Previewing Volkswagen’s 2022 Golf GTI

The hatchback gets an aggressive makeover

Come 2022, the base Volkswagen Golf will, sadly, no longer be sold in the USA. While this is a design story about the 2022 Golf GTI, it’s important to understand that the Golf—which has been available in the USA since the 1970s—won’t be available in this part of the world because when Americans purchase hatchbacks they prefer aggressive hatchbacks rather than basic ones. The good news is we will be able to buy the 2022 GTI when it goes on sale late next year and it will come with a familiar turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, now producing 241 horsepower—that’s 13 more than what’s on offer today. Plus, it will be available as a stick or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. It will be more technically capable with a redesigned suspension with multiple settings, from pliant to racer rigid. Even though this car still looks like a Golf, every body panel is entirely new and subtly reworked, and it is visually signaled.

Head of Volkswagen Group Design, Klaus Bischoff, stresses two points: that the grille and the entire front of the car had to broadcast a departure from the seventh-generation Golf GTI with a lower “visual” center of gravity, and that the side view of the car had to look more aggressive. The slightly longer, slightly lower, and slightly more aerodynamic lines all add to this, Bischoff notes.

Seventh-generation Golf GTI

Taken in pieces, that begins with the face of the eighth-generation (MkVIII) GTI. The hexagonal honeycomb-patterned intake that was in both upper and lower grilles from the fifth-generation GTI in 2004 onward, slowly growing wider in subsequent models, is now a prominent maw stretching the entire width of the front end.

Eighth-generation Golf GTI

What’s harder to notice is that the upper grille is now nearly eliminated. It’s just a slit. This, in part, allows a far more steeply raked hood, and a thin red LED is now integrated at the nose of the car that highlights the MkVIII GTI when you’re using the driving or headlights.

Eyeball that lower honeycomb grille a little more closely and you can see a very clever design feature: an x-pattern of LEDs now create lower fog lamps. Lots of carmakers are integrating LED lighting for design features these days, but this time we’re not just seeing a tacked on tube of accent lighting. VW’s making a signature that’s also functional—illuminating the road and celebrating technology at once.

Bischoff also notes that this MkVIII has a more wedge-like shape overall. Again, that starts with the quick-slope of the hood forward, opposed by the waterfall rearward, the arc of the roof snapping off more quickly at the back of the car. Visually, that’s created with both the glass pinching into a wide V toward the second-row passenger door in concert with a rising shoulder line. All of this gives the MkVIII a speedier rearward direction.

One bit of history Volkswagen has preserved are the standard plaid seating surfaces inside the car. While you can get sport leather seats instead, cloth has been the way to go with the GTI since the 1980s and we’re happy to see that even as the car looks more aggressive outside, Volkswagen has maintained comfortable, classic material. They’ve also reverted to a perforated steering wheel (with integrated digital functions), referencing the sporty VW way back to the ’70s.

While dual exhaust pipes on the rear debuted in 2009, on the MkVIII they are enlarged and pulled as wide as possible, providing the impression of a more planted stance.

While the Golf is unfortunately extinct in the US and we also won’t get the ID.3 electric hatchback, Volkswagen’s team did hint that they’re studying the performance EV space for the future. While the first all-electric VWs available in the United States will be SUVs, the future not only will be electric, but variants like the GTI and the R hatch are certainly coming. The question is when—and if Americans finally embrace sporty hatchbacks that don’t burn gasoline.

Images courtesy of Volkswagen