Flash Drive: 2022 Volkswagen Performance Sedans

The Golf GTI, Golf R and Jetta GLI—Fast and Fun!

In this Flash Drive review we will take a quick look at the 2022 Volkswagen gasoline-powered performance cars, which include the Jetta GLI, Golf GTI and Golf R. The propulsion qualification is important as the 2021 Volkswagen ID4 AWD is faster than all of them, even though it isn’t marketed as a sports SUV. It handles great and is a peek into Volkswagen’s performance future.

Leaving the electrons behind, Volkswagen’s current performance sedans are a blast, bringing a smile to those that truly love to drive. If a responsive, tightly connected-to-the-road experience is not what excites you, there is an eight-passenger SUV somewhere with your name on it.

2022 Jetta and Jetta GLI—HP & MPG

The 2022 Jetta GLI is ready to hit the road

The big change for the base Jetta is the new turbocharged 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine that replaces last year’s turbocharged 1.4-liter. This may seem like a minor change, but the new engine has 158 horsepower (11 more hp than the outgoing engine) while continuing with 184 pound-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque. Offered with either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic, the fuel efficiency has been increased up-to 29 mpg city/43 highway/34 combined with the manual. Topping 40 mpg on the highway is a big plus for this compact sedan, though we can’t talk how it felt on the road–yet.

If performance driving is what gets your attention, then look to the 2022 Jetta GLI. The larger and more powerful turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine, with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, has increased performance numbers to 228 hp and 258 ft.-lb. of torque. The fuel economy for the manual and automatic is 26 mpg city/37 highway/30 combined. Considering how spirited the drive is for the GLI, there may be times when hitting those numbers will be a challenge.

The Jetta GLI rode smoothly on the highway and was controlled when diving through corners. The ease of negotiating those corners can be described as predictable and composed. The Jetta has always been a very good handling five-passenger sedan–the GLI trim offers increased performance.

Base prices for the 2022 Jetta and Jetta GLI, including the $995 destination fee are:

Jetta               $21,190

Jetta GLI      $31,990

Clean Fleet Report will review the 2022 Jetta and Jetta GLI in the coming months, reporting on what it is like to drive these fine cars over the course of several hundred miles.

2022 Golf GTI and Golf R–Nuances of Performance

Fast, quick, nimble and fun-to-drive only begins to describe being behind the wheel of either the Golf GTI or the Golf R. To set the table, here are the vital specifications.

2022 Volkswagen GTI
The 2022 Volkswagen GTI is at fighting weight

Golf GTI

  • Turbocharged and intercooled 2.0L four-cylinder
  • 241 hp
  • 273 ft.-lb. of torque
  • Six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic
  • Curb Weight (pounds): manual, 3,113; automatic, 3,190
  • Manual: 24 mpg city/34 highway/28 combined
  • Automatic: 25 mpg city/34/highway/28 combined
  • Base MSRP: $30,540 (including the $995 destination fee)

Golf R

  • Turbocharged and intercooled 2.0L four-cylinder
  • 315 hp
  • Manual: 280 ft.-lb. of torque
  • Automatic: 295 ft-lb of torque
  • Six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic
  • Curb Weight (pounds): manual, 3,417; automatic, 3,481
  • Manual: 24 mpg city/34 highway/28 combined
  • Automatic: 25 mpg city/34/highway/28 combined
  • Base MSRP: $44,640 (including the $995 destination fee)

Vive la différence!

From the above it would seem the Golf R is the car to choose if mountain and forest carving is your thing. No arguing the Golf R, with the increased horsepower, torque and AWD is a superb handling sedan, but that doesn’t tell the complete story between it and the Golf GTI.

2022 Volkswagen Golf R
The view most will see of the Golf R

Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity to drive both, and came away with a huge smile. We opted for the six-speed manual for each car enjoying the smooth, short shifts and a clutch that had no learning curve. The handling difference between the Golf R AWD and the Golf GTI FWD was noticeable, but the differences were nuanced.

The Golf R AWD had the desired great handling benefits of all-wheel drive, where diving deep into corners and taking them at twice the posted speed limit was accomplished easily. Just point the Golf R AWD where you want it to go and hang on. The Golf GTI also handled sweet, taking tight twisties with aplomb and confidence. So what is the difference in the two? Easy: their weight.

The Golf R AWD comes in 300 pounds heavier than the Golf GTI FWD, with that added weight nicely compensated on the Golf R by the increased horsepower and torque. But there is something special about a lighter car, which also has excellent power numbers, whipping through tight or sweeping corners. There may a bit more rear end drift in the lighter GTI, but it was never an issue as far as feeling planted to the road.

The Golf R has torque vectoring while the GTI has torque sensing and a limited slip differential. What this means is the torque is seamlessly transferred to the wheel with the most demand, which improves mid-corner traction. No matter how hard you push it through a corner, the torque vectoring and sensing are never felt.

The Golf GTI comes with 225/40/18 all-season tires, with optional 235/35/19 summer tires. The Golf R only comes with the larger, stickier tire. Both have a strut-type front suspension with coil springs, telescopic dampers and an anti-roll bar on the rear. The result is a smooth and stable ride when going straight, and good lateral stability in the chassis, making for solid and confident highway cruising and cornering.

Stops were straight and true with the standard four-wheel anti-lock braking system, power assisted front vented and rear discs, electronic brake pressure distribution and electronic stability control.


The top line of the handling differences between the two come down to personal preference. Both are excellent and fun-to-drive. The Golf R is sold in only one model, so the $44,640 is what the sticker will say, while the GTI base price is significantly less at $30,540. This isn’t a true apples-to-apples comparison as the performance difference is the key pacing item between the two sedans. However, there is no loss of thrill if you go with the Golf GTI.

2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI
The view from the fun seat

So which to buy? Celebrate the differences in the two when on a lengthy test drive at your local Volkswagen dealer. If you can find a sales representative that understands your need to personally experience the driving capabilities of the Golf R and Golf GTI, you will be in for a treat.

Clean Fleet Report will review the 2022 Jetta, Jetta GLI, Golf GTI, and Golf R in the coming months, with full Road Test reviews where we put each car through the paces over several hundred miles.

Make sure to opt-in to the Clean Fleet Report newsletter (top right of page) and we’ll let you know whenever we have more news on cars and technology that’s changing how we get around.

Story by John Faulkner. Photos by John Faulkner and Volkswagen.


Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com or in the messages below.

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