2014 Jetta New Car Test Drive
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.
The Volkswagen Jetta S sedan ($16,720) comes with the 115-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard on S and SE models, and a 6-speed automatic is available. Standard features include cloth upholstery, air conditioning, interior air filter, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo, auxiliary input jack, outside-temperature indicator, variable-intermittent wipers, rear defogger, and P195/65HR15 tires on steel wheels with wheel covers.
The Jetta SE ($18,895) also comes standard with manual transmission, but uses the new 1.8-liter turbocharged engine making 170 hp and 184 foot-pounds of torque. SE upgrades with V-Tex leatherette upholstery, trunk pass-through, heated power mirrors with turn signals, trip computer, satellite radio, iPod adapter, floor mats, and 16-inch steel wheels with all-season tires. There's a Connectivity package ($20,420) that adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Bluetooth, 6-speaker audio system, heated front seats, and alloy wheels. Add the Sunroof package and it's $22,065.
A 6-speed automatic transmission ($1100) is optional for Jetta S and Jetta SE.
Jetta SEL sedan ($25,590) comes standard with the automatic, and the best features of the SE, including the sunroof and a navigation system. It adds a six-way power driver's seat with manual lumbar adjustment, keyless access and starting, 9-speaker 400-watt Fender sound system, trip computer, fog lights, rearview camera, and 17-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires.
Jetta TDI ($23,195) uses the 140-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel engine. Manual transmission is standard, while the fantastic twin-clutch DSG auto-manual is just $1100 more. It has many of the SEL features, however there's a Premium package ($24,855) and Premium Navigation ($26,315).
Jetta GLI sedan ($24,255) uses a 200-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter engine. In addition to SE equipment, the base GLI has a hill-holder clutch, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, driver-seat lumbar adjustment, satellite radio, iPod interface, Bluetooth, trip computer, fog lights, sport suspension, and P225/45HR17 tires on alloy wheels. The upscale GLI Autobahn ($26,495) adds automatic climate control, V-Tex upholstery, heated front seats, sunroof, heated windshield washers, P225/40HR18 on alloy wheels, and more. GLI Autobahn with Navigation ($28,495) has adds navigation plus keyless access and pushbutton starting, rearview camera, and HID headlamps with LED daytime running lights.
TDI and GLI models come standard with a 6-speed manual, with the paddle-shifting 6-speed DSG twin-clutch auto-manual transmission just $1,100.
The Jetta SportWagen comes with two engines, either the old 2.5-liter 5-cylinder or the efficient 2.0-liter turbo-diesel with direct injection. Jetta SportWagen S ($20,795) and SE ($24,595) models with the 2.5-liter engine are equipped comparably to the sedan. There's also an SE with sunroof package ($26,395).
Jetta TDI SportWagen ($26,250) is available with the panorama sunroof package including 17-inch alloy wheels ($28,050); and with sunroof, navigation and pushbutton start ($28,650).
Jetta Hybrid SE $($27,260) uses a 1.4-liter turbocharged gas engine with 27-hp electric motor; seven-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic transmission; front and rear disc brakes; Daytime Running Lights; power and heated exterior mirrors; 15-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with all-season tires; rear spoiler and rear diffuser; unique grille; hybrid badging on front, sides and rear; power windows with one-touch up/down; hybrid interior accents; six-way manually adjustable front seats; automatic climate-control; Bluetooth; auxiliary input jack; trip computer; radio with CD player and six speakers; leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel; 60/40 folding rear seat; and tilt/telescoping steering wheel column. The Hybrid SE adds LED taillights; power recline front seats; Media-Device Interface (MDI) and iPod cable; Premium VIII touch screen radio with color energy flow display in center console; SiriusXM Satellite Radio; and keyless access with push-button start.
Jetta Hybrid SEL ($29,845) adds 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with all-season tires; a power tilt and slide sunroof; upgraded radio and navigation; heated front washer nozzles; heated front seats; and a six-way power driver's seat. Hybrid SEL Premium ($31,445) adds Bi-Xenon headlights with LED Daytime Running Lights and the Active Front-Lighting System (AFS); foglights with cornering light; 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with all-season tires; Fender Premium Audio System with subwoofer; and a rearview camera.
Safety features on all Jettas include dual front airbags, front side airbags, curtain side airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with brake assist, traction control, Electronic Stability Control, and the mandated tire-pressure monitor.