The Volkswagen Jetta has long been a premium offering in the compact-sedan segment, but with its redesign for the 2011 model year, VW aims to make it a more mainstream model by adding a new lower-priced version to the lineup. The Jetta hits dealerships in fall 2010, and competitors include the Honda Civic, Mazda3 and Ford Focus.
The new Jetta will initially be offered with a choice of three engines, including a diesel, in four trim levels: S, SE, SEL and TDI (diesel). Next spring, Volkswagen plans to debut a high-performance GLI edition powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter gas four-cylinder.
The Jetta wagon, which received some notable updates for 2010, has not been redesigned and will continue being sold in its current form alongside the new sedan.
The Jetta rides on a longer wheelbase and is 182.2 inches long, which makes it longer than its predecessor. Its new styling is conservative but handsome, and the car loses some of the rounded design elements of its predecessor in favor of more angular, creased sheet metal.
The previous generation’s plunging grille has been replaced by a new horizontal bar grille, a design that’s migrated to other Volkswagens, such as the Golf hatchback. Rectangular headlights flank the grille. The sedan’s profile is clean-looking but not particularly memorable, and Audi-esque taillights finish off the rear of the car.
S trims come standard with 15-inch steel wheels, power locks with remote keyless entry and power-operated heated side mirrors. SE models gain 16-inch steel wheels and body-colored side mirrors with turn-signal indicators. Sixteen-inch alloy wheels and a moonroof are available for the SE. The SEL features 17-inch alloy rims, keyless access, push-button start, fog lights and chrome grille and window accents.
As before, the Jetta has seating for five. Backseat passengers gain 2.7 inches of legroom, and the 60/40-split backseat folds if you need to carry large items that won’t fit in the 15.5-cubic-foot trunk.
Even though the interior has been redesigned, there’s nonetheless a similarity between the new cabin and the previous one that should make it feel instantly familiar for current Jetta owners. Overall, the sedan’s interior isn’t as upscale as previous Volkswagens, and that may disappoint some current VW owners who are accustomed to the brand’s use of premium materials and its attention to detail.
Standard S features include air conditioning, a four-speaker CD stereo with an auxiliary input jack and power windows that all have a one-touch up/down feature. SE versions gain Volkswagen’s V-Tex simulated leather upholstery, cruise control, floormats, center console storage, a center armrest for the backseat, a trunk pass-through and illuminated visor mirrors. Heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, Bluetooth, iPod connectivity and Sirius Satellite Radio are available on the SE. The SEL adds a touch-screen navigation system, a trip computer and driver-side lumbar adjustment.
A 115-horsepower, 2.0-liter gas four-cylinder is the base engine. SE and SEL trims use a 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder gas engine that makes 170 hp. Both engines work with either a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.
The Jetta is one of the few cars in the U.S. available with a fuel-efficient diesel engine. The TDI model’s turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel four-cylinder makes 140 hp and 236 pounds-feet of torque. The diesel engine teams with a six-speed manual or Volkswagen’s six-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Standard safety features include antilock brakes, an electronic stability system, side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags for both rows, and active front head restraints.