We recently spent an extended period of time testing a Volkswagen Jetta GLI sedan as part of our long-term fleet. And, it was a sad day in MotorWeek-land when that came to an end. Fortunately, our separation anxiety was short-lived as there’s an updated GLI for ’22.  Looks like we’re reunited, and it feels so good.

We’re getting a lot of MQB chassis time in lately, having recently tested the Volkswagen Golf R, and even Audi’s S3. But, could this 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI sedan possibly be our favorite of the bunch?  

The GLI, for all intents and purposes, is, of course, to the Jetta what the GTI is to the Golf. 

So, not only does it get more power than the standard Jetta, it puts it into play more effectively with VW’s VAQ electronic limited-slip differential, and has much improved handling thanks to its multi-link rear suspension and sport-tuned dampers.  

It may not be a hardcore performance car, but it remains an extremely fun car to drive; and also manages to have a very different sport sedan feel than the GTI hot hatch. It’s a little more laid back yet has lots of potential when you turn thing up a notch. Throw in plenty of interior space, some great seats, and a smooth ride; and that’s pretty much everything we look for in a sporty daily driver.

Part of what makes the fun factor high is the standard 6-speed manual. Throws are a little long, but the shifter is very positive and feels good overall. The clutch is light and easy to get used to. A 7-speed DSG is also available if you must.      

The spacious and well put together four-door interior would have made for a nice Audi not that long ago. Revisions here for ‘22 include upgraded materials, but there’s also a new sport steering wheel with touch-sensitive controls, which we found frustratingly easy to make unintended inputs with. We see no reason to have so many controls on the steering wheel.  

GLIs feature lots of gloss black trim, along with red accents throughout the cabin. VW’s digital cockpit is now standard on all Jettas; the GLI getting the 10-inch fully configurable version.  

Outside, all ’22 Jettas don a new grille. The rear bumper is revised with larger exhaust outlets-- dual on the GLI-- plus fresh wheel designs. GLI also adds exterior gloss black trim and red accents, along with projector LED headlights, a honeycombed rear diffuser, and 18-inch rims.  

Not quite as much power in the GLI as in the current GTI, with VW’s 2.0-liter turbo-4 outputting 228-horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque. But there’s no lack of grunt at all, and there’s plenty enough to make it quicker than most in the compact sedan class.  As we found out at our ¼-mile playground Mason Dixon Dragway.  

Throttle response is immediate; though that light clutch took some getting used to. But, get it just right, and it gets up and goes quite effectively with moderate wheel spin, hitting 60 in 6.6–seconds. As refined as the GLI feels, its exhaust note and noticeable turbo noises are not quite as harmonious. Still, it didn’t keep us from shifting our way to a fine ¼-mile time of 14.9–seconds at 100 miles-per-hour.  

The GLI’s differential can send all engine power to one front wheel if need be, and Sport mode puts the adaptive dampers at their firmest setting; which kept body roll to a minimum through our cone course.

Front brakes come over from the Golf R, and while they don’t bite down as aggressively as some more expensive sport sedans, and there was quite a bit of rumble coming through the pedal; we found them more than competent, stopping us from 60 in a respectable 117–feet without noticeable fade.

Government Fuel Economy Ratings with the manual are 26-City, 37-Highway, and 30-Combined. We beat that with 32.0 miles-per-gallon on Regular.   

For a better than average Energy Impact Score; using just 9.9-barrels of oil yearly, with 4.9-tons of CO2 emissions.  

The GLI’s entry point has gone up due to the base S model, that we loved so much, no longer being available. Strictly Autobahn trim now. But for all that you get, especially compared to any SUV, $32,290 is a more than reasonable. $33,090 if you want the dual-clutch transmission.  

Truth be told, as much as we do adore this GLI, being the hatchback loving types that we are, we’d give a slight preference to the GTI for its lower entry price, added practicality, a bit more power, and hot hatchback vibe.  But we’re sure glad Volkswagen still offers the 2022 Jetta GLI as a well-priced three-box alternative, and even more happy to drive it every chance we get. 



  • Engine: 2.0L Turbo I4
  • Horsepower: 228
  • Torque: 258 lb-ft
  • 0-60 mph: 6.6 seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 14.9 seconds at 100 mph
  • 60-0 Stopping Distance: 117 feet
  • EPA: 26 City / 37 Highway / 30 Combined
  • MW Fuel Economy: 32 mpg
  • Starting Price: $32,290