• Nov 9, 2012
We've already spent time behind the wheel of the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, but when VW invited us to the high hills of Santa Fe to drive it again, we quickly accepted. After all, this is supposed to be a hybrid without compromise, and that means it should be a car that's fun to drive.

On our first drive – in the wintertime, in Germany – we got to experience the mild-mannered fun that VW promises. This time, at elevations between 5,000 and 8,000+ feet above sea level, we were impressed once again with the Jetta – and that's what this is, a Jetta, first and foremost – that's a little bit heavier than the standard (by 221 pounds) but performs so well you don't notice the hybrid bits, most of the time. If you've got energy in the li-ion battery pack when you fire up the car, it will start off in electric mode, and you don't notice the switch to gas power unless you're looking for it.

We got 40.4 miles per gallon on a 31-mile trip. That's not quite the 45 mpg that the EPA says the car will get, but that kind of miles in thin air seems pretty good to us. Other journalists with us in New Mexico were recording anywhere between 38 and 47 mpg. Not Toyota Prius numbers, but VW's okay with that.

Here are a few other thoughts and bits of information:
  • With the Jetta Hybrid – VW's second hybrid, after the Touareg, which debuted in the fall of 2010 – the German automaker seems to be acknowledging that it needs to compete seriously in the gas-electric space in the US. A slide shown in Santa Fe pointed out that hybrids make up three percent of the US market, while diesels make up just 0.85 percent. VW is also using JD Power numbers that predict a six-percent market share for hybrids in the US in 2020. VW also said, "Jetta Hybrid will allow VW to attract new customers who don't consider TDI as a legitimate rival to hybrids."
  • That said, VW expects the hybrid to make up around five percent of all Jettas sold in the US.
  • VW says that the median age of hybrid buyers is 61 years old. The median age? That kind of surprised us.
  • Speaking of the Touareg, the hybrid powertrain in the Jetta doesn't share bits with the Touareg hybrid. This is a new system developed for this car.
  • The 1.1-kWh battery offers up to 1.2 miles of all-electric operation. Normally, you can go up to 37 miles per hour in EV mode, but if you hit the E-Mode button, this increases to 44 if there is enough power in the pack and the battery temperature is in the right range. In practice, we didn't ever feel like we got that much benefit from E-Mode, but we assume that there will be a few late-night homecomings where this will be beneficial.
  • The small print in the promotional materials say that the base Jetta Hybrid will be available by special order only. First impression, that sound like a bait and switch, so VW can advertise the car at a low price, but when you go to the dealer, that low price is nowhere to be found. We were told that there will be base models in each of VW's sales regions in the US, so anyone who wants the cheapest Jetta Hybrid will be able to test drive one or get it delivered with a day's notice.
  • The Jetta Hybrid requires premium unleaded fuel. Bummer.
The made-in-Mexico Jetta Hybrid goes on sale before the end of the year, starting at $24,995, plus destination. That's more than the TDI (which starts at $22,990), but it is what it is.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 12 Comments
      Rotation
      • 2 Years Ago
      A modern car should not get worse mpg at altitude. It might get better mpg if the reduced oxygen output reduces engine output.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Why not a TDI with hybrid option? Why not add a plug to that?
        ElectricAvenue
        • 2 Years Ago
        Aside from the cost issue, I think the problem is that diesels take a long time to warm up. That means no cabin heat, for one thing, unless you are also going to provide heat via electric means (more complication). It also presumably means increased engine wear. Finally, I don't think diesels are efficient until they have warmed up, and the heat used to warm up an engine is the major inefficiency in any short trip. With a diesel the definition of "short trip" would be much longer than for a gasoline hybrid. Depending on your use you may even find the diesel hybrid to be less efficient. I am mostly guessing here, but I did own a VW Golf TDI for 9 years and a Toyota Prius for 3 years, so it's educated guessing. :-) I disagree that weight would be an issue. It simply isn't, if the battery pack is 150 pounds or so, as it was in the Prius.
        winc06
        • 2 Years Ago
        The reason that hybrids work with gasoline engines is that the electric motor supplies assist in their most inefficient range low torque range, low speed stop and go. Diesels are already much more efficient in that range since they already have high torque at low speeds. Not nearly as much would be gained in fuel economy for the substantial added cost of hybridizing a diesel.
        Marcopolo
        • 2 Years Ago
        David S Diesels are already pretty heavy cars, adding a battery pack would be pretty self defeating.
      • 2 Years Ago
      We badly wanted to buy a Jetta TDI Sportwagon but the dealerships in the Phoenix area were so awful and the regional backup was just as bad that we finally had to give up the idea.
      Rob J
      • 2 Years Ago
      The TDI vs Hybrid choice really comes down to whet you do your driving. Mostly city - Hybrid Mostly highway - TDI Although the TDI is probably slightly more fun to drive. But we're still talking about a family sedan here.
        kEiThZ
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rob J
        Exactly. I was going to get a Jetta TDI but I've decided on the Hybrid since 80% of my driving is city.
        Anthony Thomas
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rob J
        Either is more fun with a Flash Tune... new TDI's put down about 290lbs of torque with a flash (177hp) with a few more changes you can get more than that, but most TDI owners are well..... Nevermind this Autoblog Green after all. The Hybrid has a 1.4L Turbo engine, its just screaming for a flash and a larger exhaust, again this is Autoblog Green the blog writers understand what I am saying but the people reading the blog likely not, save fuel, save fuel, save fuel, save the planet. Fine, but it doesn't have to be boring...
        ElectricAvenue
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rob J
        I agree, if you're talking about efficiency. There are other issues, however. If you value quiet, you will not be wanting the diesel!
      winc06
      • 2 Years Ago
      It sounds like kind of a wash. 40 mpg and your choice of expensive premium or expensive diesel. I would guess that the torquey TDI Jetta is more fun.
      stoveraxel
      • 2 Years Ago
      David S: VW scrapped the diesel/hybrid idea about 5 years ago, while Peugeot went ahead and sells such a combo in Europe. I hear it's a pretty big and heavy car and gets more than 55 MPG.