By Cars.com EditorsSeptember 24, 2010
About the video
Cars.com's Mike Hanley takes a look at the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5 SEL. It competes with the Honda Civic, Mazda3 and Ford Focus.
(upbeat music) <v Host>Cars.com auto review. (gentle music) Hi, I'm Mike Hanley with cars.com. Volkswagen's aiming to become a bigger player in the U.S. market and the redesigned 2011 Jetta represents a key component in that strategy.
It also represents something of a philosophy shift for this car because the redesigned model has lost some of the premium attributes that define the car in the past, but it's gained more backseat room and retained the car's noteworthy handling performance. (car whooshing) The redesigned Jetta gets all new styling and it's a bigger car too. It's 3.5 inches longer overall, and it has a more creased angular look to its sheet metal. You can really see the design language in this new grille, which emphasizes the car's width. It's nice and wide and horizontal, around back, the tail light influences, you can definitely see come from Audi. One of the ways Volkswagen hopes the new Jetta will appeal to buyers is by offering a new low cost model that starts around $15,000. That's not the model here though, this is a 2.5 SEL, that's a midrange sedan, but you can see that the cost cutting that's gone into making that low cost model has been applied across the range because some of the soft touch materials from the old car are now hard plastic, the height adjustable arm rest is just a fixed height one, some of the manual air conditioning controls feel a little rickety and overall fit and finish isn't as high as it used to be. Now if you're coming from a Honda Civic or a Toyota Corolla, the interior is still gonna look pretty nice, but if you're familiar with old Volkswagens and what they've done in the past, this might seem a little low grade to you. Well, the Jetta has a clear advantage over its competition is in it's rear seat, the new car's longer wheel base results in more backseat leg room. Whenever I sit in a car like the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, my knees are pressed against the rear of the front seats, but not in this car. I have about two inches of leg room to spare and I'm about six feet, one inch tall, so when you combine that with the large 15.5 cubic foot trunk that this car has, there's definitely enough room to carry four adults and all their things. Even though the new Jetta doesn't feel as upscale on the inside, Volkswagen has retained the sporty driving experience this car is known for. It feels solid and planted when cornering with limited body roll and it's still a pretty firm riding car. You definitely get a sense for the road when driving it. (car whooshing) The base engine is a 115 horsepower, two-liter four-cylinder engine, but our car is equipped with the volume motor and that's a 170 horsepower, 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine. And despite its odd cylinder cart, it's pretty smooth revving motor. Now that engine contained with either a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. The automatic has a little problem with throttle lag right from a standing stop. In the five speeds, power delivery isn't the most linear, but overall, this is a pretty strong engine for this class. The Jetta is by far Volkswagen's best-selling model in the U.S., but with the changes they made for the 2011 model year, they've made it less likely to appeal to certain core VW buyers who appreciate driving fun and upscale interior amenities and not being able to hang its hat on reliability the way Honda and Toyota can, that's something of a risk. <v Host>For more car related news, go to cars.com or our blog KickingTires.net.