Volkswagen Jetta

2016 Volkswagen Jetta

The Volkswagen Jetta compact sedan, built in Mexico, is Volkswagens best seller. For a good price, it offers German quality, the most interior space in the compact class, refinement, responsive performance, safety, and fuel economy. But now in its sixth year of this generation, its lines are beginning to look dated, despite a freshening of the fascia for 2015.

So for 2016, Jetta gets a new engine to keep it at the top of the game, a 1.4-liter turbo, plus infotainment and safety upgrades.

(The popular TDI diesel engine has been discontinued, on account of the emissions cheating scandal. There also used to be a Jetta Sportwagen, but it was redesigned for 2015 as a Golf.)

Jettas style is solid, with the focus on engineering rather than flair. Competitors with more flair include the Mazda 3, Ford Focus, Chevy Cruze, or Hyundai Elantra. The interior is clean, simple, refreshing, and Jetta kills the competition in room inside.

The new engine joins the four-cylinder turbo family. The 1.4T makes 150 horsepower, has low-rpm torque so its responsive, and the latest design technology. The 1.8T (in the Sport) makes 20 more horsepower, and the 2.0T (in the GLI) offers a 6-speed twin clutch transmission. Its the hot rod and the thirsty one.

Theres also a Jetta Hybrid, using the new engine, so its a turbo hybrid, with a high-voltage battery pack, more fun to drive than a Prius, while bringing an EPA-rated 44 mpg Combined, or 42/48/44 City/Highway/Combined.

Jetta 1.4T gets 28/40/33 City/Highway/Combined miles per gallon with the standard 5-speed manual, or 32 mpg Combined with the 6-speed automatic. The 2.0T only gets 23/33/27 mpg. All three engines take Regular gas and do not require pricier Premium.

In crash tests, the Jetta cant do any better. Five stars across the board with NHTSA, and Top Safety Pick+ from IIHS.

A rearview camera is standard on all but the rock-bottom-priced Jetta S.


2015 Volkswagen Jetta

For 2015, Volkswagen Jetta is updated with redesigned styling, an improved interior, retooled features and a new version of the TDI clean diesel engine. The 2015 Jetta is a compact four-door sedan with front-wheel drive.

The 2015 refresh of the sixth-generation Jetta includes a redesigned front end with a new bumper, wider lower air intake, new foglights. Up-level models get new LED daytime running lights. In the rear, the 2015 Jetta gets a new trunk lid, taillights and bumper. Aerodynamics are also improved, making the Jetta slip through the air more easily.

Inside, the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta gets a few upscale tweaks, including redesigned gauges and chrome accents around the dash and instrument panel. Still, the Jetta retains a clean, minimalist look that is functional and intuitive, although perhaps not emotionally stirring. Seats fit most drivers well, and the standard cloth upholstery is on par for the segment, while optional leatherette upholstery (standard on more expensive trims) is comfortable and could pass for real leather. New interior upholstery and finishes also debut, as well as updated equipment packages.

The revised 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder TDI clean diesel engine offers an increase in fuel efficiency over the previous version (by 4 mpg). The direct-injected powerplant makes 150 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, the latter on tap from as low as 1,750 rpm. EPA fuel economy estimates for the Jetta TDI are 31/46 mpg City/Highway, with the manual transmission and 31/45 mpg with the 6-speed dual clutch automatic. We found the engine smooth and capable, without too much noise, in both manual and DSG variants.

Other engines carry over from before: The base 2.0-liter naturally aspirated inline-4 makes 115 hp and 125 lb.-ft. of torque; the 1.8-liter turbocharged inline-4 makes 170 hp and 184 lb.-ft. of torque; sporty GLI models are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine good for 210 hp and 207 lb.-ft. of torque.

The Jetta Hybrid also continues for 2015, but in a single, fully loaded trim level, powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engine, paired with a 27-hp electric motor. Unlike many hybrids, the Jetta starts up on pure electricity and can run solely on the battery at speeds of up to 37 mph, according to Volkswagen (which, as with all cars, is heavily dependent on driving style). The combination of the gas engine and electric motor yields a total of 170 hp and a maximum of 184 lb.-ft. of torque.

In a 340-mile drive of the 2014 Jetta Hybrid, we got 35.0 miles per gallon combined driving, well below the EPA fuel economy rating of 42/48 mpg. Even for those who can achieve EPA numbers, we dont think the fuel savings is significant enough to merit a price premium of more than $4,000 over a similarly equipped TDI model. The Jetta Hybrid also requires Premium gasoline and has a smaller trunk to make room for the battery pack. For all these reasons, wed rather take the Jetta TDI.

In any form, the Jetta is comfortable to drive, with well-placed armrests, user-friendly cupholders, good door pockets and plenty of headroom. Our only complaint would be the optional navigation system, which is small and looks antiquated compared to others on the market. Considering sister company Audi does such a good job with their in-car technology, were surprised some of that hasnt trickled down to Volkswagen. Other controls are perfectly fine, including the gauges, climate and radio.

Competitors to the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta include other compact sedans like the Chevrolet Cruze (which is also available in a diesel variant), Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Mazda 3 and Toyota Corolla.


2014 Volkswagen Jetta

Volkswagen Jetta comes in a myriad of models and body styles. The current-generation Jetta sedan was introduced as a 2011 model to compete with the Ford Focus, Chevy Cruze, Mazda 3 and Honda Civic. The turbocharged Jetta GLI brought more content and power. Jetta TDI SportWagen, with its turbo-diesel direct-injection engine and available DSG twin-clutch auto-manual transmission, has been earning five-star reviews for its performance and fuel mileage. The Hybrid model joined the Jetta model line for 2013.

For 2014, there's a new engine to replace the stalwart five-cylinder (which lingers on in the SportWagen SE). The SE and SEL models come with a new 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes the same 170 horsepower as the old five-cylinder, with more torque (at a lower range), and getting 5 more miles per gallon. It's EPA rated at 26/36 mpg City/Highway.

Another significant change for 2014 is the scrapping of the torsion-beam rear suspension, which VW used in the 2011 redesign on S models, to keep the base price low. All Jettas now have a multi-link rear, which delivers a more compliant ride and precise handling.

The base Jetta S is very affordable but not the best value. It uses a single-overhead-cam 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 115 horsepower, with a 5-speed manual transmission standard and 6-speed automatic available. The engine is proven but it's slow and inefficient, rated 24/29 mpg with the automatic.

Our time in Jetta seats included 640 miles in the sporty GLI, with its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine boosted to 210 horsepower now, with premium fuel. It accelerates from 0 to 60 in 6.8 seconds, with the DSG twin-clutch automated manual transmission. The GLI offers a relaxed, refined sportiness.

We also did 340 miles in the 1.4-liter Hybrid, which comes standard with a 7-speed DSG transmission, different from the 6-speed DSG in the sedan, in that it's dry clutch rather than wet clutch. We got 35.0 miles per gallon combined city/highway driving, well below its rating of 42/48. It requires premium fuel, and has a smaller trunk to make room for the battery pack.

The Jetta TDI Sedan and SportWagen use the latest turbo-diesel direct-injection technology in their engine, a 2.0-liter making 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, while getting 30/42 EPA-rated mpg. We hear frequent reports of drivers getting over 40. Emissions are low. The TDI is so good we don't see a reason for the Hybrid. Volkswagen boasts that it has the best acceleration, sportiest handling, most rear legroom and biggest trunk in the compact sedan hybrid class, so maybe that's their reason.

The Jetta looks plain to some people because it's clean and simple, with subtle curves and no sculpting; strong wheel arches, a smooth roofline and attractive C pillars. It's about the same wheelbase as the Ford Focus and Honda Civic, but a few inches longer. It feels bigger all around, more like a midsize car to us, because it's so solid.

The interior is practical and well thought-out, although hard plastics are used in some models to keep the price competitive with Ford, Chevy, Honda, Hyundai, Mazda et al. However the trim is tasteful and the standard cloth seats fit well, while the optional V-Tex leatherette upholstery passes easily for real leather. The trim in the SEL is upgraded, and in the GLI Autobahn with Navigation that we drove for one week, the ambiance is perforated leather.

The utility comforts are designed well: comfortable driver armrests, user-friendly cupholders, good door pockets and grab handles. Good headroom, and class-leading rear legroom, 38.1 inches, nearly as much as a BMW 7 Series.

Alas, not so with navigation. In our 2013 review of the Jetta we called it a nightmare; in 2014 we're calling it the Obamacare Website of navigation systems, so many fails we finally gave up. We don't have the space to name them, and you'd get bored hearing them. Other controls and instruments are excellent, including the gauges, climate and radio. The available flat-bottomed steering wheel with perforated leather is terrific.

The SportWagen SE is the only model that continues to use the 5-cylinder engine. SportWagen interior is equal to that in cars costing thousands more. Solid, soft-touch materials abound. Because of its shorter wheelbase, the wagon has less space than the sedan for passengers, with 2.6 fewer inches of rear legroom and 1 inch less headroom. Naturally there's more space for cargo, with 32.8 cubic feet behind the rear seats, and an SUV-like 66.9 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded flat. It can be a great alternative to a crossover or SUV while offering outstanding fuel economy.


2013 Volkswagen Jetta

Volkswagen Jetta comes in a range of models with a choice of engines. Among them is a new Jetta Hybrid model that joins the 2013 Jetta lineup. The Volkswagen Jetta competes with compact cars such as the Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze and Honda Civic.

The Jetta sedan was redesigned for 2011 using less sophisticated technologies and lower-cost interior materials, with a lower price, a package with a great deal of value because the Jetta solidity and quality was still there. For 2012, the sporty turbocharged Jetta GLI reclaimed some of the lost content.

The Jetta TDI Sportwagen, with its turbo-diesel direct-injection engine (and especially its DSG twin-clutch automanual transmission), has gotten rave reviews for its performance and fuel mileage, 40-plus miles per gallon. Jetta Sportwagen rides on the previous-generation Jetta platform and has a more sophisticated suspension.

The base sedan model is the Jetta S, which uses a single-overhead-cam 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 115 horsepower. That engine is an old but solid design.

Jetta SE brings a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that makes more power, 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, while getting almost the same fuel mileage. The five-cylinder, 20-valve 2.5-liter engine is a Volkswagen stalwart, with good power. It's capable of propelling the Jetta SE from zero to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds with the 6-speed automatic, and powers Jetta to a top speed of 127 mph. It's EPA-rated at a Combined 26 mpg, about what we got over nearly 500 miles of driving in a Jetta SEL automatic and SEL manual. We prefer the very good automatic.

Most models offer a choice of 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. We found the sport mode for the 6-speed automatic sharp and effective. We used it in city driving, where it responded crisply on San Francisco's hills, and in slow-and-go freeway traffic, where it kept the transmission in third gear rather than upshifting and downshifting all the time. Manual mode can be used for spirited driving, shifting at the lever. It's programmed well, responsive and obedient.

Jetta Hybrid boasts an EPA-estimated 42/48 mpg City/Highway, 45 mpg Combined. We drove a Jetta Hybrid for one week, covering 340 miles, half city and half freeway, and we only got 35 mpg. Jetta Hybrid demands Premium gasoline, while the 2.5-liter five-cylinder on Jetta SE and SEL demands only less-expensive Regular.

The Jetta TDI Sedan and Sportwagen use the latest turbo-diesel direct-injection technology in their engine, making 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, while getting an EPA-rated 30/42 mpg City/Highway.

To keep the price down, Volkswagen uses an old-school rear torsion beam suspension in Jetta S and SE models; the ride is firm, but most owners won't miss a multi-link suspension. The build quality is impressive. The Jetta is quiet at speed and feels solid. Rear disc brakes have been added to these models for 2013, after gripes that the drum brakes on 2011 and 2012 models were archaic.

Jetta shoppers might notice that the interior materials on the base S model aren't of the highest quality; it's not that the materials are cheap, just less rich than they were a few years ago. There are hard plastics that can creak and rattle over the years. But the trim is tasteful, and the standard cloth seats fit well, while the optional V-Tex leatherette upholstery passes easily for real leather. The trim in the SE has been upgraded for 2013.

Jetta Sedan's interior is clean, stylish and comfortable, while being smart, accommodating and functional. There's good headroom front and rear. Rear-seat legroom is first in class at 38.1 inches, nearly as much as a BMW 7 Series. VW makes smart use of cupholders and little storage cubbies. The instruments are handsome, with clean white-on-black numbering.

Jetta GLI brings back all the interior quality. The dashboard is made of a soft-touch material, and there is accent stitching on the shifter, seats and steering wheel. The GLI features a 200-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo engine, accelerating from zero to 60 in 6.8 seconds using the magical DSG twin-clutch automated manual transmission. It offers a relaxed, refined sportiness that makes it the most satisfying Jetta to drive.

The Sportwagen has a nicer interior and multi-link independent rear suspension. With a shorter wheelbase, it has less rear legroom, but with the cargo room of an SUV and the popular TDI option, the Jetta Sportwagen can be a great alternative to a crossover or SUV while offering outstanding fuel economy.

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