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The 2022 Volkswagen Jetta typically isn’t the first compact sedan on our minds when parsing through best-in-segment, but it’s still one you should keep in mind. Riding high on a sizable update for this year, the Jetta is spacious, super-efficient, easy to live with and entirely uncontroversial.
Its powertrain offers plenty of punch, and there’s plenty to love for those wishing for a manual transmission, since you can get it in three different Jetta trims. Of course, the GLI is not to be left out of any Jetta discussion, so we include it in this review and buying guide. Typically known for being the sedan version of the GTI hatchback, the GLI is even more different than usual this year. While VW has drastically changed the interior user experience for the worse in the all-new GTI, the GLI trucks along with the old VW bits we already know and love. It’s a seriously fun, little sport sedan, and it presents itself as a legit Civic Si or WRX alternative.
We may prefer to cruise around in a Civic or Mazda3 over the Jetta when it comes to dynamics, but there’s no denying that the Jetta hits the mark as an A-to-B commuter with excellent tech, plenty of up-market features and a comfy ride.
The Jetta and GLI were treated to mid-cycle refreshes for 2022. That update brought updated styling, more safety features and power for the regular Jetta, as well as reshuffled trims. A new grille, new bumper, new LED lights and taillights highlight the exterior changes. Inside, VW is giving all Jettas the fully digital gauge cluster previously found on upper trim levels, a new steering wheel and touch haptic buttons for the infotainment system.
VW upgraded the base powertrain to the 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder from the Taos. It offers more horsepower and greater efficiency versus the outgoing engine.
The Jetta’s interior is classic Volkswagen. It’s simple and easy to use, professional looking and built to a cost. You won’t find the flare or luxury of the Mazda3, nor the enticing style of the Civic, but there’s very little to offend inside the Jetta. It doesn’t have the new GTI’s interior, which is a plus in our book. Things get a bit nicer in the GLI thanks to its upgraded upholstery, hugging sport seats and sport steering wheel.
The standard touchscreen measures 6.5 inches, which is small, but competitive with other base model sedans. The 8-inch screen upgrade increases functionality considerably, but both are easy enough to use. The standard wireless Apple CarPlay is well-integrated (wireless Android Auto is also included), and the touch haptic controls are actually easy to use. We love the inclusion of a physical volume knob, and all other controls are simple and nicely laid out.
Meanwhile, the Jetta GLI (directly above) gets its own infotainment system. It’s a 10-inch touchscreen, but functionally operates the same as the 8-inch screen on the regular Jetta. VW also equips the Jetta GLI with its touch haptic-controlled steering wheel, the same that you’d find in the new GTI or Golf R. It’s relatively painless to use, but definitely has a steeper learning curve than the regular Jetta’s wheel. The GLI also gets lots of red interior accents, which you can best see below right.
The Jetta is a big “compact” car on the outside, and one of the biggest on the inside. Rear seat legroom is vast, and rear-facing child seats fit with ease, making the Jetta a good option for families on a tighter budget (or just those who realistically don’t need even more space from increasingly gigantic midsize cars). Its 14.1-cubic-foot trunk is also wide and deep, though not quite as big as what you’d get in the Kia Forte or the Honda Civic. Honda’s compact sedan and hatchback also match the Jetta’s backseat space on paper, but the VW’s higher-mounted seat means you’ll likely be more comfortable.
All of this applies to the GLI as well, making it an even greater performance bargain. It doesn’t feel as compact or maneuverable as a GTI or a Honda Civic Si, but it’s not a hugely noticeable difference.
The 2022 Volkswagen Jetta comes standard with a 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four. Its 158 horsepower is typical for the segment, but its 184 pound-feet of torque it sends to the front wheels is greater. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the S and Sport trim. An eight-speed automatic is standard on all others. Fuel economy for the manual is rated at 29 mpg city, 43 mpg highway and 34 mpg combined. A base automatic is rated for 31/41/35 mpg, but step up to the SE or SEL trims, and those figures drop to 29/40/33 mpg.
The Jetta GLI ramps things up considerably with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four that produces 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired to either a six-speed manual or VW’s seven-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission. An electronically locking front differential is added as well. Fuel economy is excellent at 26 mpg city, 37 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined for the manual. The automatic drops the highway figure down to 36 mpg.
The regular Jetta is forgettable, but not offensive, to drive. The ride is comfy over most minor bumps and road imperfections, but over big bumps like railroad crossings, it can get crashy, landing with a heavy thud followed by a bit of float as it returns to its natural state. Some more sophisticated damping would do it good. It’s also not a particularly great handler, either – going to a torsion beam rear suspension for this new generation does it no favors. The steering, in typical VW fashion, is numb on center and very artificial in feel. Similarly, throttle response and action is best described as “lethargic mush.” The 1.5-liter turbocharged engine it’s connected to is at least agreeably punchy around town and sufficient for merging onto a highway.
Everything gets much better with the Jetta GLI. The rear suspension is a more advanced independent multi-link setup better suited for poised cornering, and while the tuning is a bit softer than a GTI with extra roll and pitch, it actually encourages improved stability on rough roads. Better still, the GLI comes with adaptive dampers. Sport mode is quite firm, while the normal mode delivers a more well-damped balance between control and comfort.
The GLI’s steering is substantially better – it’s higher in effort yet consistent with sufficient feedback. It’s still a bit artificial feeling, though, and could transmit more road feel. Other upgrades include an electronic locking differential that expertly doles out power so that the GLI explodes out of corners in a friendly and helpful manner. We were also impressed by its brakes under heavy use, and no throttle complaints, either.
We take the updated GLI for a spin to see where it stands in today’s compact sport sedan game.
All the nitty-gritty details about what’s new for the 2022 versions of the Jetta and GLI.
Our first crack at the new generation of VW Jetta.
Our editors all give their takes on the updated-for-2019 VW Jetta.
The 2022 Volkswagen Jetta is available in S, Sport, SE and SEL trim levels. The 2022 GLI can be had only in the top-shelf Autobahn trim level.
Standard equipment on the Jetta S includes 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights/taillights, heated side mirrors, a manual driver seat, cloth upholstery, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless Android Auto and two USB-C ports. The SE trim adds many desirable extras: 17-inch wheels, keyless entry and push-button start, dual-zone climate control, auto-dimming mirror, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats with lumbar support, V-Tex leatherette upholstery, a rear center armrest and a large suite of driver assistance systems. As such, we think that’s the best place to start in the Jetta lineup in terms of value.
The Sport adds some desirable extras that make the Jetta a little more interesting, including the XDS Cross Differential System from the GLI, 17-inch wheels, blacked out trim and sport seats.
Below, you can see the base prices for every Jetta and GLI trim level, You find a full breakdown of every Jetta trim level’s features plus specs and local pricing here on Autoblog. You’ll find the same information for the Jetta GLI here.
GLI Autobahn: $32,685
Besides the typical airbag selection, rearview camera and stability aids, the Jetta comes standard with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic warning. Typically, those are optional. A $995 package adds a number of systems including forward collision warning, front automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and Travel Assist (lane-centering). Those features are standard on some competitors. The SEL trim adds auto high-beams. Meanwhile, the GLI comes standard with every possible driver assistance system.
In government crash testing, the 2022 Jetta received five out of five stars for overall crash protection. It got four stars for frontal protection and five stars for side crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it the best-possible ratings in every crash category, but Marginal and Poor headlight ratings kept it from achieving an IIHS safety award.
Autoblog accepts vehicle loans from auto manufacturers with a tank of gas and sometimes insurance for the purpose of evaluation and editorial content. Like most of the auto news industry, we also sometimes accept travel, lodging and event access for vehicle drive and news coverage opportunities. Our opinions and criticism remain our own — we do not accept sponsored editorial.
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