VW GLI distilled to single blingy trim amid 2022 Jetta refresh

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Amid a slew of new crossovers, from the budget-minded Taos to the chop-top Atlas Cross Sport, VW isn’t abandoning the models that built its reputation for affordable, everyman cars. Enthusiasts’ minds will jump to the recently revealed Mk8 GTI, but there’s another, more humble model to which VW owes much: the Jetta.

Now four years into its seventh generation, the Jetta is getting a thorough refresh for the 2022 model year. The recipe for this midlife facelift is similar to that seen in the 2022 Tiguan: subtle exterior bling plus a newly standard digital instrument cluster and more widely available driver-assist tech. VW’s gone a step further with the Jetta, however, by adding a new engine.

2022 VW Jetta 1.5 updated engine
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The outgoing comes with a 1.4-liter inline-four that makes 147 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. Its newfound 1.5-liter turbo-four is a gift from the newly born Taos SUV, bringing no change in torque but 11 extra horsepower. A more aggressive compression ratio—11.5:1 compared to 10:01 in the 2021 Jetta’s 1.4-liter—plus a higher-pressure (350 bar vs. 200) fuel injection system and variable turbine geometry get the credit for coaxing out the extra horsies. Fuel efficiency figures aren’t yet finalized for this engine in the ’22 Jetta. The current ’21 Jetta is rated at 34 mpg combined (city and highway); in the Taos, this mill is rated at 31 mpg combined, but the Jetta has the advantage of riding lower and weighing less.

How will you know you’re in the presence of a refreshed Jetta? You’ll need to look closely: The clues hide in now-standard LED headlights, plus subtly revised front and rear fascias. A few new colors are also available: Kings Red Metallic, Oryx White Metallic, and Rising Blue Metallic. Understated styling is a long-standing hallmark of the Jetta, however, so VW has (perhaps wisely) focused the changes on the Jetta’s interior, which hasn’t proved up to par with that of the last-gen Golf.

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You’ll no longer find analog gauges behind the steering wheel of a Jetta. An 8-inch digital instrument cluster now comes standard. As with the updated Tiguan, VW’s IQ.DRIVE suite of driver-assist tech is available on any Jetta, even the base model. The IQ bundle of tech is headlined by adaptive, stop-and-go cruise control and lane-centering.

Enthusiasts who don’t have the coin to spring to the range-topping GLI—more on its updates in a moment—may be attracted to the Jetta’s new-for-2022 Sport trim. One trim level up from the base S Jetta gets you an electronic-locking diff, sport-tuned suspension, a host of black accents inside and out (plus dark, 17-inch alloy wheels), and an available manual transmission. The Sport replaces the mid-tier R-Line trim from 2021, which was also available with 17-inchers, the XDS diff, and a manual gearbox, but adds a more comprehensive black-trim treatment for an edgier vibe.

Unlike the ’22 Jetta, the GLI doesn’t get a new engine. The 228-hp, 2.0-liter EA888 stays, as does the standard six-speed manual, but the refreshed GLI does get a simpler trim structure and new interior bling like its little sibling. Now available exclusively in the Autobahn trim, the GLI comes with a 10-inch digital instrument display and new seats that overlay red leather with perforated black, giving a subtle two-tone effect. A new haptic-touch, leather-wrapped steering wheel with “GLI” script, plus now-standard heated and ventilated front chairs and the aforementioned IQ.DRIVE tech, help the now-solitary GLI trim to feel suitably upscale in a fashion similar to the new GTI. Reworked front and rear fascias are complemented by a set of two generously-sized tailpipes peeking from a mesh lower bumper. Though VW reports a throatier tone for the exhaust, there’s no accompanying bump in power or torque.

2022 VW GLI facelift rear
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When VW releases pricing information for the ’22 models, we’ll be able to put these upgrades in proper context. For now, however, we’re confident that Jetta and GLI customers will both notice and appreciate VW’s well-considered upgrades for the refreshed, 2022 model-year compact sedans.

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