A grey 2022 Jetta GLI is shown from the side while parked on top of a parking garage during a 2022 Volkswagen Jetta vs 2022 Honda Civic comparison.

Performance Sedans Upgrade: 2022 Volkswagen Jetta vs 2022 Honda Civic

For 2022, both the VW Jetta and Honda Civic have delivered some rather exciting updates to their lineups, most notably with the Jetta GLI and the Civic Si redesigns. VW chose to change the GLI offering to a single trim, which has been updated with a new appearance inside and out. Meanwhile, Honda has kept the Si on the back burner for 2021 to unveil it with a new look for 2022. For anyone who thinks sedans are a dying breed, comparing the 2022 Volkswagen Jetta vs. the 2022 Honda Civic reveals two daily drive sedans with alluring, sporty sides. Here, I will explore the options for spicing up your commute: the 2022 VW Jetta GLI and the 2022 Honda Civic Si.

An orange 2022 Honda Civic SI is shown from the rear at an angle exiting a parking garage in a city.

Rev Your Engines

Under the hood of the 2022 Jetta GLI is a peppy powerhouse that absolutely loves motoring along challenging curves. The tried and true 2.0-L turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes a substantial 228 hp with 258 lb-ft of torque, and is mated to either a six-speed manual or seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. Both transmissions have their advantages, depending on a driver’s preference for either shifting with the knob or utilizing the paddle shifters on the steering wheel. VW continues to build the GLI with its DCC adaptive chassis control that the driver can adjust to three levels of sport tuning—to accommodate the performance desired.

In addition to the adjustable suspension, the Jetta GLI comes with a limited-slip differential, which electronically controls steering and torque to keep the GLI balanced during tight maneuvers like sharp turns. Five drive modes allow even further adjustment options to the driving dynamics that give the GLI a sense of deeply personalized performance capability. This is a sedan with a serious sporty side that rivals much more expensive foreign cars in terms of its agility and smoothness. Toss into the mix the larger ventilated brakes on the front wheels—which come in bright red or blue to stand out against the blacked-out wheels—and you have the complete package for sporty drivability.

Turning to the Civic Si, a responsive 1.5-L turbocharged four-cylinder engine powers the sporty sedan, making 200 hp with 192 lb-ft of torque. Compared to the Jetta GLI, this is substantially less power, though it still delivers a satisfying amount of throttle when hitting the accelerator. The engine is paired to a six-speed manual transmission with rev-matching, but drivers unfamiliar with a stick shift won’t be able to take advantage of the Si unless they want to learn how to use a clutch; there is no automatic available. Honda does fit a limited-slip differential to the Si, as well as a stiffer suspension for improved handling, both of which offer more control when cornering or taking a winding road. Only three drive modes are available for the Si, one of which is solely for sports performance.

Looks Are Everything

As it turns out, both the Civic and Jetta stray toward a minimalistic design, particularly for 2022 models. When upping the sportiness for the performance models, each of these sedans goes for chic and classy vibes that still feel adventurous and modern. On the outside, the Jetta GLI gets its signature red stripe across the dark upper grille, then the lower grille in the front fascia gains red-trimmed edging to the air curtains. Black and red are placed strategically around the entire car, making the red stand out against the other black elements like the wheels and mirrors, as well as the lower rear fascia. In contrast, the Civic Si uses the black elements more sparingly on the outside, with a smaller grille and more reliance on shaping the sidewalls for interest.
Additionally, the Civic Si has black side mirrors and one black detail on the back end, with a black spoiler on the deck lid. Though the Si has a more sporty demeanor than the rest of the lineup, placing the Si next to the Jetta GLI would reveal a more refined design in the VW.

Inside, the sporty design cues continue, with a dark interior accented with red stitching in both sedans. However, the Jetta GLI takes a slightly different approach to style execution. Understated red lining beneath the perforated leather seat inserts teases the eye with its gentle red backdrop; pinstripe red lines hint at the color in the trim rather than being bold and brash, and even the stitching is a gentle suggestion of this sedan’s performance capabilities. One bold red line across the dash is the most eye-catching detail, which echoes the red brake calipers and front fascia on the outside.
For the Civic Si, the interior has straighter lines, sharper contrasts in color between the dark upholstery and the red seat inserts, and a long line of honeycombed trim—which expertly hides the climate control vents in the dash. Slim red lines add a flourish of color to the dash and match the red in the driver display dials. Overall, the interior does have a fresh, modern appeal. Where the design veers away from the Jetta GLI is most noticeable in the touchscreen and driver display. For the Jetta, the GLI gets a fully digital display that can be configured, and the touchscreen in the center stack blends seamlessly into the dash as part of the whole command center. Honda adds the touchscreen to the top of the dash as though it was an afterthought, rather than an intentional part of the Si’s systems; also, the driver display is only partially digital.

Steering wheels are another point of contrast between the two performance sedans, with the GLI being gifted with a sport-style steering wheel that has a flat bottom and perforated grip points at the 10 and 2 o’clock spots on the wheel. With the addition of the new GLI badging on the wheel, the overall look is appealing.

Honda holds back on giving the Si any special treatment for the steering wheel, other than contrast stitching on the leather-wrapped surface. The seats in the Si are probably the saving grace of its interior in comparison to the GLI, as the heavy bolstering and design are certainly welcome. In general, the interior doesn’t feel very special for the Civic Si, particularly for the higher price tag—compared to the rest of the Civic lineup.

A grey 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is shown from the front.

How the Models Compare

The 2022 Jetta GLI has a higher price tag than the 2022 Civic Si, but the extra performance, more customized driving experience, and better-tuned suspension are going to be more satisfying to drive. For buyers keen to have all the latest tech in the cabin, both performance sedans sit at the top of their lineups and each one comes loaded with features. The GLI offers wireless charging, WiFi connectivity, and smartphone connectivity through the VW App-Connect system. A Beats Audio system, ambient lighting, and heated and ventilated seats are just a few of the highlights of the interior of the GLI.

Although, the Si certainly has its own impressive attributes. Honda similarly offers wireless charging, WiFi connectivity, and Apple CarPlay with the companion Android Auto systems for smartphone integration. A Bose sound system is on board for the audio, and heated seats make chilly mornings more comfortable. Ambient lighting and ventilation are off the list of features for the Civic Si, though it does come with a moonroof.

Again, the slightly higher price for the 2022 Jetta GLI is well worth the extra attention to design, performance, and features that come with the VW sport sedan. Interior space is larger for 2022 as well, which is a bonus if you need to accommodate passengers while you enjoy the scenic route to work.