We have no choice but to warn you that the entire review is a big joke. The pair of 2022 Volkswagen GTIs we tested have German front plates, a warning of sorts, since the eighth-generation GTI is still a few months away from sale in the US, along with its better-performing sibling, the Golf R. If you can keep it in your pants though, the reward will be worth it, because VW’s latest hot hatch is such a delight.
- Torquey turbo with four potentiometers
I do not like
- Iffy front-end style
- Stupid new cup holders
The Volkswagen Golf is not a radical reinvention car and the styling of the 2022 GTI more than reinforces this idea. From the rear, the sedan looks more like a revamped seventh generation, with some more polygonal taillights and some additional bumper folds. Only in front of the A-pillars do you start to see real news. But I’m still not completely convinced of the sloping front, which gives the car a dose of Geico caveman aesthetic. Full-width running lights and quintuple hexagonal fog lights are interesting additions, though. The 19-inch alloy wheels also look good, and while they’re quite large for a compact car, they don’t look like caricatures, leaving more than enough room for some meat on the side.
There is more revolution than evolution inside, and said revolution has clearly come for the buttons, because they are almost all gone. Touch-sensitive panels now cover the steering wheel and dashboard, eliminating nearly every part of the physical paintings. Provided you are comfortable with that, it creates a clean and tidy look. While the overall shape of the dashboard has changed, the interior looks as spacious as before, with large windows that allow for a large ray of sunshine and strong visibility from all sides. The checkered seats of the GTI are set back and just as comfortable and supportive as ever; leather is overrated, folks.
Other parts of the interior are a bit hit and miss. While the center console armrest storage compartment is still small, VW has made the cup holders worse. Now, two drinks are relegated to this strange recess where a small button clicks a spring-loaded cup holder for smaller diameter drinks. The problem, however, comes with trying to put a second drink in there; While it’s possible, anything bigger than the tiniest can of Red Bull will crash uncomfortably into the drink next to it, which can spell trouble. Some of the plastics feel more brittle than its predecessor. Get the “phone home” before the change, for example; while we like that it holds a phone in place and out of sight, its lid always feels like they’re about 3 seconds away from the shot. The use of piano-like black finishes on each surface intended for touch means that fingerprints will almost always be visible.
Those touch-sensitive bits can prove complicated in other ways. The buttons on the steering wheel of the GTI we are clicky, but they are also able to work on its own with a light touch, so you can drag your finger along the volume slider and make larger adjustments faster. Accuracy isn’t great though, so your eardrums may be getting more than they bargained for. Also, VW hasn’t thought about lighting up the volume and temperature sliders at the bottom of the screen, making adjustments much more frustrating at night.
VW’s latest infotainment system is a solid step forward, with a fresh aesthetic and admirable boot time in cold weather. There’s a home screen that can display multiple types of information at once, and a quick tap of the Home button on the left side of the screen makes jumping between pages easy enough. wirelessis they’re nice touches, especially if you’ve been lagging behind in updating your phone cables, since the 2022 GTI is a USB-C-only affair. The indicator cluster is also a screen, now with fun graphics that allow for a great degree of customization. An available HUD brings relevant information much closer to my eyes, although we wouldn’t exactly call it necessary given how well the gauges convey things.
All these worries vanish the moment you start driving the VW GTI 2022 seriously. High-quality whipping has always been at the heart of the GTI experience and the eighth generation car hasn’t made any major changes in that respect. It’s more fun than some sports cars that cost twice as much, and it all starts with the GTI’s turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine, which in its latest iteration produces 242 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, all addressed to the front. wheels through a standard limited-slip differential and a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Using a light foot and short city shift returns smooth, gradual forward motion, but dig a little deeper into the pedal travel and the 2.0-liter EA888 will throw you an absolute wall of torque , pushing the hatch forward with surprising haste. The clutch pedal is well-weighted and has a definitive grip point, ensuring smooth starts and shifts, and the lever itself offers just the right amount of notch as it slides between the gates.
As for the DSG-equipped car we tested in California, it’s further proof that Volkswagen’s dual clutch unit is one of the best. Yes, it still has a tendency to jerk into first gear when you set off, but from then on, shifts are smooth and fast. The steering wheel-mounted gearshift levers themselves are quite small, but offer immediate response. If paddles aren’t your thing, you’ll be happy to know that the DSG box will hold gears for as long as you like in Sport mode, with the cutest little brapp farty at every gear shift.
The GTI is positively sublime in the hairpin bends. Adaptive dampers eliminate any hint of roll without making the ride so stiff as to be annoying, and the mode switch also adds quite a bit of weight to the electric power steering. In combination with the aforementioned limited slip differential, the new GTI is noticeably more agile when cornering. The seventh-generation car wasn’t sloppy as it drove through California’s canyons, but the new car is simply more eager to dive into the switchbacks and offers better traction out of corners. Honestly, the new GTI is closer to the on-road excitement levels of the latest generation Golf R.
However, when it’s time to relax, rolling in Comfort almost feels like a completely different car. Stiff damping yields to a smoothness that sends annoying bumps and jolts with very little movement that transfers to the occupants; on the potholes of Michigan and the expansion joints of California’s freeways, the GTI is a doll. Cabin insulation is also a step above its predecessor. In fact, the whole thing feels significantly more adult without losing sight of the inherent playful nature of the GTI. If there’s one formula we’re happy to see over and over again with small tweaks, it’s this one.
We’re so far from the 2022 US launch of the GTI that the EPA hasn’t released fuel economy figures yet, but that’s what the onboard computer is for. Over a couple of hundred miles of city and highway mixed, we see around 26 or 27 mpg, which is what the Feds rate the GTI outgoing in combined use. Longer stretches of freeway push the needle north by 30 mpg, provided you stop bubbling on the accelerator just to hear the couple do their thing.
Even with some newfound power and features – and, presumably, the slightly higher price tag to match – the GTI’s competition remains more or less the same as usual. The Honda Civic Si is expected to enter a new generation in the near future, and while it’s still available in two body styles (coupe and sedan), it’s not as fun to drive as the GTI. The Hyundai Veloster N gives VW a pretty solid ride for its money, but it’s not available as a true five-door and its cabin just isn’t quite as nice. If you want an interior that more closely resembles a luxury car, you can augment it with the Mazda3 Turbo, which isn’t a performance variant per se, but still moves like one.
The wait will be worth the wait for the 2022 Volkswagen GTI. The parts that have been given a dose of radical reinvention do not hamper the driving experience, which remains as exhilarating and redeeming as ever. There’s a good reason this is the hot hatch most are compared to, and it doesn’t look like the trend will change anytime soon.