Vital Stats

Engine:
1.4L Turbo I4 / 20kW motor
Power:
170 HP (comb.)
Transmission:
7-Speed DCT
0-60 Time:
9.0 Seconds
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,300 LBS
Seating:
2+3
MPG:
45 MPG (est. comb.)
Mild-Mannered Fun At 45 mpg



The world doesn't need another automaker claiming to have cracked the code for a fun-to-drive hybrid. The concept hasn't worked particularly well in any application. Just ask Lexus. And Honda. Twice.

Granted, we don't know how Volkswagen plans to pitch the 2013 Jetta Hybrid when it goes on sale this fall. We didn't get a two-hour long marketing presentation and associated PowerPoint. Instead, we snagged the keys while an executive-level engineer droned on about next-gen modular EGR systems and EU4-compliant oxidation catalytic converters.

We needed an escape and the Jetta Hybrid was it.

So maybe it was the sub-zero temps outside the VW pavilion in Wolfsburg, Germany or the chance to do something – anything – to combat the effects of three hours of sleep in 36 hours. But what we found during our all-too-brief drive of the Jetta Hybrid wasn't a cynical engineering-meets-marketing stop-gap, but instead the first compelling alternative to the Toyota Prius.
The Jetta Hybrid made its debut at last month's Detroit Auto Show and – considering everything else clogging the halls at Cobo – it didn't get much interest. That's because it's not that interesting.

The exterior is barely distinguishable from a standard Jetta, although the new front air dam, rear diffuser and spoiler are supposedly good for a 10-percent decrease in the sedan's coefficient of drag. Further boosting efficiency is a set of 15-inch wheels with low-rolling resistance rubber and a grille-mounted VW logo with a blue background – sure to be good for a few fractions of an MPG.



The underlying tech is just as mild-mannered, with a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine putting out 150 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque between 1,400 and 3,500 rpm. Sandwiched between that small-displacement mill and a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is an electric motor outputting an additional 27 hp (20kW). Unlike VW's first hybrid (the Touareg) that relied on a nickel metal hydride battery pack, the Jetta uses more modern and efficient lithium-ion cells – 60 in total, mounted behind the rear seat backs and weighing less than 80 pounds.

If that doesn't sound like much, that's because it isn't. The batteries only provide 1.1 kWh of juice. Thankfully, that means tonnage has been kept in check, with the whole package adding 221 pounds to the Jetta's curb weight for a total of around 3,300 pounds.

All this adds up to a claimed 45 MPG combined – five MPGs fewer than the Prius, but it's a fair trade.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid gauges

Out on the drive loop that combined a short burst of autobahn with some residential and industrial driving, the combination of the turbo'd 1.4 and electric motor proved more than adequate to scoot around town and up to freeway speeds. Nail the throttle past the kick-down point and the "power" gauge taking the place of the tachometer swings from zero, passes 10 and moves into the "Boost" section. Thrust is far from overwhelming, but it feels quicker than the claimed nine-second 0-60 mph run. We'd guess something in the low eights or high sevens.

But naturally, the Jetta is more about fuel efficiency and all-electric motoring than outright power. And compared to the Prius, it's even easier to keep things humming without the aid of internal combustion.

While the Prius requires micro-millimeter precise control of the throttle to keep it from clicking over the engine, the Jetta Hybrid prototype would only demand the four-pot's assistance when we flexed our right foot just slightly more than maintenance throttle. Moreover, VW claims you can run the Hybrid up to 44 mph in EV mode and for up to 1.2 miles before the battery is tapped of juice.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid driving

Even more impressive is VW's ability to get a much more progressive and compliant braking experience from its regenerative system. Unlike the Prius, which has always been plagued by overly-grabby brakes, the Jetta Hybrid manages to allow more modulation. The only ding is an odd regen sensation when lifting off the brakes – it feels like a strong headwind slowing things down.

Couple the better brakes and highly controllable throttle with the seven-speed DSG – an obvious improvement over CVTs fitted to most hybrids – and VW has a gotten remarkably close to creating a valid contender to the Prius, while not leaving the driving experience out of the equation.

With only a short drive under our belt, that's not a definitive call by any means, but it's an impressive proof of concept that, with the proper pricing (figure around $25k), delivers everything we want in a hybrid, plus something that's been missing: driver engagement.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 40 Comments
      DaveMart
      • 2 Years Ago
      Reviews here: http://www.automobilemag.com/reviews/driven/1202_2013_volkswagen_jetta_hybrid/index.html And here: http://www.roadandtrack.com/tests/drives/2013-volkswagen-jetta-hybrid
      usbseawolf2000
      • 2 Years Ago
      Will it meet SULEV emission? How is the trunk space?
      Yegor
      • 2 Years Ago
      Does the battery blocks access from the trunk to the salon? If it does then it does not sell much like all other Hybrids that have the same problem. Learn from Prius!
        atc98092
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Yegor
        Nope, this is the first Hybrid sedan I've seen that the fold down rear seats are retained. There is a hump behind the seats that reduces the opening size (battery location), but at least it's still there. About time they figured this out.
          gabreigns
          • 2 Years Ago
          @atc98092
          Not exactly true there sir. The Toyota Camry Hybrid always did have the ability to lay down both the seats. As you mentioned there is a hump behind the seats that reduces the opening size.
          Snowdog
          • 2 Years Ago
          @atc98092
          The Prius is a Hatchback and can haul an enormous amount of cargo, so it is really apples and oranges.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @atc98092
          I couldn't find the specs for the hybrid trunk size, but the conventional car has one of the biggest trunks in its class, so even the hybrid should do better than the Prius.
      • 2 Years Ago
      This thing looks awesome. I wonder if they will put this drive-train in a golf?
      Letstakeawalk
      • 2 Years Ago
      "...while an executive-level engineer droned on about next-gen modular EGR systems and EU4-compliant oxidation catalytic converters." Sounds like many ABG commentators would have been happy as clams to have been there, learning every little detail, and following up with specific (pointed, even) questions. After all, we'd much rather sit down and discuss the pros and cons of any specific design instead of getting out and driving the blasted thing. Imagine, one might actually *enjoy* a vehicle that is less efficient than it could potentially had been, had the engineers only spent more time thinking about aerodynamics and lightweight instead of counting their blood-oil payoff cash. ;P
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        This article was written for AB, not ABG. Hence, the wording. Would be nice if they catered to us on a site devoted to the topic at hand. Maybe we don't bring in the kind of ad revenue they'd like :P p.s. what's wrong with an engineering discussion? You can have your cake ( efficiency ) and eat it too ( power ) simultaneously.. the two are not exclusive. So why leave out the technical part of speaking about the efficiency ..?
          Letstakeawalk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          "This article was written for AB, not ABG." So, it's been a few days now... when do you think they'll get around to posting it on AB?
          Letstakeawalk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          LOL, you take me so seriously, so needful to correct me. Thank you sir!
        Letstakeawalk
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        It's a boring plain design, too. Nyah.
      ec8094
      • 2 Years Ago
      Love this design. Maximizing the energy capture and reuse model of a hybrid while minimizing the battery cost and weight. This is how we will reach 54MPG average CAFE (EPG 36MPG) by 2025. At million unit scale, and rolling the clock forward ten years, this will not be expensive.
        Ryan
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ec8094
        I agree, it looks like a car I would drive. And I did see it in Detroit. They didn't have the mileage numbers or price on it if I remember correctly.
      DRstrangelove
      • 2 Years Ago
      This will completely replace the TDI in the US within a year or two. Just watch.
      PeterScott
      • 2 Years Ago
      "While the Prius requires micro-millimeter precise control of the throttle to keep it from clicking over the engine, the Jetta Hybrid prototype would only demand the four-pot's assistance when we flexed our right foot just slightly more than maintenance throttle. Moreover, VW claims you can run the Hybrid up to 44 mph in EV mode and for up to 1.2 miles before the battery is tapped of juice." Not quite sure, but it sounds like you are saying the EV mode is more robust than the Prius, which seems questionable given that the EV motor is only 27 HP (80HP in Prius) and the car weighs about 300lbs more than the Prius.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @PeterScott
        I think you are mistaken. No way does the Prius have an 80HP electric motor.
          • 2 Years Ago
          Well, the motor is 80 hp, but the battery's output is 36 hp.
          PeterScott
          • 2 Years Ago
          It may be rare behavior, but I usually check facts like these before I post them as I don't believe in making up "facts". Why does anyone when the real ones are so readily available? http://www.toyota.com/prius-hybrid/specs.html Electric Motor Motor type Permanent magnet AC synchronous motor Power output 80 hp (60 kW)
      RC
      • 2 Years Ago
      This car is going to be a big hit here in the States.
      PeterScott
      • 2 Years Ago
      They should bring over the Polo, and just put that 1.4T in it. It would be a hoot to drive, get very good gas mileage and be fairly inexpensive.
      gabreigns
      • 2 Years Ago
      A TDI hybrid is something to look forward to. The Audi R18 running the lemans will prove if it is sustainable or not though. Now to wait and watch.
        gabreigns
        • 2 Years Ago
        @gabreigns
        Not sure actually if they are called the R18s http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/97276
      • 2 Years Ago
      So why should I buy a VW diesel when I can buy a hybrid at the same price... and get about the same gas mileage?!?! Conversely, why buy this hybrid when I can get the VW diesel, get the same gas mileage, and have a drive train that gets 300k miles or so with minimal upkeep, and not have those 80 pound of batteries that will need to be replaced at some point? Gosh, could it be that the marketing hype for hybrids, along with government tax breaks, is just too much to overcome simple questions like the ones I pose?
        PeterScott
        • 2 Years Ago
        I think you have it backwards on the upkeep and longevity. You making assumptions based on long repeated hearsay about old school diesels like the 1970's Mercedes 240D. Those have absolutely nothing to do with a modern TDI. Old school diesels were simple as can be, No turbos, no direct injection, barely any emission controls. With very little to go wrong they would just keep on running. Compare Modern TDI with turbos, Direct Injection, Ultra complex emission controls. Not to mention the complex transmission if you go for an Auto. Now look at a Prius Engine. It is much closer to the simplicity of an old school diesel than a modern TDI is. Just standard gas engine, no direct injection, no turbo, no complex emission system. Sound familiar? Also it doesn't even really have a transmission, just a gear based power combiner, no clutches at all. The Prius is probably the lowest maintenance liquid fuel powered car on the road. Taxi companies using Prius have wracked up extreme mileage and they report not only extensive gas savings, but extensive savings on maintenance. Much cheaper maintenance than regular car, to say nothing of comparing it the expensive maintenance on a VW TDI. So with a correction of your faulty assumptions, do you still have a question?
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