To say that the 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance is as divisive as it is popular would be a huge understatement. As the perennial hot hatch, there is a ton of history that this latest generation has to live up to. Expectations have run high as enthusiasts have certain requirements when it comes down to affordable performance cars. Even with a smaller playing field, competition is stronger than ever and some of the best hot hatches ever made are currently on sale.
The Golf GTI may no longer be the top dog in the Volkswagen lineup as it has been replaced by the impressive Golf R, but that’s not to say that the GTI should be ignored. It remains a highly capable performance hatchback that raises the bar once again for cars putting power down through the front wheels.
Let’s get the worst part of the 2022 GTI out of the way. The user interface and lack of physical buttons for the infotainment make this a head scratcher. With touch sensitive buttons, you are repeatedly swiping or pounding flat surfaces to change the volume or temperature. You can use the touch sensitive buttons on the steering wheel for radio controls, phone calls or to activate the heated wheel. This also means that during turns, if your hand grazes one of the “buttons”, something might get adjusted.
The lack of illumination on the dash to adjust volume and temperature is puzzling as well. Hopefully, Volkswagen addresses this issue in the next model year. Onto the good stuff; the 2022 Golf GTI has an impressive driving experience that combines the right mix of performance, handling and sophistication that many of the competition has foregone in favour of efficiency.
A standard electronic limited slip differential can be found on the GTI, much like rivals such as the Honda Civic Si or the Hyundai Veloster N. Volkswagen has even offered the ability to turn off stability control completely. Up front, the suspension has revised damping hydraulics and reconfigured wishbone bearings. The multi-link rear suspension gets new wishbone bearings, springs and wheel mounts. All in all, front and rear spring rates are up 5% and 15%, respectively, over the seventh generation GTI.
The 2022 Golf GTI handles remarkably well at high speeds and provides a great level of confidence when pushed. Bumps are soaked up with little disturbance to those inside. Unlike the Veloster N, going into the sportiest setting will not require a visit to the chiropractor. The steering has decent feel and reacts to inputs almost instantaneously. The Performance model here also includes Dynamic Chassis Control with Driving Profile Selection, allowing custom driver settings or choosing between Eco, Comfort and Sport.
Power comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder, making 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft. of torque. Throttle response is sharper and power is more readily available than before. Our tester is equipped with the seven-speed DSG dual-clutch setup, which shifts quickly and smoothly, though obviously a six-speed manual is still available. Shift paddles on the steering wheel could be slightly larger but do the job otherwise. Volkswagen has even added some drama from the exhaust with slight pops and burbles in Sport mode.
The exterior of the 2022 GTI is an evolution of the overall design that the brand has stuck with over several year; it is handsome and upscale. LED headlights, fog lights and a modern light strip across the grill all look fantastic. We like to think of the GTI and Golf R as the gentleman’s hot hatches when compared to the boy-racer looks of the Honda Civic Type R.
Take a seat into a premium interior that is slightly behind the quality feel of the previous generation. It uses higher quality materials than Japanese and Korean competitors but for owners of the previous model, it seems that compromises were made to load up the new GTI with technology. There are more plastics and the abundance of piano black makes dust and fingerprints visible. The large 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit Pro and 8.25-inch touchscreen brighten up the interior and give it a futuristic look. The Performance model has the 10-inch screen, heads-up display and Harman-Kardon sound system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
There is more than enough room for four full sized adults in the Volkswagen Golf GTI. Headroom is more than plentiful for my six-foot-three frame both in the front and rear. Legroom in the back is fairly tight for a similar sized adult behind me, but for young couples or singles, it’s more than enough. Fold down the rear seats for 977-liters of cargo space, or 564-liters with the seats intact.
Thankfully, the new GTI can be filled with regular grade fuel which currently costs astronomical amounts here in Canada. Fuel economy ratings sit at 9.8L/100km in the city and 6.9L/100km on the highway. We observed 9.1L/100km in combined driving over a frigid winter week.
With its fun to drive nature, excellent cargo capacity, good looks and fuel efficiency this is one of the smarter options currently on the market. If buyers can look beyond the difficult controls of the 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance, there is much to love about this hot hatchback. Spend some time behind the wheel and prioritize the driving experience and maybe eventually, enthusiasts will get used to the quirks.