2022 Volkswagen Jetta Review Update

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Nov 29, 2021

Introduction - Find the best Volkswagen deals!

Though Americans increasingly turn to higher-riding and less efficient but often more practical crossover SUVs for their daily transportation needs, the compact car class remains popular with consumers.

Partly, this continued popularity is because the sedans in this segment are not all that compact anymore. Models such as the refreshed 2022 Volkswagen Jetta are easily roomy enough to serve a family of four and handle a modest run to a big-box store.

Additionally, modern compact cars no longer reek of cost-cutting, most offering enough variety to equally appeal to budget buyers, technology geeks, driving enthusiasts, and even people seeking a touch of luxury. The updated 2022 Jetta addresses each of these types of consumers.

Highlights of the 2022 VW Jetta include:

  • Subtle exterior styling and interior detail changes
  • Revised trim level lineup, including new Sport version
  • New standard 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
  • Standard digital instrumentation
  • More standard and optional safety technology

This year, Volkswagen simplifies the Jetta lineup. The R-Line, SEL Premium, and base GLI are dropped for 2022, while a new Sport trim joins the roster. The new Jetta menu includes S, Sport, SE, SEL, and GLI, the latter now equipped with the formerly optional Autobahn trim as standard equipment.

Previously, J.D. Power reviewed the 2019 Jetta SEL Premium and the 2020 Jetta GLI. This review focuses on the Jetta’s updates for 2022 and how they potentially impact its overall appeal to consumers.

What Owners Say About the Volkswagen Jetta - Find the best Volkswagen deals!

2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Gray Black Package Front Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The Volkswagen Jetta competes in the Compact Car market segment. According to data collected from verified new-vehicle buyers for the J.D. Power 2021 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 61 percent of new Volkswagen Jetta buyers are male (vs. 55 percent for the segment), and the median age of a Jetta buyer is 48 years (vs. 50).

As part of the APEAL Study, owners rated the Jetta in 10 primary categories. Listed below in descending order, you’ll find their preferences from their most favorite thing about the vehicle to their least favorite:

  • Fuel economy
  • Exterior styling
  • Driving feel
  • Feeling of safety
  • Powertrain
  • Interior design
  • Setting up and starting
  • Getting in and out
  • Driving comfort
  • Infotainment system

In the 2021 APEAL Study, the Jetta ranks eighth out of 11 Compact Car models.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Volkswagen Jetta - Find the best Volkswagen deals!

In the following sections, our independent expert analyzes a 2022 Jetta GLI equipped with extra-cost paint and a Black package. The price of the test vehicle came to $32,980, including the $995 destination charge.

New Standard Engine with More Power

2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Interior Dashboard Seats

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Volkswagen offers a new 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine in all 2022 Jettas except for the GLI sports sedan. It replaces the formerly standard 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that delivered such impressive real-world efficiency that it inspired Jetta owners to tell J.D. Power that fuel economy is their favorite thing about this compact car. Fuel economy is rarely, if ever, at the top of that list.

The new 1.5-liter engine generates 158 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 184 pound-feet of torque starting at 1,750 rpm. A 6-speed manual gearbox is standard, with an 8-speed automatic transmission available as an option. Fuel-economy ratings range between 33 mpg and 35 mpg, depending on trim level and transmission.

Previously, the 1.4-liter made 147 horses at 5,000 rpm and 184 pound-feet from 1,600 rpm. You could choose a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic and, depending on transmission choice, expect between 33 mpg and 34 mpg.

Because our test vehicle came with GLI trim, we did not get a chance to sample this new standard powertrain. However, based on Volkswagen’s specifications, we don’t expect most Jetta buyers to notice much of a change in terms of powertrain response, acceleration, or efficiency.

Volkswagen Digital Cockpit Standard in All Jettas

All 2022 Jetta models now come with standard Volkswagen Digital Cockpit instrumentation. With S, Sport, and SE trim, it includes an 8-inch display with two viewing options and the ability to customize the information shown. A more robust “Pro” version is standard with SEL and GLI trim, featuring a larger 10.25-inch display, three viewing options, and substantially greater customization opportunity.

Increasingly, modern mainstream vehicles have digital gauges, so Volkswagen Digital Cockpit isn’t as revolutionary as it once was. Still, especially in SEL trim, which inexplicably is the only Jetta with an embedded navigation system, it does lend the Jetta an air of sophistication.

The standard digital gauges pair with either a MIB2 6.5-inch or a MIB3 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The latter is exclusive to SEL and GLI trim and features wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless Android Auto, wireless smartphone charging, and SiriusXM 360L satellite radio. It is worth noting that VW introduced the MIB3 infotainment system in 2021, and Jetta owners still rate the car’s infotainment system as their least favorite thing about the model.

If I’m speculating, possible reasons include the proximity sensing function that brings menu buttons to life only when you reach for the screen, a painstaking radio station tuning process, poor standard voice-recognition capability, and limited availability of an embedded navigation system. But maybe those are just my gripes.

Car-Net connected services are available in three different packages and provide a variety of functions ranging from remote engine starting and Wi-Fi access to Family Guardian safe teen driver settings and automatic crash notification. A Beats Audio premium sound system is available but pales in comparison to the Fender-branded components used in the Volkswagen Tiguan.

Driving-Assistance and Collision-Avoidance Tech Upgrades

2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Engine

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Volkswagen adds new safety equipment to the 2022 Jetta. Standard equipment now includes Front Assist (forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking), blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert.

Additionally, Volkswagen introduces its IQ.Drive collection of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) to the Jetta lineup. Optional with S and Sport trim and standard on other Jettas, IQ.Drive includes Level 2 semi-autonomous Travel Assist and Emergency Assist technology. Note, however, that full functionality may require the Jetta’s optional automatic transmission.

Highlights of IQ.Drive include:

Travel Assist combines adaptive cruise control and lane-centering technology to make long-distance travel easier. Emergency Assist detects when the driver is no longer holding the steering wheel and encourages the driver to retake control through visual, audible, and sharp, sudden braking events. If the driver ignores these warnings, Emergency Assist can bring the Jetta to a safe stop in its travel lane with the hazard lights flashing.

To use Travel Assist, you must first activate the Jetta’s Lane Assist system and then select the correct cruise control button on the steering wheel (there are two). Emergency Assist will warn a driver to keep their hands on the steering wheel regardless of conditions but can bring the Jetta to a stop only when Travel Assist is active.

GLI Remains a Blast to Drive

As expected, our 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI test vehicle was terrific fun to drive.

It has a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine good for 228 hp at 5,000 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque starting from 1,500 rpm. It uses a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT), each powering the car’s front wheels. Volkswagen’s brake-based cross differential system (XDS) and a torque-sensing limited-slip differential work together to eliminate wheelspin and understeer. The engine breathes through a tuned exhaust that growls with more authority for 2022.

Additionally, the 2022 Jetta GLI features progressive variable-ratio steering that responds quickly at lower speeds, an adaptive damping suspension, and larger brakes, including front components sourced from the previous-generation Golf R model. Driving modes include Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Custom. Volkswagen wraps the GLI’s 18-inch wheels in 225/45 Hankook Kinergy GT all-season tires.

Though it’s not the most powerful car in its competitive class, the Jetta GLI has a properly Germanic driving character. Quiet and comfortable when you need it to be, and unflappably capable at speed when you want it to be, it is a delight to drive at all times. From its broadly accessible torque curve and fluid manual shifter to its meaty steering wheel and predictable behavior, the GLI is a terrific instrument of driving enjoyment. However, the car deserves a proper performance tire option.

Since fuel economy is a favorite trait of the Jetta, according to the people who own one, it is worth pointing out that despite plenty of enthusiastic driving, the GLI returned 29.9 mpg on the testing loop, effectively matching the EPA’s estimate of 30 mpg in combined driving.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Volkswagen deals!

2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Gray Black Package Rear Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Some automakers are giving up on cars altogether, but not Volkswagen. Though VW canceled the Beetle and standard Golf models in recent years, and the Passat is the next of the company’s car models hitting the chopping block, the Jetta’s future is secure—for now. After all, the alternative to the Jetta within the Volkswagen family is the 2022 Taos, which costs more and is less fuel-efficient.

Plus, the Taos lineup offers nothing at all like the Jetta GLI.

Measured against its primary competition—and based on the latest J.D. Power APEAL Study results—the Jetta has its work cut out for it. That is especially true now that a redesigned 2022 Honda Civic is out.

Nevertheless, there is plenty to like about the refreshed 2022 Volkswagen Jetta, from its efficient engines and comfortable seats within a roomy interior to its large trunk and high-tech infotainment and safety systems. And people who love to drive will be especially fond of the 2022 Jetta GLI sports sedan.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience in test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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