- The Volkswagen Golf GTI was redesigned for 2022, but it still uses a familiar powertrain.
- Despite that, the new GTI outperformed the last model we tested by a significant margin.
- The GTI fares well compared to other hot hatches and sport compacts.
Tested: 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI Is Better Than Ever With Both Transmissions
We take it to the track to put both gearboxes to the test
Few cars on the road are as iconic as the Volkswagen Golf GTI. For 2022, the GTI has been redesigned, though the formula is as familiar as ever. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but this car doesn't move the needle so much as it redefines the baseline. Now entering its eighth iteration, the GTI remains the benchmark for affordable, practical performance even if it hasn't always been the outright best in its class.
Every new GTI has to bear the burden of living up to its predecessors, and we're happy to say the new car does not disappoint. It's quick, comfortable and well appointed, though we have some significant qualms about its in-car tech. The GTI performed well in a comparison test with the Hyundai Elantra N and Subaru WRX. Keep reading to see how it performed on the track with both available transmissions — the old-school six-speed manual and the DSG seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
How did the GTI perform?
As with each GTI since the fifth generation that debuted way back in the mid-2000s, the 2022 GTI is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four engine. It's paired with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Output for the new eighth-generation ("Mk8") GTI is up slightly to 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, all going to the front tires. If you want all-wheel drive (and even more horsepower), you'll have to step up to the Volkswagen Golf R.
We've lined up both versions of the 2022 GTI — manual and automatic — against some other sporty compacts to see how the stats compare.
2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI Comparison
|2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI||2.0L turbocharged inline-4||6-speed manual||6.5 sec||14.6 sec @ 99.1 mph||108 ft||0.96 g||3,192 lbs|
|2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI||2.0L turbocharged inline-4||7-speed dual-clutch automatic||5.9 sec||14.0 sec @ 101.9 mph||103 ft||1.02 g||3,181 lbs|
|2022 Volkswagen Golf R||2.0L turbocharged inline-4||7-speed dual-clutch automatic||4.3 sec||12.7 sec @ 108.3 mph||105 ft||0.99 g||3,458 lbs|
|2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI||2.0L turbocharged inline-4||7-speed dual-clutch automatic||7.1 sec||15.2 sec @ 94.3 mph||119 ft||0.86 g||3,348 lbs|
|2022 Hyundai Elantra N||1.6L turbocharged inline-4||6-speed manual||6.4 sec||14.7 sec @ 99.0 mph||105 ft||1.02 g||3,196 lbs|
|2022 Hyundai Elantra N||1.6L turbocharged inline-4||7-speed dual-clutch automatic||5.4 sec||13.8 sec @ 101.9 mph||110 ft||0.98 g||3,300 lbs|
|2022 Subaru WRX||2.4L turbocharged flat-4||6-speed manual||6.0 sec||14.1 sec @ 97.7 mph||110 ft||0.98 g||3,400 lbs|
|2022 Honda Civic Si||1.5L turbocharged inline-4||6-speed manual||7.2 sec||15.1 sec @ 92.8 mph||109 ft||0.97 g||2,950 lbs|
|2022 Acura Integra||1.5L turbocharged inline-4||6-speed manual||7.8 sec||15.6 sec @ 90.6 mph||119 ft||0.93 g||3,056 lbs|
The new GTI performs well with either transmission. Even the slower manual-equipped model is more than half a second quicker than the previous-generation manual GTI. Braking figures have improved, too, though the 0.96 g skidpad figure only matches that of the old car rather than exceeding it. The dual-clutch automatic model we tested fared even better. It was quicker, stopped shorter and put up better figures on the skidpad than the manual model. In fact, braking and skidpad figures were better than the more powerful (but heavier) Volkswagen Golf R. That said, the R is significantly quicker in a straight line and would outpace the GTI on track.
The GTI compares favorably to its sport compact rivals, too, most of which are sedans rather than hatchbacks. The Elantra N is one of our favorite sport compacts, and the Hyundai is more powerful and a hair quicker than the Volkswagen, but braking and skidpad figures were in the same ballpark. You can see just how close these two are in terms of performance in our head-to-head U-Drags race.
The Subaru WRX, Honda Civic Si and Acura Integra also compete in this space. The Subaru puts up competitive performance figures, but the Honda and Acura are frankly way off the pace. We're holding out hope that the new Civic Type R will put the Civic back in the conversation.
Bench racing is never the last word
Numbers are great for quick comparisons, but a 0 to 60 mph time won't tell you if a car is fun to drive. Speed can feel sterile if a car isn't engaging. Thankfully, the eighth-generation GTI doesn't feel neutered or numb despite improvements in refinement. Volkswagen didn't have to dial back performance for comfort. It's genuinely fun, and it's fun almost all of the time.
The GTI is more powerful than the average compact, but it doesn't make crazy amounts of power. That means you can really take advantage of it on the road. Many sports cars these days are so powerful that driving spiritedly requires holding back unless you're on a racetrack. Driving something like the GTI, the Mazda MX-5 Miata or Subaru BRZ can be more fun than cars three times the price because you don't need a track day to give them a good workout.
Some comments from our test notes:
"The GTI's powertrain is completely carry-over, so it didn't feel all that much different on the acceleration straight than the last one we tested. Don't take that as a criticism. This 2.0-liter turbo inline-four is lovely, with tons of torque and a nice growl all the way to redline. The seven-speed dual-clutch is geared relatively short (60 mph in third), so it feels quick off the line and doesn't drop the revs too much on upshifts. …The GTI managed traction better with the revs up; there was a small hint of wheelspin if you just gunned it. Torque steer was nonexistent. … There's not a ton of turbo lag, and the car is geared short enough that if you get a good launch you'll never drop out of boost. Strong, even power. Lovely exhaust note. The clutch has a good catch point and is light enough that it never feels like work. The manual shifter isn't the most precise, but I think I prefer it to the Elantra N's.
"Braking performance was excellent, and not just for a hot hatch. The pedal is firm and responsive, with good bite and linear travel. It's easy to control, which really helps on a winding road or the handling course. Stops were straight and consistent, with no wiggle in the rear or the steering wheel. There was no noticeable fade, and the tires work best with a little heat. … Stops were very, very consistent. … Generally good work. No fade on the handling course either. All U.S.-bound Mk8s have upgraded brakes and the electronic limited-slip differential.
"TIRES!!! Lateral grip is crazy for a front-wheel-drive car. There's a small hint of understeer at the limit, but you only need to back off the gas a hair to tuck the nose back in. Just hold the wheel steady and feather the throttle. The GTI just feels smooth and stable. Steering feedback is excellent, and I'm happy that it doesn't feel overboosted like the last GTI. The retuned front suspension likely helps, too. Not as good as the Civic Type R or Elantra N, but a vast improvement over the Mk7. It's quick but not nervous. You can really line up a corner well on the handling course, though understeer is still present. Very little body roll and only mild stability control intervention."
The Volkswagen GTI is better than ever. It may not be a wholesale rethink of the hot hatch, but it really didn't need to be.