The 2015 Volkswagen Jetta is the best car for you if you want a compact sedan with freshened styling and upgraded features. It’s for those who appreciate good road manners, terrific passenger and cargo room, and a wide selection of models including a diesel and hybrid. But can changes like this revised front end and the overdue addition of blind-spot detection halt falling sales? I’m Chuck Giametta. Join me for a CarPreview video review of the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta. Americans buy more Jettas than any other Volkswagen and when it was last redesigned for model year 2011, VW made it larger to suit Yankee physiques. Two-thousand-fifteen updates include Jetta’s first styling alterations since then and they follow model year 2014 revisions that brought some significant changes beneath the skin. Those included dumping a five-cylinder as the mainstay engine in favor of more fuel-efficient and better performing turbocharged four-cylinder.And VW wisely replaced the antiquated torsion beam rear axle with the more sophisticated independent rear suspension previously exclusive to the sporty GLI model. The ’15 Jetta builds on those upgrades. Every engine is a four cylinder, with diesels the choice of 35 percent of buyers. Those TDI models get a new engine with 10 more horsepower and better fuel economy. Highway ratings increase almost 10 percent – to 46 miles per gallon with manual transmission and 45 with automatic. Combined city/highway ratings increase 6 percent – to 36 miles per gallon with either transmission. The rest of the lineup is mechanically unchanged. Entry-level S versions have a entry level four-cylinder. Mainstay TSI models account for 65 percent of sales and use the 1.8-liter turbo they acquired last year. So does the new TSI Sport, offered in limited numbers to celebrate the 2015 refresh. The GLI keeps its 2.0-liter turbo. And the Hybrid again combines a turbocharged gas engine with a battery-powered electric motor and rates an impressive 45 mpg city/highway combined. Dropped from the roster is the Jetta SportWagen. It’s reincarnated, however, as a member of Volkswagen’s Golf lineup, joining that family of two- and four-door hatchbacks.Which brings up a distinction worth noting: although they share many powertrain and mechanical bits, the Jetta is not a Golf with a trunk. It was for years, but starting with the 2011 redesign, the cars got separate underbody structures. The 2015 Golf adopts VW’s impressive
new MQB architecture. This more advanced modular platform will underpin the next-generation Jetta when it arrives for model-year 2018. Meanwhile, the nose acquires these fins meant to give the car a wider, more substantial look.And TSI and TDI models get a hidden grille shutter that opens and closes automatically to manage airflow for better fuel economy. Hybrids and the GLI SEL also introduce headamps with xenon lowbeams and high beams, plus the ability to turn slightly with the steering wheel. Here, elongated taillights and a reshaped rump also aim for some visual widening. Inside, all models get fancier air vents and an attractive new steering wheel with infotainment controls.Chrome accents dress things up, and piano-black trim makes for a classier center console. GLIs now have ambient lighting and SELs extra dashboard padding. Jetta needed these upgrades, but it still has its share of hard plastic in here. We like the no-nonsense dashboard layout. And thanks, VW, for making the navigation system available on the affordable SE version for 2015. Still, the screen is rather small. Expect a larger one with crisper graphics for model-year 2016. Blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts are new – too bad they’re exclusive to the most expensive SEL and Hybrid models. And only the Hybrid gains front collision warning and front and rear-parking sensors. Every Jetta, though, comes with a nice selection of standard features, including Bluetooth connectivity, heated mirrors, and cruise control. All side windows have one-touch up and down power.And all but the S model have pushbutton ignition, satellite radio, heated front seats and heated windshield-washer nozzles. Also available is VW’s Car-Net telematics with crash notification and stolen-vehicle locator. It’ll also send smartphone alerts if someone you’ve lent the car to exceeds speed or geographic boundaries you’ve set. Power moonroof and rearview camera are available. But unlike the Golf, which can be ordered with leather upholstery, Jetta makes due with cloth or VW’s admittedly convincing Leatherette substitute. VW accomplished its goal with the 2011 redesign: this is among the most spacious and airy cabins in the compact class. Rear room and comfort are especially good. Cargo volume is another asset, with folding rear seatbacks and a class-leading 15.5 cubic-foot-trunk. Also at the top of the class is the way the Jetta drives. It’s composed and
well-mannered, although if you want a compact Volkswagen that meets or beats the Ford Focus and Mazda 3 for best-in-class handling, it’s the remarkably nimble new Golf. Jetta’s strength is that no one trait overshadows another. It’s steering is linear, cornering forcers progressive, and the ride absorbent without being floaty. The GLI sharpens all this, infuses it with quicker acceleration, and delivers genuine sport-sedan satisfaction. S models suffer the weakest engine in the class, while the TSI’s smoother 1.8-liter turbo is one of the very best.It furnishes impressive power around town and especially on the highway. If you’re not standing outside to hear the gently clattering idle, you’d be forgiven for not realizing the TDI is a diesel. It pulls with authority, cruises effortlessly, doesn’t smoke or smell, and isn’t gruff. Except for some grabby brake feel as it recaptures energy to charge its lithium ion battery, the Hybrid drives much like any other Jetta. We believe those road manners add to the Jetta’s value proposition. And better value is the prime objective here. VW is upgrading design but keeping base prices in check and expanding popular features without charging too much for them.An SE, for example, with automatic transmission, navigation, moonroof, 17-inch alloy wheels and a rearview camera is under $24,500. The Sport model, with nav and a touch of GLI juice, is a steal at under twenty-two grand. GLI loyalists know they can pay a lot more elsewhere for a lot less machine. TDI base prices range from around $22,500 to more than $28,000, putting great mileage within reach of a wide range of budgets. At $32,500, the Hybrid is packaged as a premium purchase so both its technology and its price involve plenty of green. It’s little consolation that Jetta isn’t the only VW in a sales slump. Demand for the entire brand is down. Dependability ratings for the brand remain below average. And we wouldn’t be surprised if some Jetta business isn’t going to the A3 from VW’s own premium Audi division. The 2015 updates won’t spark a huge turnaround. But they enhance the appeal of a compact car that’s a rare combination of American utility and European design.For more on the 2015 Jetta and other cars, trucks, and SUVs, go to CarPreview.com or subscribe to our CarPreview YouTube channel. .