By on January 18, 2013

If I say “hybrid,” most people think: slow, efficient, awful-to-drive, Prius, tree-hugger, Democrat and California. Pretty much in that order. The people’s car company however is on a mission to change your word association. In 2011 VW crafted the ridiculously fast supercharged Touareg Hybrid. For 2013, the Germans have some new words for you to associate with “hybrid”: direct-injection, turbocharged, 7-speed, DSG and Jetta. Is this enough to sway Prius shoppers looking for a more engaging ride? More importantly: should you get the Jetta Hybrid or the Jetta TDI? VW tossed us the keys to a dark blue fuel-sipper to find out.

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Exterior

No longer just a “Golf sedan,” the sixth-generation Jetta shares no sheetmetal with its hatchback cousin. VW has long been known for restrained styling and the Jetta doesn’t depart from their formula of simple lines and slab sides. Still, it has a more elegant look to my eye than the Civic or the Prius. For hybrid duty VW gave the Jetta requisite aerodynamic tweaks, some hybrid badges and aerodynamic wheels. Contrary to the rumor mill, the American Jetta is the same basic car as the European Jetta (unlike the Passat) with tweaks inside and out for the different markets.

Interior

The biggest difference between the Euro and American Jetta is the interior. While both vehicles share a common design, the American version swaps squishy dash bits for hard plastic to keep the price competitive. That’s fine in a $17,000 compact car, but for a $24,995-$31,180 hybrid, harsh plastics would have been decidedly low rent. Thankfully VW had Euro Jetta parts hanging around and the MSRP of the Hybrid justified their installation (the GLI gets the up-market parts as well). The swap makes the Hybrid cabin a nicer place to spend your time than the diesel model, although the hard plastic center console and door panels remain. Fear not, it’s still a classier cabin than the Civic Hybrid or the Prius and VW had the sense to keep the gauges where they belong instead of some odd binnacle in the center of the dash. Instead of the two-dial cluster found in the standard models, the Hybrid model uses a unique four-dial unit with a “power gauge” instead of a tachometer. The power gauge displays the percentage of total system power being used from 0-100% as well as regenerative braking status.

VW offers the compact hybrid in four different trim levels, base, SE, SEL and SEL Premium. Regardless of trim, the seats are covered in VW’s “V-Tex” leatherette material. Seat cushions have not been upgraded vs the non-hybrid models so the padding is fairly firm with minimal bolstering and manual lumbar support for the driver only. If you’re one of those VW fans that misses the premium-feeling interiors they used to offer in America, stepping up to the Hybrid or GLI brings the Euro-mojo back. The TDI? Not so much. Then again the Hybrid is $2,000 more than a comparable TDI, so you’d expect better digs.

Out back, the rear seats are as low to the floor as the Civic or Corolla but are a more comfortable with improved padding. Rear passengers with longer legs will appreciate the Jetta’s 38-inches of rear legroom (2 more than Civic Hybrid, Prius or Corolla). Despite having similar headroom numbers as the Corolla and Civic, my hair brushed the ceiling  in the back leaving me to question VW’s measuring devices. If you have a short torso and long legs, the Jetta is the place to be, otherwise check out something taller like a C-MAX.

VW positioned the batteries in the trunk to preserve the Jetta’s trunk pass-through. If that sounds like a no-brainer design wise, go check out the Toyota Camry Hybrid which retains the folding rear seats, but when folded they reveal a small and strangely positioned pass-through. The larger portal is possible because VW’s 60-cell, 1.1-kWh battery pack uses dense lithium-ion chemistry as opposed to nickel metal-hydride packs common on Toyota’s hybrids. VW also chose to keep the compact spare instead of either converting to a battery compartment or ditching it for a can of fix-a-flat to save weight. Keeping the spare tire and adding the battery means the cargo capacity drops nearly 30% to 11.3 cubic feet vs the regular Jetta.

Infotainment

Base hybrid models start with an AM/FM/CD player with Bluetooth audio streaming and the requisite aux input. SE and SEL models upgrade the base head unit to VW’s touchscreen display audio unit with XM-Radio and VW’s USB/iDevice interface (MDI). VW’s proprietary MDI cables plug into a port in the glove box. VW includes an MDI to iDevice cable while an MDI to USB cable is available at your dealer. In case you’re wondering, you can use an apple adapter to connect your iPhone 5 and it worked properly.

The SEL Premium model gets VW’s 5-inch touchscreen navigation unit (RNS-315) seen in a number of other VW vehicles from the Golf to the Passat. VW stores the database on 4GB of built-in flash memory which speeds up address entry and rerouting. Unfortunately VW’s infotainment offerings are getting a long in the tooth compared to the latest offerings from Toyota, Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Dodge and Chevrolet in terms of graphics quality and functionality. While Honda has yet to send HondaLink down to the Civic, everyone else is doubling down on voice recognition to search for tunes on your USB/iDevice. On the flip side, the SEL Premium gets the 9-speaker Fender audio system which is possibly the best speaker system available in a compact car.

Drivetrain

Apparently I’m not the first person to say: “gee, a small direct-injection turbo engine would be the perfect engine to jam under a hybrid’s hood.” Rather than altering the Jetta’s base 2.0L engine to run on an Atkinson cycle and adding a motor (like everyone else), VW reached into their Euro engine bin and selected their 1.4L TSI engine. The boosted, direct-injection mill is good for 150HP at 5,000RPM and 184lb-ft from 1,400 to 3,500 RPM all on its own. The engine is then mated (via a clutch pack) to a 20kW (27HP) and 114lb-ft water-cooled motor. Because gasoline engines and electric motors have different power delivery characteristics, you don’t just add the numbers to get the system total. The combined output rings in at 170HP while the torque remains 184ft-lbs but broadens to a range of  1,000 to 4,500 RPM. While that sounds tasty enough, torque below 1,000RPM improves considerably thanks to the motor cranking out 114lb-ft from essentially zero RPM.

Instead of mating the powerplant to a traditional automatic transmission like VW did with the Touareg Hybrid, the engineers pulled the new 7-speed “DSG” dual-clutch transaxle out of the bin. If you’re interested in exactly how the power flows, this might help: Engine > clutch > motor > clutch > transaxle > wheels. An important fact that isn’t immediately obvious but should be kept in mind is the 1.4L engine’s appetite for premium gasoline. While all vehicles sold in the US must run safely on regular, you will notice a drop in power when doing so.

About that fuel economy

Hybrids are all about fuel efficiency, right? Well, not if you’re GM or Porsche (or a Touareg), but I digress. This hybrid is about efficiency with a Germanic twist. Rated for 42MPG city, 48MPG highway and 45MPG combined, the Jetta falls short of the Prius’ 51/48/50 MPG or the C-MAX’s 47/47/47 rating but it is higher than the Civic Hybrid at 44/44/44 or the  Jetta TDI’s 30/42/34 score. VW claims they could have matched the Prius numbers but they chose not to, instead favoring handling and performance over economy at all costs. And I could have beat Obama in the last national election but I chose not to run so I could devote my time to TTAC.

During a 743-mile week of mixed driving I averaged 37.6MPG. On the same driving cycle I averaged 41.5MPG in the C-MAX, 49.6MPG in the Prius, 42.8 in the Civic Hybrid and 36MPG in the Jetta TDI. When driven gently, our tester scored 46.6MPG on a 40 mile highway trip and 43.2MPG running around town. While these numbers fall short of the Jetta’s EPA numbers it is important to keep in mind that a 10% difference between EPA numbers and real world numbers are more pronounced when the numbers get bigger. Is this a problem? Not in my book. In reality the difference between operating a Prius and the Jetta is fairly small.

Our tester was an SEL Premium which came standard with 205/50R17 tires, an upgrade from the base model’s 205/50R15s. If you do the math, the 17-inch tires provide approximately a 10% larger contact patch on the road which improves handling but logically must take a toll on fuel economy. We were unable to get our hands  on a base Jetta Hybrid to verify this and VW didn’t respond to my questions with straight answers. Tire choices are an important part of the high-efficiency package, something to keep in mind when you buy new tires for any car.

Drive

VW’s 7-speed DSG proved an interesting companion out on the road. The feeling behind the wheel is very different from other hybrid vehicles which, up till now, have predominantly used CVT-type transmissions. Like other vehicles with dual-clutch units, shifts are more noticeable than a regular automatic with a definite moment where “nothing is happening” as the DSG shifts from one gear to another. The effect seems less pronounced in the hybrid than in other VW models and the smoothness penalty is worth the improved efficiency to me. On the down side, as regenerative breaking uses the traction motor (which is located on the input side of the transaxle) braking and downshifting at the same time causes some strange brake feel as the regenerative braking “turns off” during the shift, then comes “back on” after the shift is complete. In general, the transitions between regenerative and friction braking just aren’t as polished as they are in the Ford, Toyota, Lexus or Infiniti hybrids but they are a bit better than the Civic.

 

The Jetta Hybrid is the most dynamic hybrid under $40,000 I have ever tested, barely besting the Civic. Although the C-MAX is a competent handler, its 3,650lb curb weight makes it feel less responsive than the 3,300lb Jetta. If you want something even more nimble, that Civic hybrid is a bantamweight 2,868lbs. Helping the Jetta around the corners is a coil spring suspension, similar to the one used in the GLI, which replaces the cheaper torsion beam setup used in the lesser Jettas. Thanks to the suspension change (and the extra curb weight from the batteries), the Hybrid model also delivers a more composed ride on broken pavement. Curb weight isn’t everything when it comes to driving however. While the Civic handles curves like a pro, even a full-sized van will eat its lunch in the straights and that’s where the Jetta pulls its lederhosen up and sprints. Our tester scooted to 60 in 7.12 seconds, just a hair behind the more powerful 188HP C-MAX and a full 2 seconds faster than the Civic Hybrid, Prius or the oil-burning Jetta TDI.

After a week and 743 miles with the fuel-sipping German I came to an important conclusion: this hybrid system should be jammed under the hood of every VW product in America. Aside from replacing the tachometer with a “power gauge,” this system presents few drawbacks while improving both performance and economy. It all comes at a price, the Jetta Hybrid is about $4,500 more than a comparably equipped gasoline Jetta. The hybrid model will save you $800 a year on your gas bill (15,000 miles a year) compared to the 2.0L gasoline-only model, but the pay back at $3.30/gallon gasoline will take 6 years. The TDI comparison is where we started and where we’ll finish. The $2,000 difference in MSRP for the hybrid gets you the upgraded interior, improved gauge cluster, a version of the European coil spring suspension and greatly improved city mileage. According to the EPA it would only take 3.5 years for the hybrid to start saving you money over the diesel. This begs the obvious question: VW, where is my diesel hybrid? Until VW decides to craft such a beast, the Jetta Hybrid should take the top spot on your list.

 

 Volkswagen provided the vehicle, insurance and a tank of gasoline for this review.

Statistics as tested:

0-30: 2.7 seconds

0-60: 7.12 seconds

1/4 mile: 15.6 seconds at 88 MPH

Average economy: 37.6 MPG over 743 miles

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93 Comments on “Review: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid (Video)...”


  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    This begs the obvious question: VW, where is my diesel hybrid?

    I have asked this for about six years now. Everyone says its cost prohibitive. I say build it and they will come. I have advocated for Lincoln to do this for several years now to differentiate itself from Fords…No chance on that though.

    • 0 avatar
      ToxicSludge

      “Diesel” ??? That is the automotive equivalent to a four letter word someone blurts out in church…on sunday….with visiting relatives,lol ;}>

    • 0 avatar
      Nicholas Weaver

      Diesel hybrids are a silly idea: Diesel has one real and one perceived advantage over gasoline.

      The perceived advantage is that, because diesel is about 10% more energy dense, you get greater “MPG” figures. Which is countered almost exactly by the higher cost of diesel, since a modern refinery can pretty much take the same amount of oil and produce an equal amount of energy in gasoline, which is more gallons of gasoline for the same input.

      The real advantage is a diesel is more efficient under low-throttle conditions: wide open, a gasoline and a diesel engine are just about equal in converting fuel energy into wheel power. But with the throttle cracked, a gasoline engine has a huge amount of aerodynamic drag that sucks away efficiency.

      Hybrids solve this problem by basically running the gasoline engine wide open, but at low RPM (when they don’t just turn off the gasoline motor altogether), and especially take advantage of the electric motor’s torque to allow some response at these dismally low RPMs. And even with a “conventional” automatic, a 7-speed transmission pretty much allows you to lug the engine everytime you aren’t stepping on the gas.

      So a “diesel hybrid” for a passenger car is a silly idea, and don’t expect to see one unless VW wants to lose money.

      • 0 avatar
        Chocolatedeath

        Dont really know how “silly” it is since MB alreay offers an E class with one in Germany. There are ways to get around the dynamics of both of them to get them to work harmoniously together. Mazda for instance has the perfect D engine for a hybrid and its design is made from the start to be merged with a hybrid and provide the best of both words. The automatic Trans was a “silly” idea once as well. A four door minivan seemed “silly” to Ford. In more recent history the Gas hybrid itself seemed silly to everyone but Toyota. So the Diesel Hybrid may have some challenges but being “silly” ain’t one of them.

      • 0 avatar
        Nicholas Weaver

        The only reason why MB offers one in Germany (and why pretty much the only diesel cars with the exception of the VWs are in Europe) is that diesel is taxed at a vastly lower in Europe than gasoline: A gallon of diesel in Germany is $.50/gallon or more cheaper than gasoline. Combined with the energy density differences, this means $ per gasoline gallon equivalent energy, diesel is close to a buck a gallon cheaper!

        Compare with the US, where diesel is a good $.40/gallon MORE than gasoline, which pretty much corresponds with the energy/gallon difference between the two fuels.

      • 0 avatar
        chrishs2000

        You seem to forget that diesels have inherently higher thermal efficiency. That’s a real advantage; diesel converts more of its mass into energy than gasoline does.

        Also, I think by ‘aerodynamic drag’ you’re referring to pumping losses caused by the throttle?

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      Don’t forget that:
      diesel power = heavy weight; ideal operating at low RPM.
      electric power w/batteries = heavy weight; ideal operating at low RPM
      gasoline power = light weight; ideal operating at high RPM

      Diesel electric hybrids make great sense on heavy and expensive city buses that stop every few blocks to pick up/drop off passengers and rarely go fast.

      Gasoline electric hybrids make more sense on light weight passenger cars that see normal duty cycles and frequently go fast.

    • 0 avatar
      b787

      Actually a diesel hybrid exist but it is sold only in europe. It wasn’t well received however. Quote from Autocar review:

      “Unless you’re paying company car tax, we’d warn against buying the expensive [Peugeot 3008] Hybrid4 range-topper. Our economy test on the car demonstrated decidedly underwhelming economy from the diesel-electric 3008 – at 41.4mpg* on average, almost 10 per cent worse than that of the lighter, manual-equipped 2.0 HDi 150. Used in exclusively urban modes, the hybrid would begin to earn its keep – but not compared to the likes of a Toyota Prius or Lexus CT200h. And for us, that’s just not enough of a recommendation.”

      *approximately 35 MPG (US)

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      A lot of fast and loose statements made here. Let’s correct the more egregious mistakes.

      On a volume basis, per gallon or liter, diesel has 15% more heat value than gasoline. Not 10%.

      On a weight basis, diesel and gasoline have the same heat value.

      So, unsurprisingly, a given volume of diesel weighs 15% more than gasoline.

      If energy were sold by weight, diesel and gasoline should be the same price.

      Diesel engines have no throttle plate. They inhale a full charge of air whether at idle or flat out. Unless they’re turboed, when their necks are well and truly wrung at full boost. At idle, the air/fuel ratio can be as low as 140 to 1, which explains the lack of heat for defrost on a cold day. Stop/start in traffic for a diesel is a waste of time.

      Diesel power output is governed by how much fuel you shovel in per cycle. There is always excess air.

      Gasoline engines do have a throttle plate (or infinitely height variable opening intake valving such as FIAT Multiair), so at idle and low loads, they restrict the amount of air the cylinder can inhale, and fuel is added to keep the air-fuel ratio at 14.7 or so such that the mixture can be lit by a spark. City stop/start a good idea. Toasty warm heater in winter.

      Someone above says that the gas engine in a hybrid runs flat out and the electric motor is used to modulate total output. What a cock-eyed notion! For goodness sake, the moon is indeed made if green cheese I guess. Not the case in any way.

      If anyone is actually interested in how things really work, the Internet lies wide open in front of you: just try and comprehend what you read and don’t invent old wives’ tales.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Small correction. Many modern diesels DO have throttles. BMWs certainly do. Computer controlled of course – can fine tune air and fuel, though I assume most of the time they are wide open. Which makes for the amusing fact that most of their diesels have throttles and most of their gasoline engines do not.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    The TDI could easily get MPG in the 50′s but VW has made it more powerful than it needs to be for such a small car. My 2004 Golf (RIP dear Squeaky) was rated at 38C/46H and I got 50+ with ease on highway trips. But whatever, “diesel” is a bad word and “hybrid” is a fad word. I get it.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Did you miss the part where the Jetta Hybrid gets to 60 around 2 seconds faster than the TDI? Same mileage as the TDI, while being faster, and using a cheaper fuel. Sounds like the TDI might only make sense based on up front cost or if you are a person that does a 200 mile commute at 70mph on a daily basis instead of once every few months.

      With the regulation changes on diesel in the past decade, what you got in your 2004 Golf TDI simply doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t pass emissions today.

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        When I got that car, diesel was *cheaper* than regular where I lived. Had diesel not been a bad word and “oh noes the black smoke oldsmobile” still been the stereotype since the 1980′s, maybe more effort to reduce emissions and increase fuel economy in diesels would have changed the landscape today.

        So if one technology practically stagnates and others see steady improvement, of course it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

        My main point anyway was that the current TDI need not be 140HP, since the 100HP engine back then was more than plenty. That car never felt the least bit strained, even with 4 adults. And I’m pretty sure I’ve never even considered 0-60 times when buying a car. Maybe I should research Nürburgring lap times when I shop for cars too.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Diesel is currently $.10 more a gallon than premium where I live. It is usually cheaper than premium in the summer time. I call that a wash on fuel price.

        For me the TDI has one utterly overwhelming advantage over the hybrid – three pedals and a stickshift. I wouldn’t buy a DSG with someone else’s money.

        While I am not surprised that the Hybrid would do better in actual city driving, everyone I know with current gen TDIs (5 happy owners) gets 50mpg on the highway with them. Just one of those cars that does better in the real world than on the EPA test cycle.

        And seriously, who cares if one is 2 seconds faster to 60, both are faster than they have any need of being, and that is not the way to drive for efficiency.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        I love when it hybrid owners last resort is to throw the “emissions card.”

        I’d take a $24,000 2.0T Jetta any day for fuel economy and acceleration/fun to drive over these hybrids and diesels. With 0-60 mph times 1.5 faster than the Jetta Hybrid and 3.5 seconds or almost 50% faster than a Prius and real world fuel economy near 40 mpg. With handling to match the performance what else could I want on my 58 mile commute to work.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        Norm – I had a 2007 2.0T Golf GTI. The only time it came close to 40mpg was when I was driving the flattest of flat roads at around 45mph lugging in 6th gear. Even in those ideal conditions, it was around 36mpg. I averaged 31mpg over the 58k miles I owned my GTI, so I’m certainly now a leadfoot. Are you measuring in imperial gallons again? That said, I totally agree about choosing a 2.0T over the TDI. It really is a peach of an engine. Way more fun and still pretty decent on gas other than requiring premium. What do you mean emissions card? It is a fact that the old VW TDIs would not pass present emissions. It is a fact that lots of the technology required for diesels to meet current emissions hurts fuel economy in those vehicles. Don’t complain to me; complain to your congressman/woman.

        krhodes – Good point on the premium. VW should have worked a lot harder to get the Jetta Hybrid to run on regular. One of my best friends has a 6MT Jetta TDI Sportwagen and he averages 43mpg driving almost exclusively interstate. TDIs seem to do exceptional on long highway trips, but fuelly confirms that people average in the low 40s.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Norm is a diehard GM fanboy who sees it as his duty to express as much hatred for Toyota as he possibly can.

        That obligation carries with it a requirement to whine constantly about hybrids, since they are so strongly associated with the Toyota brand. And that, in turn, leads to this compulsion to spin tales about his mythological Saab, which apparently manages to defy the laws of physics by getting fuel economy comparable to a Prius.

        I don’t know whether he’s an addled nutjob or just a liar, but either way, don’t take what he says with a grain of salt. This fantasy fuel economy of his exists only in his imagination.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        PCH, what car you driving? I’ll drive your car and we’ll see what it will do versus the EPA on the highway at 60 mph.

        Quentin, sounds similar to my 2000 9-5 when I picked up last year with 116K miles it was seeing 38-39 mpg @ 60 mph for 50 miles. That was with a sticking front caliper and no alignment with just a fluid and filter change. Fuel consumption is calculated with the Saab info display usually within a tenth or two depending on how much clutch time. GPS shows the speedometer to be about 1.5 mph as is the case with most cars and I am just short of the mile markers posts.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Any price comparisons vs. the non-hybrid Jetta should be done with the 2.5L. Very few people actually buy that pathetic, outdated (circa mid-90′s), POS, underpowered, 2.0. (It’s actually not a horrible engine, just outdated and undersized for a vehicle of this size.)

    It’s only purpose in the US is to allow VW to advertise a crazy-low base price, similar to a manual-window/lock Detroit “stripper”.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      A search of autotrader.com turns up a huge number of 2011-2012 Jetta S models (with 2.0L engines) for sale.

      Not everyone needs or wants 170 hp …

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        Hardly a ringing endorsement for customer satisfaction if people bailed out of these nearly new cars this fast. Maybe they don’t need 170hp but life with 115 gets old fast.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        @jpolicke, autotrader.com shows almost 9300 2011-2012 Ford Focuses for sale. Does that mean people were tragically unhappy with it and it’s a bad car? I think not.

        The reality is that many people still sell their cars before they are three years old. But looking at autotrader.com can give you some idea of the trim/option mix that has been sold within a particular model — and about half the Jettas appear to have been sold with 2.0L engines, based on that.

      • 0 avatar
        nellar

        Different motor.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Having had them as rentals, I find the 2.sl0 entirely adequate, even with the automatic. No speed demon, but adequate, and reasonably efficient. I do think something like a 1.8L 16V and a slightly higher price would be nice though.

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    Alex, thank you for the reviews.
    In this price range I would also look closely at the Camry Hybrid LE.

  • avatar
    jaje

    VW supposedly will build a 7 passenger plug in diesel hybrid called the CrossBlue. It should get 39 mpg when engine is running and batteries discharged (that’s about what a Chevy Volt gets which is disappointing for the Volt as it is much smaller and lighter – maybe Chevy will get rid of the gas generator and put in the diesel that will be in the Cruze later this year). Oh and here’s the kicker…when you need it there is 516 ft lbs of torque driven to all 4 wheels.

  • avatar
    segfault

    I like the fact that it has a useable folding rear seat, which is absent from most sedan-based hybrids. (I think the Camry may have one but I don’t think it’s full-width). The navy blue color of the tester is nice, but the grey interior is kind of drab.

    It also appears that the Jetta lacks a fabric trunk finisher on the trunk lid, something that most “premium” sedans have (and something the Jetta used to have). The unfinished decklid looks like a 2006 Malibu.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    “Aside from replacing the tachometer with a “power gauge..”

    I scratch my head…what are the units of the gauge? Definitively not RPM…what then? Manifold Vacuum/boost pressure? Percent power output?
    Other?

  • avatar
    Mr Imperial

    Does anyone know the F/R weight distribution? Do Hybrids in general experience a faster rate of wear on the front tires and brakes?

    As far as TDI Hybrid, I’m about as pro-diesel as one will find, but with the added weight of the beefier diesel drivetrain on the front-driven hybrid wheels, is it unreasonable to think of 70/30 weight distribution?

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Hybrid brakes last almost forever, if you don’t get on them hard nearly all of the stopping can be done by the regen system with no pad wear at all. Tire wear should be a little bit worse with the added weight.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      In general the weight balance is either the same or better. Remember that while there is a 27HP motor jammed up front, there’s a large battery pack that is over/behind the rear axle. Since VW didn’t ditch the spare, there was little “weight trading” so just a few hundred pounds added, about half up front and about half in the rear. The electric A/C pump is supposedly lighter and there’s also some additional electronics involved.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I drive my hybrid as I drive all my cars: fairly heavy foot, but certainly not abusive. Commute is about 50% heavy stop and go, 50% highway speeds. Rear brakes went first at 40K miles. Fronts were replaced at 55K Never had the rears go first on a non hybrid. Front rotors were warped and replaced at the same time. Factory tires (Conti Contacts) lasted about 50K. Historically I kill the front brakes in about 25K and tires (high performance) are usually down to the wear bars in 30K. So there is certainly a difference in wear characteristics.

  • avatar
    brettc

    My local dealer had 2 Jetta Hybrids on the lot when I stopped by recently. I was surprised at the pricing and I was also surprised that the LED Bi-Xenon headlights were about a $2000 option (part of the tech package I think). My 2012 Jolf TDI wagon was about $4000 cheaper than the cheapest Jetta Hybrid on the lot. I’m glad VW decided to Hybridize the Jetta and offer a fuel efficient non-diesel choice, but the price seems a bit high to me. I’m sure they’ll sell though, because it’s a nice looking car if you can get over the price.

    Also, I wonder if the 1.4 TSI will end up in something else since they’ve certified it in the US? I’m not sure if they’d have to re-certify it without the hybrid component if they wanted to use it in other models.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Disappointed to see that VW, as almost everyone else, made the usual fuel economy trim compromise of cutting three more gallons out of an already small tank to ensure you still need to stop for more gas every week.

    Disappointed in principle, that is. In practice this could go to the moon and back on half a tank and I still wouldn’t buy another VW. Fool me twice.

    • 0 avatar
      Chocolatedeath

      yeah I dont get that either. Ford did it with the Fusion Hybrid and its not only about a 13.5 gallon tank down about 3 as well. This to me defeats the purpose of buying a more fuel effective car. If they had left it at 16 I could go further with a tank of gas. I have read other places that this save weight but I dont know if this is true or worth it.

      • 0 avatar
        FuzzyPlushroom

        I should imagine (though I haven’t seen cutaway diagrams of either car) that there’s some space saved that’s now used by the battery, as well.

      • 0 avatar
        segfault

        I doubt if the space saved by the smaller gas tank can be used for batteries–you would want sheetmetal between the two, and also, things like floor pans are typically hard points that can’t be modified for one particular model without doing a lot of other work.

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        VW essentially did this with the new TDIs as well. They’re supposed to be 15 gallon tanks, but good luck putting that much in. The most I’ve ever put in my 2012 TDI is 13.64 gallons and that was when it was down to about a 15 mile range according to the cluster. I used to be able to routinely put 15-16 gallons in my older TDIs after the light came on. Of course, VW also removed the vent which was the way you could add 15-16 gallons in the older cars. A guy on the TDI forums came up with a mod to allow the whole 15 gallons to be used, but I’m not modding my fuel tank. I’ll just complain about it instead.

    • 0 avatar

      I drove a late-model Passat with the 2.5L I-5 and it had a reasonably-long distance to empty. But what you’re speaking of is the danger of slighting a customer (or a potential customer) who might forever be turned off to your products…

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Thanks to my ’09 TDI, my word associations include “failed”, “replace”, “out of warranty”, and “very expensive”. This is another VW with advanced technology; repair bills should be equally frightening. VW will likely have the same reliability with their Li-ion batteries as a Boeing 787, with remarkably similar replacement costs.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Me, too (02 Passat V6).

      “Engine > clutch > motor > clutch > transaxle > wheels”

      VW’s legendary reliability and “German Engineering” tell me this is a car to be avoided except as a lease.

      Toyota’s been doing the hybrid thing for a very long time, with very high reliability. I wouldn’t even consider a VW hybrid without some phenomenal advantage over other choices.

  • avatar
    Toad

    As much as I like the look of the Jetta hybrid, a buyer would have to be very brave to take on the risk of a new powertrain system (at least twice the complexity of the standard Jetta) with VW’s reliability history.

    There is a very good chance that any money saved on fuel in the first 2 years of ownership will be spent in the service department after year 3.

  • avatar
    Nitro Cory

    “Helping the Jetta around the corners is a coil spring suspension, similar to the one used in the GLI, which replaces the cheaper torsion beam setup used in the lesser Jettas.”

    Implying some Jettas don’t use coil springs? I was under the impression the torsion beam wasn’t a torsion spring but rather controlled suspension movement, the main difference between the GLI rear suspension and lesser Jettas being that the GLI design was fully independent.

  • avatar

    I suppose it’s sort of pricey, but not as much as I would have figured. But if you’re going to spend $31K for the hybrid, it should have the RNS-515 satnav, as far as I’m concerned. I also think VW should be bundling the RNS-515 with lesser CC-trims, rather than the RNS-315. Fortunately, upgrading to the larger satnav system if you’ve already got navigation is a simple plug-and-play maneuver, but it’ll cost you about $900 for a used example, which may even need the NA map data loaded onto it…

  • avatar
    Bob

    I like the wheels, they look like they would be completely cleaned in an automatic car wash. Why don’t more companied design their wheels to be more easily cleaned? I spend the same amount of time cleaning the wheels on my cars as I do cleaning the body.

  • avatar
    NeinNeinNein

    Several of my family members have Mark V VW’s –gasser and diesel. One has a Mark IV Jetta TDI wagon–they all love their cars and have had minimal issues.
    Last year we picked up an ’08 Audi A4 sedan–love the car! Routine maintenance –brakes, oil, timing belt job (and assoc. components) DIY that I tackled myself is all I have done for 19 months of ownership and 30K miles.
    As always–with any car you mileage will vary.
    I WOULD be wary of the first gen of this technology however–I think VAG cars have improved vastly though.
    Get some wrenches and a subscription to a VW/AUDI internet board and fix it yourself if possible = lower costs plus a great driving experience.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    “If I say “hybrid,” most people think: slow, efficient, awful-to-drive, Prius, tree-hugger, Democrat and California. Pretty much in that order.”

    You left me out: Cheap.

    Using the word “Democrat” is funny, but I think politics has little to do with it.

    I really looked closely at the Jetta last year at our auto show and I liked what they did with it. I do have a problem with what is supposed to be a fine German-engineered car that winds up being problematic and nowhere near the reliability of my old Chevy.

    I don’y know if that’s still true, but making one a hybrid spells trouble to me. I hope I’m wrong!

    I briefly considered a hybrid of some sort, but – well, a certain Chevy was staring me in the face and melted my heart…

    Maybe next time.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    “Our tester was an SEL Premium which came standard with 205/50R17 tires, an upgrade from the base model’s 205/50R15s. If you do the math, the 17-inch tires provide approximately a 10% larger contact patch on the road which improves handling but logically must take a toll on fuel economy.”

    I’m having a hard time doing the math. The only factors in determining contact patch size are weight and tire inflation pressure, and I see neither of them referenced here. Are cars equipped with 17s 10% heavier? Do they run 10% less air pressure? Some combination of more weight and less pressure? Does VW really equip Jettas with tires of such disparate circumferences?

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      It’s almost certainly a mistake. 205/50R15 tires would be about 23 inches in diameter while 205/50R17 tires would be about 25 inches in diameter.

      I don’t think VW would offer tires that differ so much in diameter on the same car. I think the 15 inch wheels are probably using 195/65 tires.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        That’s certainly one mistake, but it doesn’t change that the contact patch area is dictated by weight and inflation pressure rather than tire size.

      • 0 avatar
        fvfvsix

        You are correct, Chicago Dude – the 15 inchers are 195/65/15′s. So, the big determining factor in the contact patch is obviously the tire’s section width.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        See CJinSD’s comment above … weight and tire pressure are the main factors.

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        A tire is not a balloon. It has internal structure and the relationship between contact patch area, internal pressure and vertical load is not linear.

        If it were the case, wide tires would never have been developed back in the 1960s – they would have been an utter waste of time. My PhD physics prof back then could never wrap his head around friction coefficients until I came up with a simple experiment to show him.

        There is a Boeing monogram floating around the Internet that agrees with the simplistic view of the tire as balloon, but can be dismissed as being of the same level of engineering as the 787 battery installation.

        http://www.performancesimulations.com/fact-or-fiction-tires-1.htm

        This doesn’t explain the phenomenon, but shows that contact patch size isn’t all that related to internal tire pressure.

        The tire companies never explain what’s going on, because I don’t think they know why either. There are dozens and dozens of learned articles about tire simulation, effective radius (another dead end) and no conclusions that would lead to a predictive solution.

        Kind of like “nitrogen” power Shell gasoline. Chimera.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Sorry wmba, but physics trump marketing when it comes to reality rather than perception. All tire sizes do is influence the shape of contact patches, not their size. Efforts with internal structure can only shift more load bearing properties to the structure of the tire, not reduce them beyond the ideal of all the weight being born by the air contained by the tire.

  • avatar
    ckgs

    The electronics in my last VW (and I mean last, as in I’ll another buy another) were ridiculously fragile, unreliable and expensive. I can only imagine the nightmare this thing will be out of warranty. And for extra measure, veedub threw in a turbo. What could possibly go wrong?

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      Lots of things! VW is infamous for electrical gremlins, so no one knows how this thing will be long term. Could be as reliable as a Prius, but it could also be a pile of fail on wheels before and/or after the warranty is up. As others have mentioned, this might be the ideal lease vehicle if you want something efficient and “sporty”.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The DSG is worthy of a mention here too. This car is a perfect dung storm of potential headaches. Shoppers would be better off consulting Eric Holder about their next automotive purchases than taking some auto reviewers seriously.

      • 0 avatar
        22_RE_Speedwagon

        Volkswagen+turbo+hybrid+Boeing Batteries + DSG + 1st model year? The maintenance on this thing in five years is going to have your whole neighborhood waking up in ice-filled bathtubs.

    • 0 avatar
      Manic

      VW direct inj. turbo motors have been available now approx. 7-8 years in europe, DSGs about 5 years. They don’t have bad rep. AFAIK.

  • avatar
    Ion

    I dont trust VWAG electronics in a regular car. You would have to be clinically insane or a german engineering fool to buy a hybrid from them.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      +1
      Couldn’t have said it better.

      • 0 avatar
        chas404

        I am only 43 but the pace of auto engineering change and this whole hybrid current trend is making feel more like my grampa who at one time searched around for a leftover new 1989 I think slab sided lincoln towncar to replace his aging current model BECAUSE he said he did not want to relearn the buttons!

        How right he was.

        I do not understand tiny TURBO motor and hybrid tech stuffed into a tiny engine bay plus DSG and $30k ( i like the car styling and interior is nice) but ALLL this in an effort to be ECONOMICAL?

        Where does $30k fit into this? Why bother other than to brag about mpg numbers or hi tech or false environmental claims?

        whats wrong with a nice 2.5 jetta for $25k? better that than having a some local VW dealer mechanic trying to fiddle with all that high tech stuff under the hood.

        diesel is cool but I think i just saw diesel for 50 cents a gallon more.

        I swore that hybrids were a trend that would go away but it seems to be getting more and more popular (for marketing or whatever reason).

        • 0 avatar
          danwat1234

          @chas404, you can’t argue with 48MPG (american gallons) real world average on the Prius. Buy a used Prius for under $10K with full maintenance records and a thorough look over before buying and you are set.

          I am excited for the AWD Prius coming in 2015 or so.

  • avatar
    Perc

    “Like other vehicles with dual-clutch units, shifts are more noticeable than a regular automatic”

    Funny, my experience is the total opposite. DSG gearchanges are seamless unless you catch it off-guard. Then they still are smooth. Better than any automatic I’ve driven.

    I still prefer an automatic’s constant creep to the robotized clutch though. Especially when parking.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      One thing that I have to say bugs the CRAP out of me about my Mom’s Prius-V is that it still creeps. WHY! There is no reason for it to! They are just artificially simulating a BAD feature of regular automatic transmissions. If your foot is not on the gas pedal the car should not be moving. I have to think that on cars with “normal” CVTs (i.e. belt or chaing driven, not Toyota/Ford hybrid triple motor style) it has to be causing wear to have the car always straining against the brakes while stopped.

      IMHO, even with an automatic or CVT, taking your foot off the gas pedal should cause the car to stop and stay stopped, since nearly every modern car is capable of applying the brakes all by itself.

      • 0 avatar
        Perc

        See, here’s where opinions differ. :) I like it when an automatic starts creeping when you let go of the brake pedal, and it bugs the crap out of ME when I’m in a car that doesn’t. Like Peugeots and Citroens with the single-clutch robot boxes. You need to apply throttle to make them move and it feels so strange to me.

        And for the record, I cut my teeth driving manuals like 99,95% of Europeans. I’m just one of the few that managed to get tired of it in my mid 20′s. My cars have been automatic ever since.

        And I’m fairly sure that modern CVT’s are engineered to not strain against the brakes like conventional automatics do. Right?

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        We will have to agree to disagree. :-) I too learned to drive on a manual, like .0005% of Americans… I generally despise automatics.

        Nissan and Chrysler CVTs (which I think are both Jatco units) do replicate creep and strain against the brakes in my experience. I can’t remember whether the VW DSG I drove did or not. Toyota and Ford Hybrids do, and rather strongly. They operate on a completely different principle, I imagine they are just using a bit of electricity and causing some amount of heat to do it.

        For conventional torque converter automatics, some makes have tried having them go into neutral when stopped with the brakes on, with disastrous results. Volvo in particular. Probably others using Aisin Warner transmissions. The cure was worse than the ailment in that case.

      • 0 avatar
        Perc

        Yes, Volvo had something called “neutral control” on the P2 platform cars. It was removed after a few years, and corrected via a software update on older cars. My 2004 didn’t have it, probably never had. I seem to recall driving a Citroën C5 diesel with a 6 speed auto that dropped in and out of D all the time though. Annoying.

      • 0 avatar
        Manic

        Most DSGs have “hold” button, you can choose if creep is something you want to have or not. I drive DSG for nearly 2 years now and use the auto-hold function all the time so I can remove foot from the brake when waiting for green light, for example.

      • 0 avatar
        danwat1234

        @krhodes1, I totally agree. I’ve messaged the Prius facebook page and they forwarded my message to the engineering team. I wrote a message about how creep is pointless and just reduces MPG if anything and that there should be an option in the configuration menus on the navigation screen or a series of button to push to deactivate creep.
        Maybe they’ll get rid of it down the road.

  • avatar
    spyked

    Not counting the Routan (Chrysler) and T-Reg SUV, what VW is unreliable anymore? Based on all my research, they are strictly average/above average, and even recommened by many “trusted” publications.

    This isn’t 10 years when the MKIV Jettas were eating window regs and ignition coils.

    Just sayin….might not like the Jetta Hybrid (it’s not a “Jetta” to me – way too big), but it doesn’t do anyone any good really to hold on to old stereotypes. Remember – in most of the world, VW’s have NEVER been out of the top 5 best sellers. EVER. People can’t be THAT stupid…

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      Well, according to Consumer Reports, December 2012 issue, the following VW vehicles are below average in reliability:

      Beetle, gasoline Jetta, GTI, Touareg

      Above average:

      Passat, CC Eos, diesel Jetta

      Average:

      Tiguan, Golf

      Overall VW is ranked 18 out of 28 manufacturers in the combined listings with a fleet average about 10% below the industry. VW is listed above Jeep, Volvo, Buick, Mini, Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Lincoln, Ford, and Jaguar. It is within a two places of Hyndai and BMW. Audi does well, ranked number 8.

      I can agree with you (I have owned four VWs in the past five years — three of them have been flawless, one (R32) turned out to be a lemon and broke my heart as I loved that car), that the horror stories of VW reliability are no longer seen in the data. But the bad dark days of the Mark IV Golf/Jetta/New Beetle line and their coil pack and window regulator failures have tainted the brand. VW quality and reliability is improving. So is the industry as a whole. Michael Karesh will point out that an average reliability car today will only see a dealer for repair work once every two years or so.

      • 0 avatar
        thehomelessguy

        Here are the problems I have had with my 2000 VW passat 4 motion:

        Caught on fire due to the insulation around the catalytic converter being damaged somehow (about a year afterwards they issued a recall for this issue, so obviously other people than me had it).

        In the past it needed its oil pump, water pump, and distributor replaced all under warranty.

        Currently the AC is dead and it leaks oil. Also has some exhaust issues but luckily there is no emissions testing here.

        So overall not terrible, but not great either.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      I will preface this by saying that I don’t have a lot of confidence in CR’s methodology. When you split a model by drive train and then declare identical paint on identical body panels a full red dot with one transfer case and a full black dot with the other your methodology is defective. Publishing that obvious impossibility suggests their editing is defective too.

      But if you’re going to credit them at all VW has earned a lot of black circles that are a lot less than 10 years old.

      GM has been on the best seller list a long time too. People are stupider than you think.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    This is a great review. I think the hybrid is an interesting departure from the norm and will put some much needed variety into that market segment. From what I have read that 1.4 motor is sweet.
    For me though, I would go with the Golf TDI as it has the nice interior and a working, practical utility space.

  • avatar
    Wraith

    Where is the Jetta Hybrid assembled (for the North American market)? Germany, U.S., Mexico…

    I don’t know if it’ll be on my list, but I do appreciate that they kept the spare tire instead of ditching it to save space/weight. (See C-MAX and Fusion hybrids.)

    Also curious if there’s an optional block heater (see no mention of it on their site).

  • avatar
    blowfish

    curious why they dont place the elec motor on the rear axle, so it wont be as crowded in the front hood, also the weight factor to rear too.

    i take if the motor is not attach to the gas engine then it wont have the start stop feature of killing eng during red light stops.

    or have 2 elec motors.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      There are many, many ways of arranging a hybrid powertrain. The Jetta uses one, you’ve mentioned another. Most likely, an all-wheel-drive arrangement would be beyond the car’s intended price range. Also, if you are going to implement regenerative braking, it’s much better to have that done through the front wheels, for vehicle stability reasons. So the electric drive is better off in front, and given that VW is using an existing front-drive vehicle layout, the gasoline engine sure isn’t going in the rear. (The BMW i8 uses gasoline engine in rear, electric drive in front, but no one knows the price tag yet, and it ain’t gonna be a 5-passenger vehicle with a big trunk if the engine is back there.)

      The Jetta system DOES have start-stop. There is a clutch between the gasoline engine and the electric motor. If that clutch is disengaged, the motor can drive the car and the gasoline engine can be stopped. If the clutch is engaged, the motor can start the engine and both together can drive the car.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Another fine review by ALD. Too bad there’s no station wagon. A station wagon Jetta Hybrid would put it right up against the Prius V and C-Max. As Dykes points out, there will certainly be some who will choose the Jetta over a Civic Hybrid, but the JH price point gets it up to a Fusion Hybrid, and some may go with that for a hybrid sedan, instead. OTOH, considering how well it fared in this review, my guess is there will stiil be plenty of VW faithful that will choose the Jetta Hybrid over anything else. It’s a good thing, too, because…

    It’s a Volkswagen. As others have pointed out, I can’t imagine the VW gremlins that will begin rearing their ugly heads after a year or two (or less) of ownership with something as complicated as a hybrid. Only die-hard VW loyalists continue to tolerate that sort of thing.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    ……If I say “hybrid,” most people think: slow, efficient, awful-to-drive, Prius, tree-hugger, Democrat and California. Pretty much in that order……

    Let’s see how this stacks up when I drive my Altima Hybrid: Slow? Not at all, and for the mileage its damn fast. Efficient? OK! Awful to drive? Nope! It handles quite well in its own right and compared to a Prius, it may as well be a BMW. The difference is really that significant. This is because the Altima is pretty damn good and the Prius is really that bad. Treehugger? Guilty with not a bit of apology. This tree hugger has a V8 in the fold, too. It just does not see a ton of miles. Democrat? Nope, an independent. California? Couldn’t be much more wrong then that….

  • avatar
    baygus

    Larger wheels, goddamit! Larger wheels!

    Of course the tyres on said wheels happen to have a larger contact patch, but there’s no reason to be obtuse about it.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    Hybrid is a four letter word meant to denote either
    a) a purpose built vehicle that utilizes every trick in an automotive engineer’s handbook, coupled with an electric assist, to offer significant fuel economy gains.
    b) a limited availability exercise in futility meant to keep 0bama and CAFE nannies off your back by taking an existing product, adding low rolling resistance tires, air dams here and there, shaving weight and adding a few hundred pounds of batteries to create a car that (at least on paper and the fantasy wonderland full of unicorn farts of government mileage tests) gives better EPA figures over the rest of its model line brethren… which it fails to do in real world scenarios. The manufacturer knows this, and sells a few hundred in Commiefornia and the People’s Republic of New York to prove it’s a “production model” then removes all evidence of its existence from its web page.

  • avatar
    thehomelessguy

    Where is the wagon/hatchback version?

  • avatar
    danwat1234

    Does anybody know if the engine in the Jetta Hybrid is Atkinson cycle or regular OTTO cycle?
    Thanks

  • avatar
    Dave_C

    I applaud VW for taking this approach to a hybrid, rather than creating a purpose-built car that is largely like driving a toaster on wheels, VW has taken a “real” car and added a hybrid powertrain and achieved an extremely efficient “normal” car that is still a blast to drive and is every bit as German as the rest of the lineup. As for the price, you guys do realize that a loaded Prius tops $35k…and the Jetta still has a leaps-and-bounds better transmission, a more enthusiastic power train, and is overall more entertaining to drive!! Spent two weeks behind the wheel of a Prius and could not wait to give it back. Drove a Jetta Hybrid for 40 minutes and couldn’t wait to get back behind the wheel!


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