Incremental changes make for a better overall Jetta for the 2015 model year.Can a European-based sedan do well in America? In the case of the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta SE 1.8 TSI, VW AG hopes the tweaks, nips and tucks will be enough to continue its role as the brand's best selling model in the new country. Additionally, the brand has transformed the Jetta's TDI Diesel engine for more fuel efficiency.
But that's not all. When revised in 2011, the Jetta received an additional three-inches to its wheelbase. With this new 2015 model, we wondered if it was it a stretch to think that the Volkswagen Jetta could build on some of its past glories? We spent a week in VW Group's bread-and-butter vehicle to find out.
What is it?
The sixth-generation Jetta, in this case formally known as the 2015 Jetta SE 1.8 TSI, is the latest of VW's compact four-door sedans. Built upon a platform introduced in 2011, it is powered by the 1.8-liter turbocharged, intercooled and direct-injected four-cylinder engine that was introduced in 2014, and makes 170-horsepower at 4,800 rpm. Torque measures in at 184 lb-ft of twist, at a barely-breathing 1,500 rpm. Although available with a five-speed manual transmission, our tester was equipped with V-Dub's six-speed automatic.
Steering is through an electrically-assisted power rack and pinion kit and helps to point the way for the MacPherson strut-type front suspension with its lower control arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers and anti-roll bar. Bringing up the rear is a multilink setup with coil overs, telescopic dampers and a rear-mounted stabilizer bar. As part of the SE trim level, it rides on 16-inch aluminum alloy rims and tires.
The Jetta is available in a variety of levels ranging from Base, S, SE, Sport and top line SEL trim. It can also be had in S, SE and SEL trim for TDI Diesel buyers who know their way around a truck stop or other Diesel fuel retailer. Other variants include Hybrid and SportWagen (Say yes to station wagons!) versions. In addition to our 1.8T, VW offers the Jetta with four other engines including a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder (dealer ordered), a 2.0 turbocharged model, a 1.4-liter hybrid and a new 2.0-liter turbodiesel.
Our SE was equipped with such creature comforts including heated side mirrors, power sunroof, and a standard audio system with AM/FM/HD radio, CD Changer and six speakers, as well as SiriusXM Satellite radio. Bluetooth connectivity is standard, as was a rearview camera, and manually adjustable Leatherette (vinyl) seats with a split folding rear bench.
What's it up against?
The compact segment is one of the standard-bearer groupings in the industry that features many players from many manufacturers. It's a buyer's market now with many competent offerings including the Kia Forte, Nissan Sentra, Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze, Dodge Dart, and Mazda Mazda3 to name a few.
How does it look?
Appearing like a more relaxed and mature version of its former self, the Jetta stays close to its original recipe while adding a little more spice to its overall appearance. But since we are talking about German design ethos, that spice might be subtle at best.
Based on a traditional three-box design, it featured a swoopiness that imparts a look of aggression that, while not exactly showy, managed to say that it was all business. The newly revised grille on our 1.8T model (also appearing on the TDI Clean Diesel) featured closeable shutters to trim airflow around the front end and in the process, aid with fuel economy.
From the front, the grille is revised with three crossbars, a new bumper and an optional bi-xenon headlight package. Although our tester missed-out on this last option, it was one we would have checked on the order sheet, owing to its class-above appearance. At the rear, a new decklid with integrated spoiler helped with more of the same, while the revised taillights and bumper showed off a new, wider stance.
And on the inside?
With an additional three-inches added to its wheelbase, the Jetta received a big boost to its interior accommodations as well. Rear seat legroom is 38.1-cubic inches, and further back is 15.5 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk. Fold down the 60/40 rear bench and the capacity grows further still.
Our front seat accommodations were covered in perforated leatherette surfaces, which, while a step up from the divinyls of the past, still managed to leave our backs a bit tacky in the later summer heat of South Florida. Conservative, but comfortable just the same, were the logical placement of controls that were well within reach from the driver's manually operated bucket seat.
Our tester was equipped by the base audio system, which lacked a navigation function. It did, however, come with Bluetooth connectivity and SiriusXM Satellite radio.
But does it go?
Power from the 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder was abundant and smooth when pressed for quick getaways from the SoFla stoplight drag races. Quickly progressing through the smooth shifting six-speed automatic transmission, we found ourselves cruising quite rapidly in no time, and with not a lot of underhood racket, either. But oh, how we would have loved a good DSG sequential gearbox instead.
Steering was what we'd say is average, neither being numb nor over-boosted, and did offer some feedback in our stints behind the wheel that ranged from smooth interstates to twisty curved roads to pockmarked secondary highways. A speed-sensitive rack, it lightened up at higher speeds. Throughout it all, we liked the stiffness of the suspension that offered little in the way of body lean. It did manage to transmit a bit more harshness when encountering poorly maintained grade crossings.
The EPA says our 3,124-pound sled should see 25 city/37 highway with a 30-mpg average. With the automatic, and an almost scientific test, we saw naught to 60 in about 7.5-seconds.
Leftlane's bottom line
Volkswagen's 2015 Jetta settles in with a 1.8-liter turbocharged engine that offers improvements in power and efficiency. Nestled within a still fresh looking body, it is a compelling package that combines good looks, and fuel efficiency at a not-unreasonable price.
2015 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T SE with connectivity, base price, $22,325. As tested, $23,145.
Destination Fee, $820.
Photos by Mark Elias.