The latest version of Volkswagen's compact Jetta sedan marks a departure from tradition - whereas previous Jettas were near-premium models with a price to match, the current iteration is aimed squarely at the middle of the compact segment. It's fairly large by class standards and carries an attractive price tag, but it no longer has quite the level of interior quality or driving dynamics that characterized its predecessors.
In addition to the Jetta sedan discussed herein, the Jetta lineup also includes the performance-minded Jetta GLI.
For the latest model year, Volkswagen has dropped the Hybrid model from the Jetta lineup.
Outside, the styling is decidedly understated, with traditional front-wheel-drive sedan proportions and many cues lifted directly from other Volkswagen models. While not eye-catching, the overall look is clean, cohesive and even sophisticated when equipped with the optional upsized alloy wheels.
Although contemporary and user-friendly, the interior is a bit Spartan in base models, with fewer of the soft-touch materials and higher quality materials than in the previous-generation model.
Most Jettas can be ordered with Volkswagen's MIB II infotainment system, which integrates the car's entertainment, navigation and climate control systems while offering crash notification, roadside assistance and stolen vehicle location assistance. MIB II also features remote vehicle access, speed and boundary alerts and it can provide a vehicle health report.
Trunk space checks in at 15.7 cubic feet.
The Jetta is offered with two gasoline-burning engines.
The entry-level unit is a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that generates 150 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 184 lb-ft. of torque at 1,400 rpm. It returns 28 mpg in the city and an impressive 40 mpg on the highway when ordered with a five-speed manual transmission. Selecting the optional automatic lowers freeway mileage to 39.
Buyers who want more power can order a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-banger that's tuned to deliver 170 horsepower at 4,800 rpm and 184 lb-ft. of torque at 1,500 rpm.
The 1.8-liter is rated at 25 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway with a five-speed manual transmission. The automatic lowers highway mpg to 36.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Jetta is offered in four trim levels called S, SE, SEL, and SEL Premium, respectively.
S models come with 16-inch steel wheels with plastic hubcaps, a rear-view camera, LED daytime running lights, and two-tone cloth seats. The Jetta S can be spruced up with alloy wheels and a cold weather package that includes heated washer nozzles and heated front seats.
Stepping up to the SE brings Volkswagen's Car-Net infotainment system, a sunroof, leather upholstery on the steering wheel and on the shift knob, a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, and V-tex upholstery.
The Jetta SEL benefits from exterior chrome trim, a power-adjustable driver's seat, dual-zone A/C, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control.
Finally, the SEL Premium model features adaptive bi-xenon headlights and specific alloy wheels.
All Jetta models regardless of drivetrain or trim level come standard with dual front, side and full-length side curtain airbags as well as traction and stability control systems.
Depending on the model, buyers can order several electronic driving aids at an extra cost. These include Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Traffic Alert, Forward Collision Warning system and Park Distance Control.
As Jetta was designed to take on the top-sellers in the compact sedan segment, its major rivals include the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Sportier alternatives include the Mazda Mazda3 and the Mitsubishi Lancer.