Despite Volkswagen’s vigorous promotion of electric vehicles, the company guarantees that it remains committed to compact sports cars. Do you want evidence? The new generation of Golf GTI and Golf R are obviously developed for passionate driving enthusiasts. Volkswagen’s US department introduced a six-speed manual transmission in these two cars and persuaded its corporate hegemon in Germany to act rationally and wisely. Think of this as a love letter to American drivers, because our European counterparts will not find this option available when placing an order.
A performance variant of the humble Jetta sedan, the Jetta GLI, will also not appear in the European showroom; it will only be sold in North America and Brazil. GLI’s 228-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine produces 70 horsepower compared to the standard Jetta engine, and has performance enhancements such as an adaptive damper and a limited-slip differential.
The Jetta GLI updated in 2022 is equipped with a new grille with red details and a front bumper. The rear bumper has also been modified, using a honeycomb lower skirt and a larger diameter exhaust pipe. The interior of the GLI uses new contrasting red stitching to highlight the black leather interior and new steering wheel touch controls.
GLI remains a fascinating driving partner.During our test drive Hill Country near Asheville, North CarolinaGLI’s greedy steering and precise shifting six-speed manual transmission make traversing the narrow mountain roads in the area a pleasure. Although not as constrained as the new Golf GTI, GLI has the best impression of this performance icon. On the highway during cruising and normal commuting, GLI settles down in Jetta mode, which means it is stylish, comfortable and easy-going.
The updated exhaust system feels a bit rough in 2022, especially when driving in sport mode, allowing more GLI’s new baritone sounds to enter the cabin. This soundtrack may excite the boy racer, but we find that we have to activate the normal driving mode to calm the cabin while cruising. Ultimately, we don’t believe this helps make GLI more attractive.
The same goes for the new touch screen controls on the steering wheel. Their smooth black surfaces give an extra premium look, but when driving on winding roads west of Asheville, there were a few times we managed to inadvertently change the middle position of the radio station and accidentally pressed the adjustment button. In addition, the volume control slider is finicky and imprecise.
In 2019, we tested the GLI equipped with a six-speed manual transmission and an optional dual-clutch automatic transmission. These cars reached 60 mph in 5.8 and 5.6 seconds, respectively. The automatic transmission is also slightly faster than the manual transmission within a quarter of a mile, 14.1 seconds at 101 mph, and 14.3 seconds at 102 mph. Since Volkswagen has not made any updates to the car’s powertrain or chassis, we expect the timing of the 2022 models to be similar.
The well-designed interior exudes a strong Audi atmosphere, which is good because Volkswagen cancelled the entry-level GLI trim in 2022, leaving only the Autobahn model priced at $31,990. Choosing a dual-clutch automatic transmission, the price jumped to $32,790. GLI’s closest competitor, the Honda Civic Si, will be launched in 2022, with a starting price of only $28,315.
But Volkswagen can see that GLI’s biggest competition is in its own showroom: the 2022 Golf GTI starts at $30,540, that is, for the basic model with less equipment. But the Golf’s hatchback body style, traditional performance and more modern styling may keep buyers away from its sister Jetta. The update of the 2022 model helps to maintain the freshness, and GLI’s interesting attitude is something that every driver can appreciate.