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2022 Volkswagen Jetta SEL Premium – Review by David Colman +VIDEO

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2022 Volkswagen Jetta SEL Premuium

So much to love, but it’s like forcing a world-class sprinter to wear ski boots

David Colman

Photos and Story By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL

Jetta gets a mild mid-cycle refresh this year. All four available grades (S, Sport, SE and SEL) share the same 1.5 liter turbocharged engine which also powers the VW's new Taos SUV. This engine makes 158hp at 5500rpm and 184lb.-ft. of torque at 1750-4000rpm. Only front wheel drive is available on the Jetta, but VW gives you a choice of two transmissions. You can equip the $21,360 S or the newly introduced $22,260 Sport model with either a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic gearbox. The more fully equipped SE ($25,090) and the SEL ($29,090) we drove offer only the automatic gearbox which lacks paddles but does offer manual operation with a bump stick.

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Despite the introduction of the Sport model, none of these Jetta variants are sport biased. If you are interested in higher levels of performance, VW offers the $32,000 Jetta GLI, which ups the ante with a 2.0 liter turbo producing 228hp. The SEL takes 7.6 seconds to sprint from 0-60mph and 15.9 seconds to run the quarter mile at 88.2mph. That's quick enough for keeping up with traffic on the freeway, but not quick enough to have much fun on back roads. The GLI, on the other hand, sprints from 0-60mph in 5.5 seconds and turns the quarter in 14.1 seconds at 101mph. Although the SEL is at a distinct power and performance disadvantage to the GLI, it's still spunky enough to get the job done as a grocery getter. But throttle response posed drivability problems. When you floor the accelerator, the turbo initially lags, then overcompensates with a delayed shot of unneeded boost. It reminded me of the way closed captioning always seems out of synch with the image being shown.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

VW provides a tall shift lever which operates two adjacent gates: left for fully automatic operation, right for manual manipulation. While this system works well for swapping cogs, its remote location falls short of paddle shifting convenience. We were initially dismayed to discover no gear shift pattern displayed on the console next to the lever. Finally, we realized that VW had imbedded the gear pattern inside the poorly lit clear plastic top of the knob itself - which you cover with your hand before you shift. The new high resolution digital dash does provide clear gear readouts, but they're no substitute for a legible gear map on the console.

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Another mystery is VW's choice of tires for our test Jetta. This softly sprung sedan needs all the adhesion its tires can generate, but the small and tall (205/55R17) Bridgestone Turanza LS100 radials were not up to that job. These mud and snow rated tires carry the highest (i.e. longest life) treadwear rating (TW 560) we have yet seen on an OEM street tire. Combined with the Jetta's penchant for heavy understeer, and the Bridgestones' proclivity for squealing, the SEL proved a handful on twisty back roads. While these Bridgestones may last you forever, you'll be hoping they wear out sooner rather than later so you can replace them with something stickier.

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We liked the cabin design of the revamped Jetta. Inside this space, the VW character of the car asserts itself forcefully. The new dash and instrument panel VW devised for the latest Golf line is also utilized on upper echelons of the Jetta like our SEL. Dash graphics are clear and well illuminated. Many computer functions are controlled by switches on the chunky steering wheel, also a new generation Golf design. VW did a yeoman job of fitting the front seats with beautifully tailored, perforated tan seating surfaces highlighted by charcoal side bolsters. This visual splendor is heightened by the use of contrasting white thread on the seats, dash and door paneling. VW still manages to infuse their products with a familial lineage that eschews flash and gimmickry in favor of style simplicity and design continuity. When you're seated in a VW, you know it can't be anything else.

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PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The exterior styling evolution of the Jetta makes it more friendly on your eyes than ever. The upper and lower beltlines give this sedan a visual thrust that is enhanced by the splendid complexity of the new Zig Zag Moderne alloy rims. The revised Jetta SEL is definitely a looker, but we'd equip ours with the GLI drivetrain and the stickiest radials money can buy.


    • ENGINE: 1.5 liter inline 4, turbocharged TSI
    • HORSEPOWER: 158hp@5500rpm
    • TORQUE: 184lb.-ft.@1750-4000rpm
    • BASE PRICE: $29,090

HYPES: 16 cubic foot trunk, Gen 8 VW Dash

GRIPES: Flaccid Suspension, Poor Tire Choice

STAR RATING: 8 Stars out of 10