The Volkswagen Golf is one of the longest-standing names in the hatchback market. It combines practicality, refinement and performance like none other. But hatchbacks are losing ground to small crossovers in the U.S., and even though the Golf is newly redesigned in other parts of the world, there's little business case for bringing the standard model stateside. However, its sporty variants have a strong following here, which is why we'll be getting the new 2022 Golf GTI (along with the more performance-minded Golf R) at the tail end of 2021. Due to the low take rate, a two-door GTI will not be offered; a four-door will remain the sole body style.
2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI
2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI Review
- Sporty and fun handling
- Roomy hatchback design for passengers and cargo
- Sophisticated ride quality with the optional adaptive suspension
- High-quality interior materials look and feel great
- Infotainment system can be frustrating to use
- Not as much power as some rival hot hatches
- Redesigned for 2022
- Overhauled interior with new tech
- More power from the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
- Kicks off the eighth Golf GTI generation
More than 40 years ago, the GTI essentially created the hot hatch segment, combining practicality and performance in an attractive package at an affordable price. Over several decades and seven generations, Volkswagen has built on the original GTI's success. The new eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI makes its debut for 2022, with a fresh, aggressive new face, an all-new interior, new tech and a slight bump in performance.
Powering the GTI is a new version of the car's turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that has appeared in VW products for more than a decade. In the 2022 GTI, it produces 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque — a bump up from the previous engine's 228 hp and 258 lb-ft. You can still get it with a manual transmission or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. A revised suspension tuning and a standard limited-slip differential mean the GTI drives better than ever, and the interior benefits from a fresh design and a new infotainment system.
Overall, we're impressed with the new GTI's combination of speed, practicality and technology. But the 2022 model year is shaping up to be a good one for driving enthusiasts, with new versions of the Honda Civic and Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86 twins also making their debuts. There's also the 275-hp Hyundai Veloster N to consider. What to get? Check out our Expert Rating of the 2022 GTI below to help you decide.
8.5 / 10
The new Volkswagen GTI isn't a dramatically different machine than the one it replaces. Instead of rethinking the GTI, Volkswagen's engineers have finely polished what made the GTI so good to begin with. It's fun to drive all the time thanks to a stout engine and sharp handling. It's comfortable and offers plenty of cargo space too. The lack of real buttons for most controls can be frustrating but, as a whole, the new GTI is as charming as ever.
How does the Golf GTI drive?
It should be no surprise that the new GTI drives a lot like the old one. It might look different, but the engine, transmission and much of the suspension carry over. That said, it's not totally the same. Base GTIs get a slight bump in power, and all come standard with an electronically controlled limited-slip differential that helps you quickly put down the power when exiting turns.
With the available dual-clutch automatic transmission, our test GTI covered 0-60 mph in just 5.9 seconds. That's only slightly slower than the 2021 Honda Civic Type R. There's good low-end torque and decent power all the way to redline.
Our summer-tire-shod GTI stopped from 60 mph in just 103 feet, which is impressively short for an affordably priced performance car like this. Steering feel and overall handling have been improved too. Overall, this one of the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars on the road.
How comfortable is the Golf GTI?
The GTI has always excelled at balancing performance with comfort. The seatback may look different, but these seats feel familiar to anyone who's driven a GTI before. The fixed side and thigh bolsters are pronounced but not overly tight. Volkswagen has found a nice Goldilocks setting. And, yes, the GTI's iconic red, white and black tartan cloth seats carry over. Ride comfort has been improved thanks to a revised suspension tuning. Our loaded test vehicle was equipped with an adaptive suspension that can be set to a compliant Comfort mode or a firm Sport setting. There's a noticeable difference, but the GTI never feels too soft or overly harsh.
Not everything has been improved. While we appreciate the available three-zone climate control, the capacitive touch controls for the temperature are cumbersome and occasionally infuriating to use. Rather than buttons or knobs, the GTI uses touch points on the dash. They're difficult to see and use without taking your eyes off the road.
How’s the interior?
The GTI's interior may look different than before, but it doesn't take long behind the wheel for everything to feel a bit familiar. The seating position is excellent, with lots of adjustments and good visibility in all directions. It's easy to find a comfortable driving position, and there's plenty of room up front and a decent amount in the rear, though taller passengers might find rear legroom lacking. The brake pedal does sit a bit high off the floor, making heel-toe downshifts a bit awkward but not impossible. The GTI's compact size and wide doors make getting in and out a breeze, even with the sporty seat bolsters.
It's not all grand. The capacitive touch controls that plague the climate control system are present everywhere, from the headlight switch to the steering wheel controls. They're all too sensitive and provide too little feedback. We accidently turned on the heated steering wheel on multiple occasions when a palm grazed the button on a tight turn. It's frustrating and one of the few areas in which the new GTI is worse than its predecessor.
How’s the tech?
Volkswagen has heavily updated the GTI's tech. It features a new infotainment system with a new interface and lots of new features. The interface is responsive to your touches, though the layout takes some getting used to and isn't quite as intuitive as other infotainment systems. The voice controls are excellent, with a robust list of commands and functions. You can say your feet are cold, and the GTI will start blowing warm air at the bottom vents. The GTI features wireless connectivity for the standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration system. There's a wireless charging pad too, and USB-C ports for both front and rear passengers.
The GTI's advanced driver aids are equally impressive. The adaptive cruise control works smoothly, maintaining a tight gap in traffic and holding speed up- and downhill. It's even available with the GTI's manual transmission. Blind-spot monitoring, lane keeping assist and other aids all work about as well as we expect from a car at this price.
How’s the storage?
Performance and style might be what draws your eye to the GTI, but its hatchback utility is part of what's made it so popular over the years. The GTI's cargo space is huge, eclipsing cargo room in nearly every other hatchback on sale today. The cargo area is wide and tall, and the rear seats fold nearly flat in a 60/40 split for even more space. Storage up front is also impressive thanks to large door pockets and plenty of small bins for phone, sunglasses and more. The small and awkwardly placed cupholders are one of the few drawbacks.
There's a reasonable amount of space in the rear for child safety seats. Isofix anchors are easily located, though the front seats may need to be scooted up a hair to accommodate larger rear-facing seats.
How’s the fuel economy?
EPA fuel economy estimates were unavailable at the time of our evaluation, but given the carryover powertrain, we don't expect it to change significantly from the outgoing car's 27 mpg combined rating (24 city/32 highway). We saw 30.8 mpg on our 115-mile evaluation route, which is a relatively good showing.
Is the Golf GTI a good value?
The Volkswagen GTI has always been one of the most expensive vehicles in its class, but it's also generally felt a cut above most of its rivals. The new interior looks and feels premium, with a clean design and lots of nice materials. A well-equipped GTI is nearly as much as a Honda Civic Type R. The performance gap has narrowed thanks to the GTI's updates, but the Volkswagen can't be called a performance bargain.
Volkswagen includes a four-year/50,000-mile basic and powertrain warranty, which is average for the class. The GTI's three years/36,000 miles of roadside assistance is better than most, as is the scheduled maintenance coverage of two years/24,000 miles.
The GTI has always been one of the more subtle hot hatches around. While cars like the Civic Type R are adorned with big wings and wide fenders, the GTI has remained cool and clean, even if that new face is a bit more brash than before. Whether it's the tartan seats, red accents or new LED foglights, it's the small details that make the GTI charming.
And that's all before you get behind the wheel. The GTI is fun at any speed. The turbocharged engine offers lots of low-end power, so you can zip through traffic without having to work too hard. Then, when you escape the city and head out to a twisty road, the GTI rewards you with predictable handling and an engaging character.
Which Golf GTI does Edmunds recommend?
Volkswagen Golf GTI models
The 2022 Golf GTI is available as a four-door hatchback and comes in three trim levels: S, SE and Autobahn. Power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (241 hp, 273 lb-ft of torque) that drives the front wheels through either a six-speed manual transmission or an optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Standard feature highlights include:
Starts you off with:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- LED headlights
- Heated mirrors
- Push-button start
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Heated front sport seats
- Customizable interior ambient lighting
- Front and rear parking sensors
The S also comes with tech features such as:
- 8.25-inch touchscreen
- Digital instrument panel
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration
- Seven-speaker sound system
- Wireless smartphone charging pad
Standard advanced driver aids include:
- Forward collision mitigation (warns you of an impending collision and applies the brakes in certain scenarios)
- Lane keeping assist (steers the GTI back into its lane if it begins to drift over the lane marker)
- Blind-spot intervention (warns you if a vehicle is in your blind spot and can help steer the GTI back into its lane if you try to change lanes)
- Adaptive cruise control (maintains a driver-set distance between the GTI and the car in front)
Has all of the above plus:
- Adaptive headlights
- Proximity keyless entry
- 10-inch touchscreen
- Integrated navigation system
- Nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system
Optional for the SE is a package that bundles leather upholstery, a power-adjustable driver's seat, ventilated front seats and driver's seat memory settings.
Has all of the above features plus:
- 19-inch wheels with summer performance tires
- Adaptive suspension dampers (enhance ride comfort and handling)
- Heated rear seats
- Rear-seat climate controls
- Head-up display (displays important information in your sight line on the windshield)
- Automated parking system (steers into a parking spot with little or no driver intervention)
2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI video
2022 VW Golf GTI First Drive | Volkswagen's Redesigned Hot Hatch | What's New, Interior, Engine
Volkswagen Golf GTI vs. the competition
2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI
2021 Honda Civic
Volkswagen Golf GTI vs. Honda Civic
It might be nearing the end of its life, but the 2021 Honda Civic Type R is still one fine car. It essentially reset the performance benchmark for front-wheel-drive hot hatches. You do pay for that performance since a base Civic Type R is about as much as a loaded GTI. Honda doesn't offer an automatic transmission in the Type R, and we found some driver aids are overly sensitive.
Volkswagen Golf GTI vs. Hyundai Veloster N
The Veloster N is one of the newest hot hatches on the market. It's quicker and sharper to drive than the GTI, and Hyundai now offers the Veloster N with both automatic and manual transmissions. It doesn't offer as much passenger or cargo space as the Volkswagen GTI, however.
Volkswagen Golf GTI vs. Subaru WRX
The Subaru WRX has been around for a while, but it's one of the most affordable performance cars you can buy. It's quicker than the GTI thanks to all-wheel drive and a more powerful engine. It lacks the GTI's polish, with excessive road noise and an interior that feels comparatively cheap. A refreshed WRX for 2022 should address some of these issues, however.
2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI First Impressions
Under the hood of the Golf GTI is the newest version of the EA888 turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that has appeared in VW products for more than a decade. In the 2022 GTI, it produces 242 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque — a bump up from the previous engine's 228 hp and 258 lb-ft. A six-speed manual is standard (rejoice!) and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is optional.
Adaptive suspension dampers will once again be available so drivers can select their ideal blend of ride plushness and performance. While the current GTI offers just a few settings for the dampers, the new model will have a total of 15 steps between ultimate comfort and sportiness. Volkswagen has also retuned the suspension to reduce understeer. Combined with the fully defeatable stability control system, the new GTI appears to be much more performance-oriented than its predecessor.
On the inside, this modern Golf offers a sleek new dashboard design punctuated by two large display screens. The first is the central touchscreen, which features a 8.25-inch display on most models, or a new 10-inch screen on models equipped with navigation. The other is the eye-catching Digital Cockpit instrument panel already implemented in some newer Volkswagens. While it's often optional in other Vee-Dubs, the Digital Cockpit is standard equipment on the Golf GTI.
The new Golf GTI is equipped with plaid cloth seats, which have been a staple of the GTI since its inception. Optional leather seats are now perforated and offer front-seat ventilation — another first for the new GTI. The cabin also features 30-color adjustable ambient lighting for matching your mood and a heated steering wheel. Both are standard. On the options list is a head-up display that projects directly onto the windshield and a Harman Kardon premium audio system.
Volkswagen is mum on which advanced driving aids will be standard and which will be optional for the new Golf GTI. That said, we know for sure that all models will come with lane keeping assist, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. The current GTI offers other features, such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, parking sensors and an automated parking system. These are likely to return for the new GTI.
The current Volkswagen Golf GTI is one of our favorite hatchbacks on the market. Even with an aging interior and average power numbers, it's able to hold its own against more recently redesigned rivals. A redesigned Golf GTI should do very well against modern competitors, and a new focus on driver engagement can only improve its outlook.