Even among the high-power hot hatches, the Volkswagen Golf GTI is still a segment benchmark. Which makes sense, given that it did establish it in the 80s. And it’s so popular in the US that although we’re not getting the next-gen Golf, the GTI and Golf R are coming here. But is the 2022 Volkswagen GTI worth waiting a whole year for compared to the current-gen model?
2022 vs. 2021 Volkswagen GTI: specs and features
Currently, the Volkswagen GTI is in its 7th generation. For the 2021 model year, the hot hatch goes from ‘Mk 7’ to ‘Mk 8,’ Car and Driver explains. At least, that’s the case outside of the US, Motor Trend explains. Here, the Mk 7 Golf GTI continues for 2021, while the Mk 8 arrives for the 2022 model year.
The new generation comes with a few upgrades. The US-spec 2021 Volkswagen GTI’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder makes 228 hp and 258 lb-ft. That’s sent to the front wheels via a limited-slip differential and either a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed automatic. And while those transmissions and differential carry over, the Mk 8 has more power, Motor1 reports. Its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder makes 245 hp and 273 lb-ft.
The powertrain isn’t the only part of the Volkswagen GTI that’s been updated. The suspension has stiffer springs and bushings, Roadshow reports, with a lighter but more rigid subframe. The adaptive dampers have been reprogrammed, and now come with a dedicated Snow Mode. And instead of traditional gauges, the Golf GTI now has a digital gauge cluster, with higher trims getting a 10.25” driver’s display and 10” touchscreen.
Speaking of the interior, that’s also been touched-up in the 2022 GTI. Automatic climate control is now standard, as are heated plaid cloth seats. But the optional leather ones offer ventilation on top of heating. And unlike the Mk 7, the Mk 8 has several standard ADAS features, such as automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist.
How does the 2022 Golf GTI drive compared to the 2021 model?
In that sense, the 2022 Mk 8 is more of the same, Motor1 reports. The interior materials are excellent, and the well-bolstered sport seats are comfy enough for long-distance trips. The only missteps are somewhat cheap-feeling shift paddles and a lack of physical buttons.
Dynamically, it performs much like the 2021 Golf GTI, Car and Driver, and Motor1 report, only better. It turns into corners quicker, and with less dive. There’s no understeer and minimal body roll, just tons of grip. But even so, it never rides harshly.
In short, the 2022 Volkswagen GTI takes what’s already great about the 2021 model, and bumps it up a bit.
Should you wait for it?
The 2022 Volkswagen GTI is expected to launch in the US sometime in late 2021, Car and Driver reports. As of this writing, the Mk 8’s pricing has not been revealed. However, it likely won’t change significantly from the Mk 7, which starts at $28,595.
But if you’re in the market for a hot hatch, is it worth waiting for the updated GTI? That depends. The Mk 8 does have more standard features—safety and otherwise—more power, and sharper driving dynamics. But it’s not like the current-gen Golf GTI is horrible by comparison. So, if you’re in the market for a new car now, you won’t go wrong picking the 2020 or 2021 model. But if you can wait a year, the 2022 Volkswagen GTI will be a welcome reward.
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