• Apr 5th 2011 at 3:28PM
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2011 Volkswagen Jetta – Click above for high-res image gallery

The new for 2011 Volkswagen Jetta received a new, far lower base price tag of $15,995, but Consumer Reports evidently feels that the more affordable sticker has come at too high of a cost to the vehicle itself. The buyer-centric organization ranked the Jetta dead last among 11 small sedans tested for the April edition of its magazine.

David Champion, senior director of the group's Auto Test Center says, "In an effort to bring the car's starting price down, VW cheapened the previous Jetta's interior and suspension, making it less sophisticated and compromising handling."

CR isn't pulling any punches while describing why the sedan fares so poorly, calling it "a shadow of the agile, well-finished car it once was." Ouch. Specifically, the VW was dinged hard for sub-par handling and cornering grip, poor interior fit and finish and its coarse-sounding 2.5-liter, five-cylinder. In addition, CR came away disappointed with long brake distances and a six-speed automatic that is reluctant to downshifting.

We're thinking VW may not like CR's take on the Jetta, but at least the automaker can point to increased sales as the reason the automaker decided to remove so much of what made the Jetta so popular with enthusiasts.

Other vehicles tested were the Chevrolet Cruze in both LS and LT trims and the Hyundai Elantra. The Cruze models are now rated at the middle of CR's small sedan pack, with a Very Good overall score. The Elantra came away with laurels for the being the best small sedan in its class, and the Hyundai was the only small sedan among the latest four tested to be given CR's official Recommendation. Hit the jump to read over CR's press release.

Photos copyright ©2011 Damon Lavrinc / AOL

[Source: Consumer Reports]
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YONKERS, NY- The newly redesigned Volkswagen Jetta now ranks last among the 11 small sedans that have been tested by Consumer Reports. Engineers found fault with its agility, cornering grip, coarse engine, braking, interior fit and finish, and so-so fuel economy.

"The new Jetta is unimpressive," said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center in East Haddam, CT. "In an effort to bring the car's starting price down, VW cheapened the previous Jetta's interior and suspension, making it less sophisticated and compromising handling."

The four-vehicle small sedan test group also featured two versions of the new Chevrolet Cruze-which CR found light-years ahead of the crude Chevrolet Cobalt that it replaced -- and the latest generation Hyundai Elantra.

The Cruze now ranks mid-pack among the 11 small sedans tested, with a Very Good overall score. The two versions tested handled nicely and felt substantial. But a tight rear seat and so-so fuel economy for this class reduced the Cruze's overall scores.

Consumer Reports findings on the newly redesigned Elantra were highlighted last month in CR's Annual Auto Issue, where it was named a Top Pick in its category. It currently ranks as the best small sedan that's been tested by the publication, followed by the Nissan Sentra, Subaru Impreza and Toyota Corolla, in descending order. The Sentra, Impreza and Corolla had all been tested previously. The redesigned Ford Focus just went on sale; Consumer Reports will be testing one in the months ahead.

Prices for the small sedans tested in this group ranged from $18,375 for the Cruze LS to $20,530 for the Cruze LT.

The issue also features a test of the redesigned Scion tC coupe and ratings of car batteries including four from a new lower-cost line of batteries called PlusStart that performed well.

The Elantra is the only vehicle in the test group that is Recommended. The Cruze LS, Scion tC, and Volkswagen Jetta scored too low to be Recommended. The Cruze LT is too new for Consumer Reports to have adequate reliability data to Recommend. Consumer Reports only recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR's Annual Auto Survey of its more than seven million print and Web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.

The wagon version of the Jetta, called the SportWagen, is based on the previous generation of the vehicle; the SportWagen is still Recommended.

Full tests and ratings for all five of these test vehicles appear in the May issue of Consumer Reports, which goes on sale April 5th. The reports are also available to subscribers of www.ConsumerReports.org.Updated daily,ConsumerReports.org is the go-to site for the latest auto reviews, product news, blogs on breaking news and car buying information.

The redesigned Hyundai Elantra combines nimble handling with a comfortable, well-controlled ride. The interior is well equipped and neatly laid out. Quick, responsive steering and little body lean help the Elantra feel agile. Emergency handling is very secure. The Elantra GLS ($18,445 MSRP as tested,) is powered by a 148-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that provides decent performance and gets 29 mpg overall in CR's own fuel economy tests. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and responsively. Braking is Very Good. Fit and finish is good for the class. The trunk is spacious. CR expects reliability to be above average like the previous Elantra.

The Chevrolet Cruze handles nicely and has a taut and controlled ride. Its relatively heavy weight-as much as some larger mid-sized family sedans-hampers fuel economy and acceleration. The Cruze LS ($18,375 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 138-hp, 1.8-liter four cylinder engine. The uplevel Chevrolet Cruze LT ($20,530 MSRP as tested,) is powered by a 138-hp 1.4 liter turbocharged four cylinder. Both engines perform adequately and get 26 mpg overall, but the LT's engine is more responsive and refined. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. Braking is Very Good. The well-finished cabin is one of the nicest in this class, but the rear seat is tight. There is a good-sized trunk. Some popular and important features, like power mirrors, are unavailable on the Cruze LS.

The redesigned Volkswagen Jetta is a shadow of the agile, well-finished car it once was. The rear seat is roomier and the trunk is huge, but handling agility and cornering grip now fall short, as does the finish inside the formerly impeccable interior. The Jetta SE ($20,800 MSRP as tested), is powered by a coarse-sounding 170-hp, 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that gives adequate acceleration and gets 25 mpg overall. The six-speed automatic transmission can be slow to downshift. Braking distances are long. Cargo space can be expanded by folding the 60/40 rear seatback.

The redesigned Scion tC is a well-equipped coupe that provides responsive handling as well as very good fuel economy and acceleration. A jittery ride, noisy cabin, and limited rear visibility are low points. The Scion tC ($19,165 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 180-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that is responsive and gets an impressive 28 mpg. The six-speed manual transmission shifts precisely, and effortlessly, but it lacks the sporty feel of the best shifters. Braking is Very Good. Fit and finish are unimpressive. Cargo space is good and the 60/40-split rear seatbacks fold to create a generous hatchback bay.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Buying sales by cutting costs could in the long run cause problems.
      • 4 Years Ago
      According to the CR press release:

      "The Elantra is the only vehicle in the test group that is Recommended. The Cruze LS, Scion tC, and Volkswagen Jetta scored too low to be Recommended. The Cruze LT is too new for Consumer Reports to have adequate reliability data to Recommend."

      How could the Cruze not have enough data to recommend because it is new, but the Elantra is recommend? The Cruze has been on the market longer. This is not a comment on the Elantra, but on CR's methodology.

      That last time CR did this it was when the Toyota Tundra was all new and recommended, but the Silverado also "all new" but they said their wasn’t enough information to recommend. Of course the Tundra went on the break cam shafts, tail gates and more issues.

      CR might be right about the VW, but their methodology still sucks.
        • 4 Years Ago
        thefourthheat: "Even though the Elantra is new it's parts are developed off of the previous generation (and in some markets it uses the same engine still), whereas the same doesn't apply to the Cruze."

        That does not explain it. In my example, the Tundra was all new. There had never before been a full-sized Tundra, it had new engines, new transmissions, a new platform and built in a new plant. The Silverado had carryover engines and transmissions and was built in a plant that was known for quality, yet could not be rated becuase it was "too new". CR does not add up.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It's because the Cruze isn't considered a continuation of the Cobalt lineage (and it shouldn't be, it's on a completely different platform) whereas the Elantra is an updated version of an existing vehicle/platform. Even though the Elantra is new it's parts are developed off of the previous generation (and in some markets it uses the same engine still), whereas the same doesn't apply to the Cruze.
        Basically the Cruze is far too different from the Cobalt for them to use the data in figuring out reliability. Consumer Reports does use data from the previous vehicle even if you change the name of the vehicle but only if they're really closely related (like the Ford Five Hundred transitioning to being named Taurus).
        This isn't just how Consumer Reports figures long term reliability either, this is how every single reliability report figures long term reliability-you use previous model years of the same model car.
      • 4 Years Ago
      CR's rates are for knowledgeable and eager to read people, much more as a kind of theory. Sales are something absolutely different in many case things, more representing the real life. Both things usualy don't overlap, at least at the beginning of the particular vehicle's life cycle. So making the product worse is may be the way VW can reach their goal to sale more Jettas, whitch seems to me is the case here!
      • 4 Years Ago
      My wife had a Jetta. Not this model, but it was without a doubt, the worst car we ever owned. It was always in the shop. Drove real nice, sporty, but terrible reliability. One night, it left us stranded on 95 at 2am. I had it towed to the nearest Subaru dealership and actually waited outside all night for them to open to trade it in on a WRX. VW can be tempting but just don’t do it. For all the money I spent in repairs, I could have had a Mercedes.
      • 4 Years Ago
      VW trying to go after the bland Corolla but with half the reliability and double the parts cost

      Wish they stopped the "German Engineering" sound bite in their ads, German engineering to me is what Mercedes, BMW and Porsche is all about
      • 4 Years Ago
      Nothing shocking here.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Still, it's not quite fair that they knock the Jetta for cheapening the suspension without mentioning that the Elantra did literally the same exact thing.
        • 4 Years Ago
        yeah, but i did not expect it too fall below the Sentra or Corolla that are about as old as it gets in this class

        oh, and the Elantra has a much better interior than the Jetta so that is why it got the nod over it, sure they are the same dynamically

        also, recall that VW is going for 'the biggest car maker' wanting to beat Toyota and GM so it's expected that they will bring about the boring and cheap - yet with their quality issues I'm not sure how long they will last before people begin to find out what a POS they are to own
      • 4 Years Ago
      I agree that the new Jetta is downgraded from the previous one, but it was so because market research indicates Americans prefer it do not care for performance and want a bigger car... As far as CR's position: who cares how CR thinks about cars anyway?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Just lived with a new Jetta 2.5 rental for almost a week. 200 miles on it so it wasn't trashed already. My take aways:

      Pros - 31 MPG half city/half highway not bad
      - bigger car than I was expecting esp rear seat/legroom. Huge trunk
      - lots of std features, power this and that, steering wheel adjustments
      - still has some fun handling built-in
      - looks aren't groundbreaking, but grew on me. I caught many young adults
      checking it out in the parking lots (that could be good or bad news)
      Cons - the black casket interior comment sure does sum it up
      - cheap plastics live up to the criticisms
      - engine underpowered. needs another 15-20 hp just to be average
      - engine ruckus. What? speak up I cannot hear you!
      - key fob already broke. key won't unfold
      - center console armrest too far back

      With some power/plastics/sound insulation upgrades, it would be a decent ride. Will check out the GLI when available
      • 4 Years Ago
      Just got back from a vacation to the Florida Keys. Saw a ton of new Jettas being used as rental cars. I don't recall ever seeing a VW in a US rental fleet before. I rent a ton of cars from Avis/Budget every year, and have never been offered one. Ford products tend to be my choice when I have one....
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think VW deserves to get panned for what they did to this car. Their CEO has flat out stated that he wants to sell 800,000 cars annually in the US, while saying nothing about improving build quality or making them more appealing. GM had this mindset for the last quarter of the 20th century and look where it got them.

      Sadly, I can't think of a single reason I'd pick this over a Corolla or Elantra or Cruze or any other car in this segment; It's not sportier, better looking, and it sure as hell isn't built any better.

      The Jetta has become the Keystone Light of the automotive world; it's cheap and nasty but it gets the job done, I suppose.
      • 4 Years Ago
      29 MPG, 26 MPG overall ? I get that from my 03 325i.

      Since elantra has 29/40 mpg rating, i was expecting real world numbers would be something around 35. Very disappointing.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The numbers including performance testing like 0-60, 1/4 mile, 60-0 braking, etc. That's going to drag the numbers down considerably, especially given that the EPA doesn't really test cars that way. Cars.com averaged 38 mpg in mixed (mostly suburban and highway) driving, with no perfomance testing.
        • 4 Years Ago
        My perdiction is that the new Elantra and Focus is going to be the benchmark of the compact class now. Ford and Hyundai are on a tear and cleaning everyone's clock. They have caught Honda and Toyota napping and VW was foolish to move the Jetta down market. Bring in the Polo to compete in that market.
        • 4 Years Ago
        If you think that is bad, take a look at what C&D got from ALL these cars... they all got between 18 and 21 MPG (as tested).

        That blew me away... now I realize that they are going to abuse the crap out of these cars when they test them (which will effect mileage of course), but within the same issue, they compared an Audi TT RS, 1-series M coupe and Infiniti G37 and they got between 15-17 MPG.

        So those high performance cars got only ~3 MPG worse mileage than the B-segment cars? That's kind of crazy. Those performance cars got right around their expected EPA city numbers, but for the B-cars, it was MUCH less than their city numbers. The Elantra, for example, is rated at 29 city, and it only got 20 in real world driving... never mind that its rated at 40 highway.
      • 4 Years Ago
      To all those claiming the Wrangler is "horrible" for everyday use, thats all a matter of one's personal opinion! My wife has a 5 speed Wrangler 4.0L daily driver, and we couldnt be more pleased, minus the fact that its a bit of a gas hog. People like us were tired of the same ol same ol transportation and wanted something unique and fun, something to make us smile everytime we cranked the engine over, and the Wrangler was the answer. Sure it rides like a tank, has the occasional water trickle into the cab, and sucks gas, but we could care less, its an absolute blast. Her last car (Hyundai Sonata) was the definition of "horrible" in our eyes, it was almost a chore to drive. Now, no matter if its snowing, raining, or sunny, the Wrangler is a huge boost of fun in her life, and for that I couldnt agree with the "horrible" designation. Like I said above, its all a matter of one's personal opinion. ;-)
        • 4 Years Ago
        "Sure it rides like a tank, has the occasional water trickle into the cab, and sucks gas"
        -That's pretty much what they meant by saying it's horrible for everyday use.

        There's obviously nothing wrong with the Wrangler, and many of us would jump at a diesel version (or even the 2012 with the Phoenix engine). Then again, most buy it knowing it is horrible as a daily driver compared to cars with a more comatose inducing ride.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I have a 2007 M Coupe, and it has none of the problems you just mentioned, and has only slightly less capacity. Sorry, but there are more-fun cars for daily use than a Wrangler.
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