Fears that Volkswagen would annihilate the entire Golf lineup are all but forsaken, with the 2022 Golf GTI set to begin an all-new generation of the sporty hatchback. Although it appears the German automaker will still stop selling regular (read: boring) Golfs in the United States, the GTI and the even zestier R model, which we review separately, have been spared. The result is a more powerful GTI with even more desirable features and the same characteristics that helped the outgoing version earn a spot on our 10Best list. With more modern styling inside and out as well as the familiar fantastic-to-drive behavior, the reborn Golf GTI is ready to attract new enthusiasts and continue to reward the faithful.
What’s New for 2022?
The 2022 Golf GTI is all new and marks the storied nameplate’s eighth generation. While its styling is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, VW has packed the hatchback with more technology and enhanced performance. Its fresh exterior styling is promoted by sleeker LED headlights and a gaping lower grille with fog lights integrated into the mesh. The more dramatic makeover is inside, where VW combines hallmarks such as plaid upholstery with cutting-edge features. For example, dual digital displays are now standard, and the dashboard has been totally redesigned. The GTI’s turbo four-cylinder now makes 241 horsepower (up 13) and 273 pound-feet of torque (up 15), and it still offers a manual transmission as standard. The Golf GTI is expected to go on sale at the end of this year.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
When deciding which GTI trim to buy, the mid-level SE strikes us as the best value. For an extra $800, the standard six-speed manual can be swapped for a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. We prefer to shift for ourselves, so we’d avoid the surcharge. Compared with the entry-level trim, the SE adds a 480-watt Karman/Hardon audio system, a cool illuminated grille, enhanced infotainment features, and a sunroof. It can also be fitted with leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, and memory settings for the driver’s seat, but that means ditching the GTI’s traditional cloth seats and their plaid design.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The 2022 Golf GTI is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that develops 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. That’s an increase of 13 horses and 15 pound-feet versus its predecessor, but that power is still routed to the front wheels through either a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. We tested a GTI with the auto ‘box, which had smart shifts and helped deliver the hatch to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds–0.7 quicker than a last-gen Rabbit edition with the automatic. Not only is the new GTI quicker in a straight line, we credit its electronically controlled limited-slip differential and brake-based torque vectoring for an uptick in entertainment value. Of course, the VW’s expertly tuned chassis deserves as much praise as ever, with its sharp responses and not-too-firm, not-too-soft ride quality. The latter was experienced with the hatch’s highly adjustable adaptive dampers and a set of 19-inch wheels (18-inchers are standard). Nothing puts a damper on spirited driving like a soft brake pedal, but the GTI provides firm feedback and noteworthy stopping power, halting the hatch from 70 mph in just 151 feet.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
We’re not sure how fuel-efficient the new Golf GTI is because those figures haven’t been announced, but we estimate that its city and highway ratings will be 24 and 32 mpg, respectively. Once we have the chance to run it on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy route, which is part of our extensive testing regimen, we can evaluate its real-world mpg. For more information about the Golf GTI’s fuel economy, visit the EPA’s website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Inside, the Golf GTI boasts a more modern design than before and some traditional callbacks. The dashboard is dominated by two large displays—a 10.3-inch gauge cluster and a 10.0-inch touchscreen—that share a piano-black bezel. The GTI’s three-spoke steering wheel boasts a heavily contoured rim and touch-sensitive controls. Its bolstered front seats have red accents around their outer edges and iconic plaid inserts on the top and bottom cushions. Unfortunately, unlike the high-quality environs of the previous generation, the new interior is marred by some chintzy finishes. Seeing the road ahead is improved by a lower cowl, but we prefer a simple set of analog gauges over the overly configurable digital setup. The new GTI grows by an inch overall and sees its wheelbase stretch by 0.6 inch, which only furthers its impressive passenger accommodations and cargo space.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The GTI’s infotainment system runs through a standard 10.0-inch touchscreen. Unfortunately, it’s primarily operated via touch-sensitive sliders instead of more intuitive buttons and knobs. Along with a couple of charging ports, the system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These familiar phone apps and menu structures will help offset VW’s otherwise busy and potentially distracting interface.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
VW has said it’ll have common driver-assistance technology standard as well as optional upgrades. For more information about the Golf GTI’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection
- Standard lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
VW includes an above-average limited warranty, but its powertrain protection trails behind most competitors. The company does sweeten the deal with complimentary scheduled maintenance that is similar to what Toyota offers.
- Limited warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for two years or 20,000 miles