2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Review – Window shopping at company time
2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn
2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (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: US$32,990 / CAN$35,432
As tested: $33,385 / $35,432 CAN
Prices include US$1195 destination fee in the United States and US$2437 for freight, PDI and air conditioning tax in Canada and cannot be compared directly due to cross-border trim differences.
I am aware that I have the remarkable privilege of doing what I do here at TTAC. I’m a car enthusiast and get paid to play with cars. Friends often ask what I’m driving this week instead of the usual small talk about the weather. A hint of envy creeps into the conversation when I reveal that I drive a high-end luxury car or a high-performance sports car.
When it comes down to it, however, I use every car that arrives in my driveway that week as my primary driver: first, to price it properly for you, dear reader, and second, to keep miles away from the cars in my driveway . But I will always need my own cars as the day job requires me to get to my office and I don’t always have rental media to rely on. However, one of my own cars will soon be reappropriated as my eldest turns sixteen in about a week – and my other car – an old Miata – isn’t particularly suitable for year round driving.
So that’s where my privilege comes in – I’ve used this second career as an extended test drive to find my next daily driver. While these high-end luxury cars would be a nice addition to the fleet, they honestly don’t pay me enough here. So I’m looking for cheaper ways to get where I want to go – and something that offers cheap thrills, like this 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI, could very well be the ideal choice.
Last week I was talking about a hot Volkswagen. Another hot Volkswagen this week. I haven’t been able to pull off a Golf R loan yet – or a bank loan for a Golf R, by the way *scolding all three credit bureaus*, so that’s going to be the case with my People’s Car adventures for a while. Riding both back-to-back was enlightening, to be sure – opened my eyes to the subtle differences and significant similarities between the two. I’m not sure how many will be buying both GTI and GLI – but if you are, I can give you some insight.
First, while some commenters felt I was wrong about the diminished quality of interior materials on the GTI, please understand that I wrote after driving both in close proximity. While the GTI isn’t on par with luxury brands, it definitely feels more premium here than the Jetta GLI. Unfortunately, plastics in the interior of the Jetta betray the standards that many generally adhere to in the countries of origin of the respective cars. The German-built GTI, while nominally unsatisfied (e.g. OF THE KNOBS), feels more finished than the Mexican-built Jetta GLI. I noticed this above all on the decorative lines of the door pockets, where I felt and saw some rough ridges on the Jetta GLI.
In contrast, the Jetta GLI retains the tried and tested MIB infotainment system that’s been around for a while – even in the previous generation GTI. However, I have encountered some glitches while using the system. Namely – the audio system would not play any audio.
This happened about three times in my week with the GLI. I would start the car and hear a notification from my phone that Android Auto is connected. Everything appeared as usual on the center 8-inch screen – the Google Maps navigation worked (thank goodness, the first time I passed I didn’t know exactly where I was going) and the screen displayed the music that would have should play Spotify.
But there was no sound. Switching to satellite radio brought me nothing but silence. Stopping the car, turning the ignition on and off – even opening the door to maybe get the car to restart the infotainment – nothing worked. Only after I reached my destination and parked for half an hour did the sound return. Thankfully, my youngest, who rode a shotgun, decided to serenade me with show tunes — she’s fallen in love with musical theater for the past year or so — to replace what should have been blaring out of the speakers.
Oddly enough, the display in the instrument panel seemed quite flaky during the times the audio was muted. Here I had my singing child reach over and take a picture of the display, which showed a compass and my next turn – but the listed route flickered in and out seemingly at random, and the word “Interstate” was written as “Intersate.” misspelled.” The editor deep inside me kept waiting for the little red lines for the spell checker to show up, but alas, it wasn’t to be.
Infotainment vulnerabilities aside as it’s likely an issue easily cured with a single dealer visit or even a pre-delivery software reflash – I loved my time with the Jetta GLI. It’s roomy and comfortable, with just enough padding for the seats to avoid being flung into the door panels when rushing around corners. It’s easy to find a comfortable riding position, even if the bigger of your oversized kids decides to sit behind dad. Plenty of boot space for road trips too makes it a great all-rounder.
The styling is as simple as you’d expect from Volkswagen. The Jetta GLI is, I’m afraid, a boring looking sedan. It’s by no means ugly and is definitely spruced up by the red flashes above the instrument panel, but it takes a trained eye to spot a GLI among the rental Jettas found elsewhere.
As much as I love rowing my own gears, I’m just as in love with the dual-clutch gearbox (DSG in VWese) here in the GLI. The transmission is much more responsive than any traditional torque converter automatic, making spirited rides accessible to those who don’t want to use a third pedal. From what I’ve heard from enthusiasts who have owned DSG equipped Volkswagens, they are remarkably resilient even when abused with track duties and/or a ton of extra horsepower.
The curmudgeon in me was a little taken aback when I realized that this top-of-the-line Autobahn trim was also the only trim available on the GLI. I swore that smaller S and SE models had been available in the past and with a little searching confirmed this. VW topspox Mark Gillies tells me that demand for Autobahn trim has generally been the highest—though if I had to guess, the all-encompassing “supply chain issues” that hit virtually every industry have made it worth focusing on, the highest to build -margin packages since basically every car that rolls off the assembly line these days finds a willing buyer at or very close to MSRP.
Still, I think the 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is a hell of a sport-compact bargain – at least when you look at the GTI stablemate. The similarly equipped GTI I tested last week cost $6,800 more than this GLI — and the GLI I tested had the ($800) optional DSG transmission versus the six-speed manual in the GTI GTI. The new GTI gets a bit more power, a bigger infotainment screen, and adaptive vehicle dynamics settings that the Jetta GLI doesn’t offer – but if you can live without those extras, I wouldn’t hesitate to jump into the GLI. And I thought long and hard about that empty spot in my driveway.
[Images: © 2022 Chris Tonn]
Become a TTAC Insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC footage and everything else that unearths the truth about cars by subscribing to our first Newsletter.