2014 Volkswagen Jetta: Family Review Checklist

The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta is a lot of car for not a lot of money. My test car, the Jetta GLI, and its $25,075 price tag reminded me that my family and I don't need a whole lot of razzle-dazzle in a car to be happy.

That's not to say the Jetta GLI doesn't have a few things to keep life interesting. With its 210-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and standard six-speed manual transmission, I zipped around all day long and enjoyed almost every minute of it. This engine and transmission pairing thrilled me with a fun driving experience and kept me from noticing the features that were missing in this compact sedan.

With the manual transmission, the Jetta GLI gets an EPA-estimated 23/33/26 mpg city/highway/combined. If you step up to the optional dual-clutch automatic transmission, the fuel economy drops to 23/29/25 mpg. The Jetta GLI uses premium gasoline.

For a compact sedan, the Jetta has great passenger room, and my family of four, including two growing school-age kids, fit comfortably in it. In the backseat, I was constantly surprised at the legroom for the kids even when the front seats were adjusted to fit me and my husband. The Jetta has 38.1 inches of rear legroom, beating the Honda Civic (36.2), the Mazda3 sedan (35.8) and the Ford Focus (33.2).

The rear bench seat was deep enough to accommodate rear-facing child-safety seats without issue. There are two sets of easy-to-use lower Latch anchors, and three tether anchors are found on the rear shelf behind the head restraints. The only headache will come with kids in booster seats who might struggle when using the recessed seat belt buckles.

One big hiccup for my family was we barely managed to fit my son's large hockey bag and stick into the trunk, despite the pass-through. The trunk opening was almost too small for a giant bag. Once we got the bag past the opening, we found that there was lots of room. The Jetta has a 15.5-cubic-foot trunk. Once again, it beats its competitors such as the Civic (12.5 cubic feet), Mazda3 sedan (12.4) and Focus (13.2). Should you need more cargo space, the 60/40-split rear seats can be folded with the pull of levers in the trunk.

The touch-screen stereo system is intuitive to use. Otherwise, there's little technology to wrestle with in the Jetta GLI. Buttons and knobs control the car's climate; it's refreshing to keep things simple. My test car didn't have heated seats or a sunroof — features I prefer to have. While I missed the heated seats, the lack of a sunroof didn't faze me one bit.

The 2014 Jetta GLI excels in teaching a lesson of less is more or at least less isn't so bad in this family-friendly car.

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