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2022 Volkswagen Jetta and Jetta GLI: Small changes, big improvements

VW is upgrading its venerable small sedans for 2022, enhancing their looks, adding more tech and throwing a few minor mechanical tweaks in for good measure.

Despite what you may read on the internet, sedans aren't dead, not yet at least. Sure, SUVs have taken over the world, but millions of four-door cars are still sold each year. In fact, sedans remain a cornerstone of Volkswagen's US lineup, accounting for 29% of its sales. To continue attracting drivers that might otherwise nab a Honda Civic, Mazda3, Nissan Sentra or Toyota Corolla, VW has updated its popular Jetta and sporty GLI models for 2022, just don't expect a clean-sheet overhaul for these two cars.

Changes made for the latest model year are rather limited. The Jetta and GLI feature updated exterior styling, enhanced standard technology and a few mechanical upgrades.

Visually, both cars are dressed up with restyled bumpers front and rear, though the GLI gains a handsome honeycomb rear diffuser and larger outlets for its retuned exhaust system. Fresh paint colors are available, as are new wheel designs. The cars' grilles have been updated, too, with the Jetta gaining thin, horizontal chrome accents. Naturally, on the GLI these appliques are spiced up with red stripes. LED headlights and DRLs are standard, though higher-end Jetta trims and the GLI both feature projector-style LED lamp assemblies. Each trim features unique wheels, ranging from 16 inches on the base car to 18s on the GLI.

Given that this is a refresh, not a ground-up redesign, both cars continue to ride on the Volkswagen Group's MQB architecture, which underpins an array of vehicles from brands including Audi, Seat and Škoda. The Jetta and GLI feature a strut-style suspension up front -- no surprise there. The Jetta gets a torsion beam at the back, though the GLI features a highfalutin multilink setup, which is in keeping with its more driver-oriented ethos.

The 2022 Jetta features a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers a modest 158 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, enough to get the car to 60 mph in the low 8-second to high 7-second range according to VW. This "big-block" engine is only a tiny bit larger than the 1.4-liter unit it replaces, but it's been tuned to crank out appreciably more low-end twist. To achieve this, the upsized engine has higher direct-injection pressure, plasma-coated cylinder bores, a variable-geometry turbocharger and intelligent cooling that helps warm things up more quickly by directing coolant flow to different parts of the engine as needed. The Jetta can be had with either a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic.

Naturally, the GLI packs a lot more heat. As it has for years, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder resides under the hood. It's rated at a more potent 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. As per usual, you can get it with a standard six-speed manual transmission or opt for a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

As before, the Jetta GLI features a silky-smooth 2.0-liter turbo-four.


The updated Jetta and GLI both have plenty of driver-assistance tech. I mean, you can't not offer that these days. The base cars comes standard with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Of course, plenty of other amenities are available in the automaker's IQ.Drive suite. Offered from the base Jetta on up, this includes useful tech like automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability and more. Not surprisingly, IQ.Drive is standard on higher-end models including the GLI.

Don't expect any earthshattering changes inside these Volkswagen sedans. The enhancements made are modest but, of course, welcome. A digital instrument cluster with an 8-inch screen is now standard on the Jetta, though the GLI comes with a larger 10-inch Digital Cockpit Pro at no extra charge. A Wi-Fi hotspot is standard, while wireless charging, heated and ventilated front chairs plus heated rear seats are offered on the Jetta. In comparison, GLIs have heated and ventilated front buckets. A leatherette-wrapped steering wheel is standard on higher-end Jettas and you can even get it with heating. The GLI is equipped with a leather-wrapped sport tiller, which can also be upgraded with heating. Jazzing things up, these sedans also gain contrast stitching on the door panels, armrests and gear selector. New fabrics and leathers are offered, too.

The Jetta's interior is familiar but should be nicer than before.


Cleaning up the model range, simplifying things for drivers, the updated Jetta is offered in four trim levels: S, Sport, SE and SEL. Sport is new for 2022 and comes with 17-inch wheels, blacked-out exterior elements and springs borrowed from the outgoing R Line model that provide a lower ride height. As for the GLI, it will be available in one basically loaded trim. This gets you 18-inch wheels, a retuned exhaust system with generously sized outlets, leather seating surfaces inside and much more.

The outgoing Jetta is a relative bargain, starting at around $20,000 including destination charges. Even though official pricing has not been announced, the updated 2022 model should be roughly in line with that figure, but likely a skosh higher. As for the fancier GLI, it currently kicks off just shy of 28 grand, though it can be pushed into the mid-30s. Expect the updated variant to be very similar. If you like what you see, you don't have long to wait. Look for these new sedans at Volkswagen stores in the fourth quarter of the year, probably in November, as long as the ongoing microchip shortage doesn't cause any delays.