The updated 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI starts at $31,895 while the all-new 2022 Subaru WRX is priced from $30,995.
Both these sport compact cars target different audiences but meet in the middle.
The choice here is premium or all-terrain performance.
This is as good a place as any to once more remind you all that we are currently living in the good old days. Take a second to consider the number of V8-powered cars still available for sale and how large the sport-compact car segment has become of late. Two of the most appealing and affordable players are the 2022 Subaru WRX and the 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI.
Other considerations among sport compacts are anything N from Hyundai, the Volkswagen GTI of course, the wonderful Toyota GR 86, the slightly less sporty Mazda3 Turbo, the impressive Honda Civic Si, and its maligned twin, the Acura Integra. In more serious terms, there’s the VW Golf R, Toyota GR Corolla, and the soon-to-launch Honda Civic Type R. Like I said, these are good times.
A highlight in 2022 is that with just over $30,000, there are practical, fast, and sporty sedans available that can easily do double-duty as a family vehicle and a weekend track toy. And what fascinates me about the GLI and WRX is that, like the Si vs. the GLI, once more, is that despite the similarities between the VW and Subie, is that they cater to different audiences. This is what we’re going to explore in the following comparison test.
What is the pricing and when will they be available?
Both cars are currently available and can be configured online. The all-new WRX launched in the summer of 2021 while the facelifted 7th generation Jetta was introduced earlier this year.
The 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI starts at $31,895 with a manual transmission. The only option is the DSG automatic transmission which adds $1,400 to the price tag. Colour selection can increase the price by up to $495.
Pricing for the new 2022 Subaru WRX begins at $30,995. Contrary to the GLI, which is offered in a single trim, the WRX can be spec’d out to nearly $41,895.
Which is more entertaining to drive?
In this scenario, we’ll lean towards the WRX.
This opinion is based solely on the fact that, like the Civic Si, the Subaru is more eventful and involving. Its new turbocharged 2.4L flat-4 is gruntier, louder, and more in-your-face. This is part of the WRX’s appeal.
The boosted flat-4 is one of the more powerful mills in the sub-super-hot-compact car segment with 271 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. And thanks to the included AWD, it’s also among the quickest with a sprint time, with a properly harsh launch, reaching 100 km/h from a standstill in 5.5 seconds.
Unlike the GLI, the drive is far less filtered and refined. That’s because the Subaru is designed to be driven but not without a minimal amount of effort on the driver’s behalf. The shifter’s notchy, the clutch is heavy-ish, and essentially there’s far more going on. Thanks to the Global Platform, the WRX delivers solid overall performance without rattles or shaking.
Bottom line, the WRX is still rallye-derived meaning it can tackle any and all driving situations you may find yourself in.
The Jetta GLI is the grown-up alternative. Despite its turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder being less powerful at 228 horsepower, but with the same 258 lb.-ft. of torque, it’s still quick as it’s capable of reaching 100 km/h in about 6 seconds. The standard 6-speed manual transmission is one of the easiest to manipulate – consider it a good car to learn manual shifting with.
Chassis-wise, the Jetta GLI has a massive advantage in its standard adaptive dampers. Via the drive modes, the available settings transform the ride from cossetting to firm with limited body roll. The level of comfort is near-luxury-like meaning it can be painlessly daily-driven. Likewise, it will demonstrate impressive skills on your favorite track.
The Subaru WRX does suffer from subpar brake-pedal response. It’s not a deal breaker as the driver will eventually become accustomed to it. The GLI’s brakes operate as expected.
Which is better equipped?
The 2022 Jetta GLI, and by a considerable margin. Volkswagen has not only fitted adaptive dampers and 18-ich wheels, but they’ve also thrown in a 10.25-inch digital IP, power-adjustable front seats (with power driver lumbar support), leather, cooled front seats, heated rear seats, an 8-inch touchscreen, and a few other items for of $900 less more than the WRX. And, should you want the transmission to shift itself, the 7-speed DSG is a $1,400 option.
The WRX’s HUGE advantages are more power and the brand’s symmetrical AWD. In every other respect, the Subaru comes up way short of the Volkswagen. For example, only front cloth seats are heated, it rolls on 17-inch wheels, features a dual 7-inch screen layout, and that’s about it…
What About Styling?
Frankly, both cars are little more than okay-looking.
The facelifted mk7.5 Jetta, even in GLI trim, is kind of bland with a few red highlights and black wheels. At one point not so long ago, I would have qualified the Jetta as being understated and mature but it’s more bloated than anything else.
The Volkswagen’s cabin is fair. Unlike the Subaru, the displays are nicer and more user-friendly. Fit and finish are good, and the seats are comfortable.
The new WRX is a hit-and-miss. A hit because it cannot be mistaken for anything than a Subaru WRX. The design evolved nicely from one generation to the next, however, and this is the miss, it could have done without the wheel arch flares. I suspect that this is one reason why the press unit was Magnetite grey and not Ignition red, Solar orange, or World Rallye blue.
The Subaru’s interior remains a big step up from past generations of the WRX however its major flaw is the large 11.6-inch infotainment display. Generally speaking, navigating the menus requires too many actions and attention from the driver.
In both cases, the cars offer plenty of room for the average family and a generous trunk for weekend trips to the country or weekly runs to Costco.
For both interior and exterior styling, the new Honda Civic Si fares far better.
Our Thoughts On The 2022 Subaru WRX And 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI
The first answer to “what car?” in this segment is: WRX. For its $30,995 base asking price, no other car will match it performance-wise. In fact, short of spending over $7,500 more for a Hyundai Elantra N or beyond $10,000 more for a Volkswagen Golf R, the WRX owns them all in nearly all driving situations.
The Jetta GLI is easier to live with, quieter, better on fuel, and luxurious is comparison but it’s more premium small sedan than a sport compact car.
Like the GLI vs. Si comparison review, despite the GLI and WRX being in the same segment and playing the same game, both cars are earmarked for different drivers.
For me, the WRX is the final answer for just over $30k. The story is a little different closer to $40k ($39,295 as tested) as said Golf R is nearly in play. Even so, the base WRX, with a $6,000-7,000 budget for modifications (wheels, tires, ECU reflash, and possibly a suspension) will do laps around the super Golf.