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, the Jetta gains more features, Volkswagen's next-gen infotainment system, and a new turbocharged 1.4-liter engine.
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 can't currently be ordered with a turbodiesel engine because of Volkswagen's on-going emissions scandal. That means buyers can choose between two gasoline-burning mills.
New for the latest model year, 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
Volkswagen offers the Jetta in no less than seven trim levels called 1.4T S, 1.4T S w/Technology, 1.4T SE, 1.4T SE w/Connectivity, 1.8T Sport, 1.8T SEL, and 1.8T SEL Premium, respectively.
The base 1.4T S model comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission, four-wheel disc brakes, 15-inch wheels, power windows, six-way manually-adjustable front seats, cloth upholstery, a five-inch screen that runs Volkswagen's MIB II infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity, a multi-function steering wheel, power windows with one touch up/down on all windows, A/C, cruise control, heated and power-adjustable door mirrors, remote keyless entry and a driver's seat armrest.
Stepping up to the 1.4T S w/Technology adds a rear-view camera, a bigger touch screen, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, and a USB port.
The 1.4T SE model brings 16-inch alloy wheels, a push-button ignition, heated front seats, heated washer nozzles, and an adjustable front armrest with a built-in storage compartment.
Next up is the 1.4T SE w/Connectivity, which gains a six-speed automatic transmission, body-colored mirrors, chrome trim around the windows, 16-inch alloy wheels, carpet floor mats, V-Tex upholstery, front reading lights, a rear-seat pass-through and armrest, lumbar adjustment on the driver's seat, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, a power tilt and slide sunroof, and Volkswagen's Car-Net suite of connectivity features.
The limited-edition 1.8T Sport offers a sport suspension, two-tone heated front seats, V-Tex upholstery, fog lights, a black headliner, 17-inch alloys, a 6.3-inch touch screen, contrast stitching in the cabin, and a USB port. It comes with the 1.8-liter engine and a five-speed manual transmission, and a six-speed automatic is offered at an extra cost.
The 1.8T SEL builds on the 1.4T SE with a six-speed automatic transmission, the same 17-inch alloys as the 1.8T Sport, keyless entry with a push-button ignition, a soft-touch dash and fog lights.
1.8T SEL models can be ordered with the optional Driver Assistance Package that bundles adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross traffic alert, and an upgraded instrument cluster.
Finally, the range-topping 1.8T SEL Premium brings specific 17-inch alloy wheels, two-tone sport seats, a Homelink transceiver, a premium Fender audio system, dual-zone A/C, and a cooled glove box.
The Jetta Hybrid is powered by a 1.4-liter direct-injected and turbocharged four-cylinder that teams with an electric motor and a 1.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack mounted over the rear axle. Combined output is 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque - unusually high totals for an affordable hybrid model. Whereas nearly every other hybrid on the market utilizes a droning continuously variable transmission, the Jetta Hybrid Turbo sends power to the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The powertrain is good for 48 mpg on the highway, 42 mpg in city and 44 mpg combined. An electric-only driving mode, dubbed "E-Mode," can be switched on with a button and provides gas-free operation for short distances at speeds of up to 44 mph.
Helping to fulfill the car's sporty promise is a multi-link rear suspension borrowed from the GLI that provides secure handling and greater agility than the average hybrid, although the Jetta Hybrid isn't a genuine sports sedan.
Those looking for a roomy trunk take note - the Jetta Hybrid's battery pack cuts cargo space down to just 11 cubic feet.
The Jetta Hybrid lineup has been pared down to a single trim level called SEL Premium. It comes well-equipped with automatic bi-xenon headlights, an aerodynamic body kit, rain-sensing wipers with heated windshield wiper nozzles, power heated door mirrors, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, Bluetooth connectivity, keyless entry with a push-button ignition, a power tilt and slide sunroof, heated front seats, a rear-view camera, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, a Homelink transceiver, dual-zone A/C, a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross traffic alert, parking sensors, fog lights, and 17-inch alloys.
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.
Jetta Hybrid buyers willing to look beyond the sedan segment and consider a hatchback will likely be enticed by the Toyota Prius, which isn't as sporty as the Volkswagen but offers 50 mpg and a slightly lower price.