A few years ago Volkswagen announced that it had a goal of becoming the number 1 automaker on the planet, in terms of sales numbers. This left a lot of people wondering how the Germans would do it without sacrificing some of the things that made their products so great. Well, there is probably no better answer to that question than the current Jetta sedan which debuted for 2011. It’s Volkswagen’s entry into the ferociously competitive compact car market and goes up against a whole team of established players, such as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3, Ford Focus, Chevy Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, Nissan Sentra and more. We’re now a couple years into this generation of the Jetta and wanted to see how it stacks up to the competition. Let’s find out. One way Volkswagen plans to win over a lot of buyers is with exterior styling that isn’t offensive or trendy, but conservative and handsome – an approach right out of the Toyota playbook.Frankly, this car looks like any Volkswagen that could have debuted within the last decade. VW builds attractive cars, including this one, but the overall look is very dated. The lines are clean and simple from every angle; the greenhouse looks just like the prior generation, and while that car also had a controversial grille treatment this one tones everything down. The same goes for the rear fascia where simple, rectangular taillights have replaced the circular motif of the older car. And it isn’t the usual, German form-follows-function way of doing things either. It’s clear this car is designed more for sales numbers rather than styled with passion. And that’s OK, a lot of people prefer this over something that’s for example very curvaceous and “right now” with its styling (see the Hyundai Elantra or Ford Focus if that’s what you want). At least our SE tester came with nice 16” alloy wheels when most other cars come with plastic wheel covers; there’s also body colored mirrors and door handles. At best this looks the cousin of small Audi sedans (which it is), at worst – nobody will know you’re picking them up in a brand new car until you tell them.Getting into the car it’s immediately obvious how this generation differs from the last. The 2005-2010 Jetta had a reputation for offering one of the most upscale, high quality interiors in its class. Well the new car? It takes a down a level. Gone is the upscale look and feel. It’s certainly not the
worst you could do, but it’s no longer the best either. I appreciate the easy to use controls on the center stack, despite a very loud HVAC system. The basic radio was easy to use and offered acceptable audio quality.Visibility out is good and it’s easy to find comfortable seating positions in the front or in the spacious rear seat. Storage throughout was merely adequate and I was really let down by the flimsy trunk pass-through cover, which repeatedly fell off. Let’s see what the official globe rating is for this trunk on the Jetta and number 7. The old-fashioned goose neck hinges are sheathed in plastic, which is nice, but unfortunately they do still crush your cargo. So I’ll give it a pass, official globe rating is 7. It was also nice to see vinyl seats, which Volkswagen calls “leatherette” – now most of the time you get a choice between cloth or leather.A lot of people don’t like vinyl, but they’re a durable and less expensive option to leather . They’re easy to clean and should make those cow lovers out there happy. But don’t expect anyone to be fooled into thinking they’re the real thing. And although our tester didn’t have these options, things like a sunroof, push-button start and a navigation system are optional. To help keep the price down Volkswagen revised the suspension for the new car and it soaks up bumps very well, the ride is comfortable, road noise is on the lower side and the car feels planted and solid. However, just since 2011 other cars have debuted or have been refreshed that do just as well and the handling is very mediocre. Once you’ve gotten over the interior, how does the Jetta drive? Well let’s talk power. Our SE tester offers up a 2.5 liter inline 5-cylinder gas engine that puts out 170HP and 177 lb.ft. of torque – numbers matched by many, newer and more fuel efficient 4 cylinders out there, but that’s only on paper.In the real world this engine behaves a lot like a small V-6, offering enough low-end muscle to pull around the compact Jetta with ease. The biggest let-down is the slow-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission. My advice: learn how to drive a manual, have more fun and save some money in the process. The other downside is this engine’s lack of refinement – it may be smoother than a handful of 4-cylinders out there, but not by much. It also drones a lot more than it growls, but it’s quiet enough in most normal driving
situations. This engine redeems itself with decent fuel economy, even better than the much less powerful base 2.0 liter engine , returning 25 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway, with the automatic – numbers that I was easily able to match.Handling was good, if somewhat forgettable. For a smaller car, the Jetta is not that tossable or especially responsive, but should be plenty for most drivers. I still prefer the prior generation. Here in the U.S. there are several different power train options. Starting with the 2.0 liter, 115HP gas engine in the least expensive base car, to a very economical 2.0 liter, 140 HP diesel engine which is still a rarity in this class and if fuel economy is your priority there is also a hybrid version boasting up to 48 mpg on the highway. If performance is what you’re after check out the GLI with Volkswagen’s ubiquitous 2.0 turbo, serving up 210 HP and connected to either a 6-speed manual or DSG transmission and that car also comes with a sport-tuned suspension. Volkswagen offers a wider price range than ever for the Jetta.Starting at just under 17,000 and it can go up to nearly 32,000 for a well-optioned GLI or Hybrid variant. The best news is, no matter what you spend you’re getting a car with decent crash test scores. The Jetta aced all of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s tests, except for the small overlap scoring only a “marginal” rating – which is important to consider, especially once you realize that the Honda Civic scored a “good” rating, which is the top score. In conclusion, the Jetta is still worth a look and test drive despite loads of really great alternatives. And if you like it, then take a look at the Golf, which is essentially just a Jetta hatchback and personally it would be my choice.If you’re looking for a more traditional station wagon, Volkswagen is still selling one but it’s the previous generation’s body style. The best thing you can do when looking at this class of vehicles is lots of shopping. So I say get off the computer and go out there and devote some time to driving some of these cars. For example, the Hyundai Elantra has become one of the most compelling choices – offering fresh styling, good fuel economy, a great warranty and it’s also available in coupe or wagon body styles. There is also the Subaru Impreza if you’re looking for AWD. And if you’re after performance, the Honda Civic Si is
still a fun choice at a lower price than the Jetta GLI.Here at Globe Car Reviews we brave the arctic vortex to bring you these videos so please, if you enjoyed watching this and you want to see the Volkswagen Jetta’s competitors – follow us on Facebook you can also find us on Twitter and subscribe to our channel. Thank you for watching and we’ll see you next time! .