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Exploration of Volkswagen Jetta 2022: An Enhanced Compact SUV

The Volkswagen Jetta for 2022 offers a richer assortment of standard features, enhancing its value as a compact vehicle. This five-seat vehicle and its peppy GLI variant vie in a condensed but feature-packed category of compact sedans, alongside rivals like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3, and various imports. Each contender in this class is commendable, and this year, the Jetta steps up its game by incorporating additional standard safety and convenience features to stay competitive.

In the 2022 model, the exterior changes are fairly subtle, with updates limited to the front and rear lower bumpers. Additionally, the vehicle now comes equipped with standard LEDs for the headlights, taillights, and daytime running lights. Inside, you’ll find a standard 8.0-inch digital instrument cluster, contrasting stitching on doors and armrests, and fresh cloth or leather seat designs. Volkswagen has introduced a 1.5-liter turbo-4 engine, similar to the one used in the VW Taos small crossover, to power the Jetta. The new Sport variant, situated between the S and SE/SEL trims, brings a touch of flair and excitement without breaking the bank. It features 17-inch alloy wheels, an electronic limited-slip front differential, and sleek black trim elements.

The Jetta exudes a sense of understated confidence, neither fading into the background nor dominating the spotlight. The updated lower front and rear bumpers extend outwards, creating a visually broader appearance for a sportier, more dynamic look. The sleek body lines running along the vehicle’s sides and beltlines to the rear complement the creased hood. As for the Jetta GLI, the body sits slightly lower, enhancing its profile, while the red exterior accents inject some liveliness into its otherwise unassuming shape.

Despite the introduction of a new turbo engine, fuel efficiency remains a key focus. The Jetta is engineered to deliver satisfaction at the fuel pump, making it a practical choice for most drivers. The GLI variant promises a more engaging driving experience, with the new Sport model striking a balance between performance and efficiency. Equipped with a standard 6-speed manual transmission, the Jetta places more control in the driver’s hands. However, at its core, this vehicle is designed to cater to the masses.

Operating solely on front-wheel drive, the Jetta is supported by front struts and a torsion-beam rear axle. The vehicle’s suspension prioritizes comfort over performance, although the addition of an electronic limited-slip differential in the new Sport model helps alleviate some of the typical understeer associated with front-wheel-drive vehicles. The steering is light and lacks feedback, consistent with the aim of appealing to a broad range of drivers.

Transitioning from last year’s sluggish 147-hp 1.4-liter turbo-4, the Jetta now boasts a larger 1.5-liter turbo-4 engine that shaves its 0-60 mph time to under eight seconds with the 8-speed automatic transmission. A 6-speed manual transmission is provided as standard. The same EA211 engine, delivering 158 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, propels the heavier 2022 Volkswagen Taos small crossover. The engine exhibits a slight lag before unleashing a spirited surge, starting as early as 1,500 rpm. At low throttle or during abrupt deceleration, the engine paired with the 8-speed transmission delivers a seamless performance.

For those seeking more dynamic performance, the 2022 GLI adopts the outgoing GTI hatchback’s 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine, producing 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. With the optional 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the GLI can achieve 60 mph in less than six seconds according to Volkswagen. The independent rear suspension, along with adaptive dampers and the limited-slip differential, ensures ample grip and responsiveness, earning the GLI the moniker of a GTI with a trunk. While the GLI has its merits, our preference leans towards the GTI due to its overall poise.

Despite the absence of a hybrid model, the Jetta’s turbo-4 engine boasts commendable efficiency. The new turbo-4 engine enhances fuel economy by 1 mpg compared to its predecessor, offering impressive figures of 31 mpg city, 41 mpg highway, and 35 mpg combined. Opting for the 6-speed manual transmission results in a slight reduction to 29 mpg city, 43 mpg highway, and 34 mpg combined. The Jetta GLI’s larger 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine achieves 25 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, and 28 mpg combined with the automatic transmission. Choosing the manual option leads to a nominal drop in the highway fuel efficiency. These figures align with top performers in the compact car segment, such as the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. However, hybrid variants of both vehicles boast significantly higher fuel efficiency ratings.

While its headlights may impact night visibility, the Jetta shines in crash tests. The inclusion of LED lights and standard automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and blind-spot monitors underscores the safety prowess of the 2022 Jetta. However, the base headlights fell short of meeting the IIHS standards, receiving a “Poor” rating for their LEDs, thereby missing out on the Top Safety Pick designation. Despite this setback, the vehicle excelled in all six crash tests, and we anticipate the NHTSA’s five-star crash rating to be retained. Volkswagen’s commitment to safety is further exemplified by offering its full suite of driver-assist features, including adaptive cruise control and active lane control, even on base models equipped with an automatic transmission, albeit for an additional $955.

Internally, the Jetta positions its modest touchscreen towards the driver, maintaining a focus on user convenience. The predominantly thin and lackluster plastics that adorn the visual surfaces, along with the basic upholstery, reflect the vehicle’s entry-level standing. The presence of climate dials and buttons serves as a welcome alternative to excessive touchscreen controls. Yet, the current 6.5-inch setup in most Jetta models feels somewhat like an afterthought. The button blanks adjacent to the shifter hint at missed opportunities.

Amply spacious for a compact vehicle, the Jetta accommodates varied lifestyles, transitioning seamlessly from everyday commuting to family outings. The front seats, separated by a substantial center console, offer modest comfort and restricted power configurations, with only the top-tier trim featuring leather upholstery. The interiors are primarily embellished with hard plastics, consistent with the vehicle’s entry-level identity. The appeal of the Jetta lies in its adaptability, accommodating scenarios ranging from a solo college commute to safely accommodating child safety seats.

Boasting 94.7 cubic feet of passenger volume, the 2022 Jetta nearly qualifies as a mid-size sedan per EPA classifications. Although the new Honda Civic sedan fits that larger category, the Jetta matches it in rear seat roominess. Both vehicles provide generous rear legroom, with the Jetta offering 37.4 inches, surpassing its compact sedan counterparts. With folding 60/40-split rear seats, the Jetta provides versatile cargo arrangements, albeit offering modest trunk space of 14.1 cubic feet. This configuration could host five college students on a winter break road trip, but traveling light is advisable due to the limited trunk space.

Despite its limited range of features, the Jetta’s affordability and warranty offering compensate for its shortcomings. Priced from $21,460, the base Jetta boasts 16-inch alloy wheels, cloth seats, a modest 6.5-inch touchscreen with smartphone compatibility, and an impressive 8.0-inch digital instrument cluster. All Jetta models come standard with a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty, inclusive of the initial two years or 20,000 miles of service.

Introducing the Sport variant for an additional $900, which elevates the price to $22,990, entails features like 17-inch black alloy wheels, black trim accents, and an electronic locking differential. The SE model, priced at $24,890, incorporates heated seats and synthetic leather, with the larger 8.0-inch touchscreen and 10.3-inch instrument cluster becoming standard in the premium $28,890 SEL trim. The price point of the SEL model may prompt prospective buyers to explore better-equipped alternatives like the Elantra.

Positioned at the apex of the lineup, the Jetta GLI Autobahn is priced at $32,390 for the manual transmission, with a nominal $800 increment for the automatic variant. Though more expensive than the Honda Civic Si, the GLI falls slightly below the spirited Elantra N. Encapsulating adaptive dampers, a sport exhaust, a limited-slip differential, and 18-inch alloy wheels, the fully-loaded GLI boasts an array of features, including keyless start, a 10.0-inch digital instrument cluster with dynamic views, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, Beats Audio, wireless smartphone charging, leather seats, a 6-way power driver’s seat, heated and cooled front seats, a sunroof, and 10-color ambient lighting. Despite the wealth of features, the GLI remains competitively priced compared to the Elantra N.

Volkswagen’s Jetta emerges as a distinctive option amidst the array of compact sedans, offering ample space and value. The 2022 Jetta embodies a sensible choice characterized by tasteful design, desirable features, and exceptional safety ratings. It epitomizes the slightly eccentric sedan that suits daily commuting needs, excelling in multiple areas without straining the budget. While the Jetta may lack flamboyance, it compensates with solid driving dynamics and exceptional value.

Image Source: Darren Brode / Shutterstock

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