar
    Fred

    The differences between the GLI and GTI are not enough to sway me one way or the other. For a small car, a hatch is what I want. Except at $6800 I would probably change my mind.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    ” it’s likely an issue easily cured with a single dealer visit or even before delivery with a software reflash”

    It’s a brand new car, and somehow left the factory like that. I’d walk away.

  • avatar
    eng_alvarado90

    I don’t think you’ll find better value for the money if you want a sporty sedan with above average quality materials and passenger space.
    The Civic Si is the closest competitor but there’s no way to get anything other than a 6 spd manual.
    Sunroof comes standard, and the HPT ackage with BOSE audio is only $200 more than the base Si, though

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I remember the days when “Volkswagen Bug” was a model of car, and not a description why the radio won’t play.

  • avatar
    swilliams41

    I had a 2007 Jetta GLI, it was a junior Audi compared to the current model.

  • avatar
    Urlik

    You can reboot the MIB by holding in the power button for about 6 seconds and it will do a hard reboot that fixes most glitches.

  • avatar
    Mike-NB2

    I’ve got a ’19 GLI and it’s hit three years old and the honeymoon isn’t over. It was specced a bit different in Canada with only one trim that was the US Autobahn trim with a few other things you guys didn’t get, such as heated rear seats.

    It’s a fun car to drive, even just going to the grocery store.

  • avatar

    I’ve had too many VW products, in a good way. Back to back, my 2017 Jetta S and my 2015 TDi, both Mk 7…The diesel was a german build, and the Jetta Mexico. I’ve had no problems with the Jetta, now at 60k miles. The TDi was bought back and problematic before, although all of them were diesel related problems. Interiors…the Jetta is hard plastic and built to a price point, but most of the bones are same as even the GLi version…IRS, variable speed power steering. I wish the Jetta had the TDi’s soundproofing, which is one way car makers differentiate lines. Overall, I’ve never had the nightmare problems people claim for VW (anecdote time !) There’s a huge aftermarket, and for about $2500 I was able to uprate the Jetta S to what VW used to sell as the “Sport”…Wheels and tires….front brakes from a GTi and bigger discs (cheap at the local VW recycler). Bilstein and Eibachs (mom says rides like an Audi now), and a tune for 180 hp. Always buy a German car after the facelifted version…here we got the new 1.4 liter, a super smooth engine, and the IRS….I’d like the seats from a GTi but that’s it, and even the base-est seat from VW is still better than most econo car seating.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I remember you had talked about tuning your Jetta before. Sounds like a fine little sleeper. What does the tune do for torque?

      • 0 avatar

        Wakes the car up. The OE system has a touch of torque pull till 3000 rpm and it goes away…it is almost like they tried to copy the TDi torque curve…it’s pull, pull, stop. The Unitronic Stage 1 is 180 hp and it allows the full boost to redline, it feels like a “normal” turbo car. I cant’ chase Golf R with it but the increase takes it from “underpowered a touch” to able to slice up traffic. Only issue is premium fuel, no problem, and I had to change the coils, the OE coils were marginal and tossed misfire codes even though it ran OK…a set of APR coils and no codes, and it even ran a bit better….

  • avatar
    AK

    I’ll have a Civic SI over this turd, any day. The Civic being $3700 less is just a bonus.

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      @AK: If you currently price a 2022 Civic Si, that $3,700 less evaporates in a millisecond. Some dealers are charging up to $10,000 more and it’s anyone’s guess when that goes away. I can only imagine later this year when the CTR hits the road.

      • 0 avatar
        AK

        No offense, but some dealers are charging flat MSRP while also wildly overpaying for trade-ins. Some dealers don’t change my opinion on the cars.

        • 0 avatar
          theflyersfan

          That is how I’m getting my Mazda. I didn’t play games with the other dealer in town who wanted thousands above MSRP. I went back to the same dealer who sold me my VW, they were not charging anything over MSRP, and with dealer and Mazda incentives, I managed to get it for a little less. Plus the trade value (or value of VW taking the car back) is more than what I paid for it in 2020.

          But the Civic Si was on my list. Some dealers were charging $10,000 more than sticker so some “lucky” buyer could be one of the first to have one. Not sure if that theory is working because I have yet to see a new Si out in the wild yet.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      @ak:
      The good news is that you’ll get an outstanding view of my turdy GLI’s taillights from your Civic.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    “The German-built GTI, despite having been nominally de-contented (OF THE KNOBS, for instance) has a more finished feel than the Mexican-built Jetta GLI. I noticed this primarily on the trim lines of the door pockets, where on the Jetta GLI I felt and **saw some rough flash leftover**.”

    Point of clarification: The plastic injection molding and the de-flashing/un-flashing/tinkering-to-rectify-poor-mold-fit most likely happened (or didn’t happen) at the supplier which might be far far away from the final assembly plant. Perhaps the German-assembled door panel was molded in Germany and same for Mexico, or perhaps not — the global OEMs get parts from all over the planet.

    So: If you are the type of person who judges the assembly quality of a vehicle by the plastic trim flashing, knock yourself out. But I wouldn’t base generalizations of Mexico vs. Germany on that observation alone.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      After retirement, my wife decided that I was too young and needed to go and “do something”. I took a job at a large local plant making plastic interior parts for Honda over in Central Ohio. As a quality control inspector I was to look for flash and gouges/marring in the black plastic pieces on highly visible console trim parts. I was also issued a black grease pencil and a piece of rag. See a gouge or large scratch? Use the grease pencil to fill it, wipe it smooth with the rag, ship it. I did my one and only shift there that day…

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