2022 Volkswagen Golf

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Brian Wong Brian Wong West Coast Editor
June 15, 2022

Buying tip

The GTI remains a compelling hot hatch, but the Golf R is where the real fun is.

features & specs

2.0T Automaticbahn DSG
2.0T Automaticbahn Manual
2.0T S DSG
25 city / 34 hwy
24 city / 34 hwy
25 city / 34 hwy

The 2022 VW GTI is a good hot hatch, but the Golf R fully realizes the platform’s potential.

What kind of car is the 2022 Volkswagen GTI? What does it compare to?

The more pedestrian versions of the Golf have disappeared from the U.S. market for 2022, leaving only the performance oriented GTI and Golf R to carry the torch. Both of those cars get a full redesign for 2022 and compete against the performance versions of other compact hatchbacks and sedans like the Hyundai Elantra N Line and N, Honda Civic Si, and Mazda 3.

Is the 2022 Volkswagen GTI a good car?

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The redesigned 2022 GTI offers improved technology and more features than the last generation car, but the gap between the GTI and Golf R seems to have widened for this generation. You really have to move up to the Golf R to feel like the performance matches the price tag. Tack on some questionable interior control choices and the GTI earns a TCC Rating of 6.8 out of 10 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What's new for the 2022 Volkswagen GTI?

The eighth generation, or Mark 8, GTI gets a full redesign that also marks the return of the Golf R, giving Volkswagen a formidable pair of hot hatches once more. It adds new technology inside and performance enhancements underneath inside of a body that will look very familiar to Golf and GTI fans.

The GTI is a bit longer, but the wheelbase length remains the same. The nose is more wedge-like, but most of the styling differentiation between the Mark 8 and last year’s model comes from its lighting. There is now an available lightbar across the front grille (red for the GTI, blue for the Golf R) and LED fog lights arranged in a five-dot pattern below each headlight. Otherwise, it looks pretty close to the old GTI. The Golf R adds a two-piece spoiler, larger air intakes, and a rear diffuser.

Both models feature a 2.0-liter turbo-4, but have large differences in output. The front-wheel-drive GTI’s engine makes 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, but the all-wheel-drive Golf R jumps all the way up to 315 hp and 310 lb-ft. Each comes with a 6-speed manual transmission standard, with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic available as an $800 option. The GTI rides on a tightened suspension with stiffer springs, an electronic limited-slip differential, and sharpened steering. The Golf R can send half of its power to the rear wheels when needed and includes a new drift driving mode (for track use only, of course).

Inside, the GTI gets a large technology boost with a standard 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster, 8.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, heated steering wheel, 18-inch wheels, and four USB-C ports. Also available are a larger 10.0-inch touchscreen, heated/cooled front seats, a head-up display, and wireless charging pad. The GTI’s interior is very minimalistic; buttons have largely been eliminated in favor of a small panel of touch sensitive controls on the steering wheel and below the infotainment screen. 

Standard safety features include adaptive cruise control, automatic forward emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and parking sensors. The IIHS bestowed a Top Safety Pick on the GTI and TSP+ on the Golf R. 

How much does the 2022 Volkswagen GTI cost?

The price has increased by about $1,000 for the GTI, with the base GTI S starting at $30,540 (including destination charges). That’s followed by the GTI SE ($35,290) and the Autobahn ($38,990). The Golf R is only offered in a single trim level that starts at $44,640. 

Where is the Volkswagen GTI made?

After being built in Mexico for several years, production of the GTI and Golf R has moved back to Wolfsburg, Germany.


2022 Volkswagen Golf


The GTI retains its classic hatchback styling.

Is the Volkswagen GTI a good-looking car?

Volkswagen has kept the GTI’s overall look and feel pretty close to the previous generation, which is a good thing in our eyes. It earns a point for its classic exterior styling, making it a 6 here.

The new LED fog lights help to provide a nice visual signature for the GTI, as does the available lightbar in the middle that glows red for the GTI and blue for the Golf R. A nicely sculpted front hood is more angular, but the shape of the car has remained the same for the most part. 

Less successful are the interior updates. There’s still a lot of black plastic on the interior and many of the physical controls have disappeared. There’s a small panel below the infotainment screen with haptic buttons to bring up the climate controls and other functions, but that two-step process belabors what could be done instantly with a knob or switch. The same thing is true of the steering wheel controls, which are too easy to activate accidentally with the palm of the hand when steering.

Review continues below

2022 Volkswagen Golf


Sublime steering feel and punchy powertrains make for a good driving experience in either model.

The GTI earns a point each for its powertrain and for its handling prowess, earning it a 7 in this category. If we were basing this score on the Golf R, it would earn another point in each category.

Is the Volkswagen GTI AWD?

It is not; the GTI is still front-wheel drive. For AWD, step up to the Golf R, which can send half of its power to the rear wheels and shift all of that power to the outside wheel while turning to give it more balance and cleaner power delivery or corner exits.

How fast is the Volkswagen GTI?

The GTI’s 2.0-liter turbo-4 makes 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, increases of 14 hp and 15 lb-ft over the previous generation. It’s quick once it gets going, but with the 7-speed automatic transmission it seems to lag a little bit off the line. That’s not the case in the Golf R. It uses the same 2.0-liter turbo-4, but the engine has been uptuned to make 315 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque and that makes it much more explosive. Its AWD system also helps it to put power down from the start, even if you slam on the accelerator pedal the tires barely chirp and the Golf R goes launching down the tarmac. Volkswagen did not provide an estimated 0-60 mph time for the GTI, but the Golf R makes the spring in 4.7 seconds (with the automatic transmission).

As has long been true of GTIs, the hatchback’s handling remains sublime with excellent steering feel. The redesign brought with it an electronic limited slip differential that Volkswagen says allows the software to keep closer control of how much lock is being applied, but on the road there is more noticeable torque steer than on the last generation car. The suspension has also been noticeably stiffened to the detriment of ride quality. Even in the Autobahn with its standard adaptive dampers, it won’t soften up to calm down in day-to-day driving and each road bump is felt throughout the cabin.

The Golf R’s suspension is equally firm, but it bothers less because you’re too busy being wowed by the responsiveness of the powertrain and the way it eats up corners. Shooting the Golf R out of corner exits is thrilling. You can get on the gas early without consequence as the AWD system shifts torque where it’s needed, leaving a delightful burble in your wake. The Golf R also doesn’t suffer from the same problems with torque steer and even comes with several “Race” driving modes, including one tuned for the Nürburgring and a drift mode to boot.

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2022 Volkswagen Golf

Comfort & Quality

Its hatchback shape gives the GTI surprising cargo capacity for its footprint.

The GTI’s cargo area is smaller than last year’s, but at 19.9 cubic feet (expandable to 34.5 cubic feet) it still offers more capacity than a sedan. That earns the GTI a point, as do comfortable front seats giving it a 7.

Base GTI models come with cloth seats, but we’ll excuse that in this case because they feature throwback plaid detailing in a nod to classic GTI interiors. The front seats have enough bolstering to keep the front passengers well aligned, but don’t pinch at all. Though the GTI claims 35.0 inches of rear leg room, the alignment of the pedals means the driver sits far back. Two 6-foot passengers can’t sit in line; there’d be no space for anyone’s knees. Head room is still good, thanks to the GTI’s high roofline and hatchback shape.

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2022 Volkswagen Golf


The GTI and Golf R fared well in crash tests.

How safe is the Volkswagen GTI?

The IIHS gave the GTI a Top Safety Pick award when equipped with LED projector headlights and automatic high beams. Those upgraded headlights come standard on the Golf R, which warranted a Top Safety Pick+ designation. It aced IIHS crash tests, but the NHTSA has yet to evaluate the new Golf variants. The TSP earns it a point, as does its standard driver-assist features, for a 7. 

Automatic forward emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, and parking sensors (front and rear) all come standard. Autobahn models add park assist and automatic high beams.

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2022 Volkswagen Golf


All GTI models are well-equipped with plenty of features and technology.

The GTI is offered in three trim levels: S, SE, and Autobahn. The Golf R only comes in one trim level and is based on the line-topping Autobahn, giving it a long list of standard features. The GTI’s solid base content, options, good infotainment, and 4-year/50,000-mile warranty with two years or 20,000 miles of scheduled maintenance earn the GTI a 9.

The base S comes with cloth seats in plaid, LED headlights and taillights, 18-inch wheels, single-zone automatic climate control, a leather wrapped/heated steering wheel, heated front seats, and a 10.3-inch digital gauge display. The standard infotainment screen measures 8.3 inches and comes with Android Auto/Apple CarPlay.

Which Volkswagen GTI should I buy?

If what you’re looking for is the GTI driving experience at the lowest possible price, the S is a great option at $30,450. But those that want more creature comforts should jump for the SE at $35,290, which adds a power sunroof, front light bar, keyless entry, a 10.0-inch infotainment screen, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and a Harmon Kardon premium audio system.

How much is a fully loaded Volkswagen GTI?

That’s the Autobahn at $38,990, which adds the adaptive dampers, 19-inch wheels with summer tires, leather upholstery, a power driver’s seat, three-zone automatic climate control, head-up display, park assist, and automatic high beams. The only additional option for the Autobahn is the automatic transmission, for an extra $800.

This makes the GTI quite expensive and the Golf R more enticing, with its starting price of  $44,640. It gets all of the Autobahn’s equipment and adds on a lot more performance, it will be the most fun to drive of the bunch by a large margin.

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2022 Volkswagen Golf

Fuel Economy

The GTI’s fuel efficiency is middling with either transmission.

Is the Volkswagen GTI good on gas?

It’s good, for a performance-oriented gas car but that’s only good enough for a 5 on our scale. The most efficient model will be the GTI with the automatic transmission, with an EPA-rated 25 mpg city, 34 highway, 28 combined. The manual GTI follows closely behind at 24/34/28 mpg. 

The more powerful Golf R with its AWD setup gets worse fuel economy: 23/30/26 mpg with the automatic and only 20/28/23 mpg with the manual.

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MSRP based on 2.0T S Manual
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Expert Rating
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Styling 6
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 7
Features 9
Fuel Economy 5
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