2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI – Still Jekyll and Hyde, and that’s good

2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI.  Tim Healey / TTAC

2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is subject to change, but its Grade remains the same.

As with the heavily updated Golf GTI, it’s the reason for a sigh of relief.

Maybe even more so since the Jetta GLI does not get the same high-falutin ‘internal treatment. Thank God for keeping it old school.

In fact, this Jetta GLI is much like the previous one, at least in terms of persona. As with 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. They offered socks in the same pattern as GTI seats and I left them.)

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

2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI.  Tim Healey / TTAC

The Jetta also gets new skin and picks up a new 1.5-liter engine. One was at hand in North Carolina, but I had no chance of driving 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 automatically available. The power goes to the front wheels – no AWD option here.

Inside, the biggest change is that a digital meter cluster is now standard. However, as mentioned above, GLI does NOT get the haptic-touch control treatment that hatchback Golfs do. Yes, that means there is a volume button. Look forward to!

2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI.  Tim Healey / TTAC

Because the car does not change much, it retains the Jekyll / Hyde character that attracts fans of sleeping cabins. Drive it calmly and it’s a quiet commuter that hardly feels any different than the “regular” Jetta.

However, throw it in Sport mode and the car will come alive. Hell, you can even get to the surface on the dark side while in Comfort – ask the tourists. I was surprised when I pulled myself out of a scenic lookout post and hit the gas. The car went from the whisper quietly to giving a head-turning, rumbling exhaust in seconds.

To be clear, GLI’s handling is more limited than for the smaller, more sporty Golfs. I got closer to the border before and managed to whine tires at some rather slow speeds while driving in turns on the famous Rattler motorway in second gear. The car was predictable, with understeer popping up.

Apart from the small flaws, the car remains more fun than the regular compact commuter, and it is a better city ride than the high-voltage Honda Civic Si (outgoing has at least not driven the new one yet) or the directly rude Subaru WRX (which is also made over for this year and again we have not laid hands on the new). GLI remains the choice for the hot-compact intender who wants to be relaxed in the daily work.

2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI.  Tim Healey / TTAC

The front wheel suspension remains, as does the multilink bag with roll bar. GLIs run 0.6 inches lower than other Jettas and are more rigidly sprung. DCC adaptive attenuation is part of the package.

Despite this, comfort is mostly not sacrificed. The car drives fine in calm commuting. There is some body roll when pushed.

However, it can be a bit noisy. 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 echo.

The coupling / shifter in the manual works fine enough. The gearbox is not a real pleasure to row, but it is not a job either, and it is perfectly fine for the back road explosion.

I would also recommend it over DSG. Not because of any nostalgia for stick-shifts, but because DSG sometimes decided to switch up when I did not want to, even when I used the paddle shifts to override its logic. It also tended to return to automatic mode before long if I did not touch the paddles. It’s at least a nice gearbox for commuting, but if you’d put GLI money down, you’re probably planning to run into 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 for the most part alone. I like the digital meters, but I also like the ease of use of old-school knobs and knobs. Interior space remains spacious, and most materials at the front seem class / price appropriate, although some inexpensive items sneak in, mostly at the rear and / or below the belt line.

Reskin is so small that most people may not even notice it. I was certainly not chased by a curious (and knowledgeable) enthusiast, as I did when I piloted the Golf R a few minutes later. The car remains beautiful in a conservative way, and to a large extent NOT a headturner. Which is good if the sleeping aspect of this car appeals to you.

2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI.  Tim Healey / TTAC

As GLIs essentially share equipment with top-trimmed Jettas, they get LED lighting, panoramic sunroofs, heated front seats, cooled front seats, leather seats, dual-zone air conditioning, a 10.25-inch screen, USB-C ports, navigation, satellite radio, Bluetooth, cordless phone charging, wireless smartphone mirroring, premium audio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A feature they do not get – heated rear seats. The wheels are 18-inch, unlike the 17s that other Jettas ride on.

The 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 package of driver assistance 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 set to 26/37/30 for the stick and 26/36/30 for the DSG.

The price 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 has been mildly modified but for the most part remains the same. The biggest change – the digital metering cluster – is good, but not a major improvement. And that’s fine, as the car remains a pleasure to drive when pushed, and a quiet commute the rest of the time. GLI’s dual personality fits it well.

What’s new for 2022?

2022 The 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 is not high voltage during daily commuting.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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