Looking to cater to efficiency-minded buyers, Volkswagen has added a new model to its compact Jetta sedan lineup - the Jetta Turbo Hybrid. As its name suggests, sportiness and fuel economy are both priorities for the Jetta Turbo Hybrid, and while it doesn't truly excel in either area, it does provide a good balance of the two.
The new gas-electric variant joins the similarly frugal Jetta TDI diesel, the performance-minded Jetta GLI and the standard sedan in the diverse Jetta model lineup.
The Jetta Turbo 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 45 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 (lesser Jettas get a low-tech torsion beam). This setup helps to provide secure handling and greater agility than the average hybrid, although the Jetta Turbo Hybrid isn't a genuine sports sedan.
Inside, the dashboard is clean and contemporary with well-placed and intuitive controls. As in the GLI, soft-touch materials adorn the dash, but low-quality plastics located elsewhere detract from the experience. Unique to the hybrid is a "Power Meter" that takes the place of the tachometer in the instrument panel and provides drivers a somewhat vague sense of how much of the available power is being used. To the right is a "multi-function instrument" display that provides secondary information as well as an "ePower meter," which includes the level of battery charge and the available amount of electric driving.
Those looking for a roomy trunk take note - the Jetta Hybrid's battery pack cuts cargo space down to just 11 cubic feet.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Jetta Turbo Hybrid is offered in base model, SE, SEL and SEL Premium trim levels.
The entry-level model comes standard with automatic climate control, power windows, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system with an auxiliary input jack, Bluetooth connectivity, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and 15-inch alloy wheels.
The SE adds a touchscreen radio with SiriusXM satellite radio and an iPod interface, power-reclining front seats, LED taillights and keyless entry with push-button start.
The SEL ups the content level with a navigation system, a sunroof, heated front seats, heated headlamp washer nozzles and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Finally, the range-topping SEL Premium brings a Fender premium audio system, a rearview camera Bi-Xenon headlights, LED running lights, fog lights and 17-inch alloy wheels.
All Jetta Turbo Hybrid models come standard with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and electronic brake force distribution.
The closest rival to the Jetta Turbo Hybrid is the Honda Civic Hybrid, which is significantly less powerful and less efficient. Those 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 VW but offers 50 mpg and a slightly lower price.