As VW's perennial bestseller, the Jetta is carrying a lot of weight on its shoulders. Is this latest model, in hybrid form, up to the task?
What is it?
Refreshed and refined for 2015, the Jetta Hybrid is just the thing for those who would bypass the Jetta TDI diesel in an effort to stay away from their local truckstops. Sure, we know diesel fuel is available in most traditional gas stations these days, but just work with us here, okay? Power for this hybrid comes from a rather tiny, but still stout, 1.4-liter, 150-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine that is backed up with a 27 horsepower electric motor. Combined, the system produces 170 hp at 5,000 rpm and 184 lb-ft of torque at just 1,000 rpm.
The combination of the gas/electric hybrid system is mated to VW's dual-clutch DSG automated-manual transmission, which in this case incorporates an extra gear, making it a seven-speed.
The Jetta Hybrid, according to VW, starts with the electric motor and then switches over to the gas-powered mill at a speed of 37 mph. The power system on the Hybrid gets its nourishment from the 11.9-gallon fuel tank and the 60 battery cells that reside above the rear axle to provide the electric motor with 220 volts of power. Below 37 mph, the gas engine is disengaged to prevent any power sapping from parasitic drag. An E-mode button resides at the right of the shift lever that allows a driver to use total electricity up to 44 mph, as long as the battery pack is fully charged and the ambient temperatures outside are not too warm.
The Jetta Hybrid rides on a McPherson strut front suspension with coil springs, telescopic dampers and an anti-roll bar in front and brings up the rear with a multilink kit and anti-roll bar.
Feature-wise, the mono-spec Hybrid SEL is equipped with special Bi-Xenon and LED daylight running lights, heated and rain-sensing wipers, heated side mirrors, an auto-dimming rear view mirror, navigation, SiriusXM satellite radio, iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, VW Car-Net, keyless entry, push-button start, and an uprated instrument cluster. Blind Sport monitoring, with rear traffic alert, forward collision warning and park distance control round out the included packages.
What's it up against?
Buyers intent on waving their green-cred flags will likely look at this VW Jetta Hybrid, as well as offerings from Toyota, in the form of the Prius and the Camry, the Honda Civic Hybrid, and the Ford Fusion Hybrid. All offer varying levels of pricing, but still might be eligible for government subsidies. At the end of the day, shoppers are advised to really do the math to determine if the amount they drive will truly do right by their bank books.
How does it look?
The Jetta received a facelift in 2011. With the 2015 model, it is refined more than ever. Up front, crisp lines help to define a more futuristic look that is more in line with this whole hybrid thing. At the rear, it is updated even further, through a subtle but functional decklid spoiler and LED taillights.
And since this is a hybrid, it incorporates that universal color that denotes the same, blue. Blue highlights adorn the VW logos and badging throughout, while the front fascia receives a special air intake and other trick aero pieces including side skirts, a spoiler, underbody panels and a diffuser, that all do their part to make this the swoopiest Jetta in the family.
And the inside?
Well designed and thought out, the new Jetta Hybrid SEL Premium features a conservative and buttoned-down interior with high-quality materials, including soft-touch dashboard, Hybrid-specific gauges and a power-meter display. Additionally equipped with a rather smallish RNS 315 Navigation system and touchscreen display, as well as a 400-watt Fender audio system, it offers all the comforts of home, that is, if your home is upholstered in vinyl or what VW calls Leatherette. High enough quality, it even features the grained texture that makes it look as though it came from the bovine population rather than a petroleum by-product.
A power-operated driver's seat is joined by a manual front passenger's seat. Both include seat heaters which are useless in LLN's Southeastern outpost, but will certainly be as welcomed as a dairy farmer's warm hand during a milking on a cold Midwestern morning.
Thanks to the use of a new hybrid exhaust system, underfloor panels, an acoustic windshield and thicker front side glass, this Jetta Hybrid is the quietest car in the V-Dub compact sedan portfolio. Rear seat legroom is plentiful in the Jetta Hybrid. Owing to the positioning of the batteries over the rear axle, cargo space tops out at 11.3-cubic feet. For comparison's sake, the standard gas-burning Jetta has a capacity of 15.7 cubic feet.
But does it go?
Das Un-Hybrid. That's what this Jetta Hybrid SEL Premium feels like. One of the quietest V-Dubs we've ever driven, from the lack of road noise intruding into the cabin you would be forgiven for assuming nothing much was going on under the hood. Instead we have a 27-horsepower electric motor that sends the Jetta rolling, and then hands things off to the eagerly waiting 1.4-liter 114-horsepower gas-engined four-cylinder. The combination of the pair is the motoring equivalent of a one-two punch and it's clear, this Jetta is punching above its weight class. Faster than a recently tested Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, the Jetta clocked zero to 60 mph in a shade over 7.9-seconds. No rocket ship, it's still quick for a hybrid. As a means of extending range, lifting a foot off the accelerator will send the Jetta into coasting mode which will not use fuel or battery charge.
We found the Jetta Hybrid managed to take care of itself through the turns, with a surprisingly little amount of body lean. Steering was direct with little in the way of play, while we found the brakes a bit grabby. Those same grabby brakes will come in handy, as this VW will tend to coast backward while idling on an incline.
This 3,411 pound V-Dub sedan leaves its mark with an EPA rating of 42 city/48 highway and a 45 mpg average.
Leftlane's bottom line
Volkswagen's Jetta Hybrid SEL combines extended range and sport-like handling for those looking for more than just a standard hybrid. With good looks, it ticks off all the boxes, save the use of vinyl upholstery. Still, the makers of Das Auto have nearly perfected the Un-Hybrid.
2015 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL Premium base price, $31,120. As tested, $32,490.
Fender 400-watt Sound System, $550; Destination fee, $820.