By on July 24, 2015

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In the space of 48 hours last week, I saw a first-generation Jetta plying its rusty way down the middle lane of a freeway near Columbus, Ohio and I saw some spiky-haired hipster girl driving a fourth-gen Jolf on Interstate 75 north of Lexington, KY. It was a reminder of the Jetta’s uneasy position in the Volkswagen hierarchy. On one hand, it’s the uncoolest of the watercooled VWs, the American-market special loathed by the kind of Euro-fanatics who make up the vast majority of the company’s loyalists in the United States. They view the existence of the Jetta as an open expression of German contempt for Baconator-eating Americans, and the sharp divergence between Jetta and Golf that took place in the sixth generation hasn’t exactly poured oil on the waters.

On the other hand… it’s been the best-selling VW in this country more often than it hasn’t. It’s the official VW of sorority girls, single moms, adventurous empty-nesters, and rental fleets. It’s the Volkswagen we deserve, because we sign on the dotted line for it more often than we do the Golf and the GTI and the Tiguan combined. As such, it deserves a full slate of TTAC reviews. Our Managing Editor, Mark Stevenson, had kind things to say about a loaded-up Jetta TDI, and our good friend and itinerant contributor Blake Z. Rong was less complimentary about the GLI. Which leaves just the infamous “2.slow” 115-horsepower base model and the newly-remixed 1.8 TSI mid-ranger.

I chose the latter for a cheerful little 514-mile jaunt the other night, from just south of Asheville, NC to just north of Columbus, OH. It rained for much of the drive. There was fog. I witnessed the aftermath of three massive accidents, including one semi-trailer that had skidded sideways across one of Interstate 40’s most treacherous segments then flopped over in the median. I had some nontrivial time pressure and I’d already been awake for fifteen hours when I got in the car to begin the trip. Lousy circumstances, to be certain. So how did the Jetta do?


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Over the past forty years, VW has become infamous for its Brokeback Mountain-esque inability to quit its old platforms. The Beetle stuck around until 2003, the Mk1 Golf was produced until 2009, the second-generation Passat (Quantum to us) continued to dazzle Chinese buyers until, um, the year before last. No surprise, then, that VW’s decision to continue the Golf unto the seventh generation has yet to apply to the Jetta. Instead, there’s a mild facelift both inside and out for 2015. Perhaps the more important change happened in 2014, under the wide, flat hood: the 170 hp @ 6200 rpm/184 [email protected] 1.8 TSI that shines in the Golf TSI is now standard with the SE trim level. It’s $20,915 as I drove it with the six-speed auto, or $19,815 with a manual transmission.

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That’s two or three grand cheaper than a Camry or Accord, and you’ll still get heated cloth seats, Bluetooth capability, sixteen-inch alloy wheels, push-button start, and cruise control for the money. What you will not get is the room and interior furnishings of even the most basic mid-size Japanese-brand car. The Jetta is adequately spacious front and back, and VW’s managed to do a decent job with the steering wheel and the center stack, but there’s no premium feel here. Everything’s bolted together pretty solidly, however, and if a few of the details (like the seat adjuster) feel deliberately cheapened there’s nothing that requires apologies at this price level.

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As I headed north from Asheville, I figured that I needed to average just over 70 mph for the entire trip to avoid being late for work the next day. Unfortunately for me, that section of 40 runs through the mountains, and there was heavy rain mixed with sections of thick fog. Traffic was light, but it wasn’t breaking the double-nickel in most places. Immediately the 1.8 TSI earned my affection as it chugged up a succession of four-thousand-foot climbs, usually without requiring the transmission to select fourth. The steering in this car is supposedly electric power assist and it’s fairly light, but I found that incipient scrub against wet pavement was telegraphed pretty well, allowing me to run remarkably quickly through the long, damp curves. A few times I got a bit too enthusiastic and felt the front end slip, but this wasn’t too alarming. Simply reducing throttle caused the car to find its line again.

Down the long hills, I used the indifferent Tiptronic selector to maintain speed, but once I realized how well the brakes were holding up I stopped being so deliberate about shifting. Plus, the Jetta has reasonable grade logic built in and it will avoid upshifting all the way if you’re on a nine-percent hill or similar.

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In circumstances like these, the Jetta has some clear advantages over something like an Accord. It’s a bit smaller, a bit more manageable, it has 205-width tires that cut standing water pretty well, the turbo engine/six-speed combination feels more enthusiastic and flexible than the big-bore four/CVT setup you get with a Honda or Nissan. I don’t think I could have made the same kind of time in a Camry or even (shhhhhhh) something like a 535i. So as the road flattened out and I saw the signs for Knoxville, I was feeling good about the Hecho-In-Mexico compact VW.

On a straight and dry freeway, however, the Jetta’s absolutely miserable stereo threatened to erase a lot of that good will. The single-zone climate control that seemed incapable of making subtle adjustments didn’t help either. And though there’s very little aero noise in this car, there’s no shortage of tire rumble, mechanical noise, and booming resonance at various rev ranges. All of a sudden, the extra money for something like an Accord EX seems like a solid return on investment. But the Jetta is no penalty box; it’s simply not quite up to the standards set by larger, more expensive competition.

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Over the course of the next three hundred miles I came to respect this car despite the above-mentioned flaws. The ergonomics are correct. The controls respond with appropriate weighting and feedback. The cruise control offers adjustment in both one-and-five-mile-per-hour increments, and though it’s not quite as slick as the way Mercedes-Benz does it, at least the feature is present. The seats look like an experiment in using recycled garbage bags to wrap around low-density foam molds but they failed to aggravate the back injury I suffered at Laguna Seca a few weeks back. Compared to the much more expensive seats in the brand-new Porsche 911 I’d been driving earlier in the day, these cheapo buckets were positively delightful. This kind of stuff matters, you know. Like my old 1990 Fox, the Jetta has the basics right and that shines through despite the low-cost execution.

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I would be remiss if I did not mention another particular excellence of this automobile: fuel economy. In the mountains, with full throttle the order of the day far more often than would occur in normal driving, the Jetta TSI reported 34.5 mpg. On the long run from Lexington to Columbus, it reported 38.9. These numbers were approximately confirmed when I refueled over the course of the trip. Given that I was running a flat 85 mph most of the time, that’s positively parsimonious. No Accord or Camry is going to turn in numbers like that unless it has the word “Hybrid” somewhere on the rear fascia. I’d be surprised if the Golf TSI could match it; there’s something to be said for the aerodynamics of three inches more wheelbase and quite a bit of trunk to smooth out the airflow in back. Keep in mind, too, that I never self-consciously drove for fuel economy. Operated in the same fashion, my Accord V6 six-speed typically returns about 25 mpg. Hell, my Honda VFR800 can’t return much better than 40 mpg at a steady 85 mph. So this is a big deal and if gasoline returns to four bucks a gallon outside California — you’ll see people taking it into account.

Thanks in large part to the Jetta’s long range on a single tank, I got home a few minutes earlier than I’d planned, letting me catch a quick nap before work. I felt reasonably rested and pain-free despite the length and conditions of the trip. I couldn’t think of another twenty-grand vehicle that would have done any better in this assignment — but I also didn’t feel even a twitch of joy or delight regarding the 2015 Jetta SE TSI. I’d rather have had a new GTI, but there’s six grand of difference between a stick-shift TSI Jetta and the GTI. At that point, if you’re willing to spend real money, you might as well go the whole hog, import a new Phaeton in a container, and rivet on the VIN from some junkyard’s 2005 basketcase W12. Am I right? Of course I’m right.

If we ever get a Mk7 Jetta, if there is even such a thing in the works, it will no doubt be a better car than this is. For today, however, the price is fair and the performance is more than adequate. So what if it’s the “American VW”. This is America. And for my American road trip, this Mexican VW was just fine.

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105 Comments on “2015 Volkswagen Jetta TSI SE Review...”


  • avatar
    Shinoda is my middle name

    Ah, Jackie-boy. Of course you’re right. You’re always right.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    This is the 2nd real-world data I’ve seen where the Jetta TSI easily cracks into the high 30s MPG. What is the TDI getting in the real world?

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      My 2012 TDI wagon is averaging 34.5 MPG over 38000 miles. My wife’s Jetta SE sedan is averaging 28.0 over 15000 miles. We both do a fair amount of city driving but I do more highway than her. Best I’ve seen in my car is 43.7 and the best her car has done was 35.0, both on long trips. So the TSI is economical and incredibly fun to drive.

      I only drive her TSI occasionally because if it was my full time car I probably would have lost my license due to excessive speeding tickets.

      • 0 avatar
        LeMansteve

        Interesting. That’s not the huge difference I thought it would be. What do you pay for a gallon of diesel vs a gallon of gas? Does your TSI take premium or regular?

        • 0 avatar
          whynot

          The TSI takes regular. It really is a fantastic engine, just hope the long term reliability is there.

          • 0 avatar

            Well, the 1.8 TSI takes regular. The 2.0 TSI (used in the Tiguan, CC, GTI and Golf R) asks for premium.

          • 0 avatar

            There are talks that the 1.4-liter TSI (currently used in the Jetta Hybrid) will become the base engine, replacing the ancient 2.slow. I’m not sure if it will be mated to a regular 6-speed automatic transmission, or to Volkswagen’s 7-speed dry-clutch DSG (also used in the Jetta Hybrid; yay for no DSG fluid changes on that one). The 1.4-liter TSI would also become the volume engine for the SE trim. You would need to step up to a new trim called “SE Sport” or something like that to get the 1.8-liter TSI, or an SEL.

      • 0 avatar
        TOTitan

        I also have a ’12 tdi wagon. Over 45,000 miles it has averaged 33 mpg and I “drive it like I stole it”, with about 50/50 freeway/city driving. As a bonus, diesel is $1.22/gal cheaper than reg unleaded in my hometown of Thousand Oaks CA.

    • 0 avatar
      Veee8

      If Jack got 38.9 without an egg under the gas pedal that’s impressive mileage…converted that’s 46.7 miles per imperial gallon for us old Canadians eh.
      I’m off to Cape Cod next week so I’ll see what the my fully laden 2015 Odyssey gets for the 9 hour run… I’ll be lucky to get mid to high 20’s per US gallon.
      Looking back my 67 Mustang fastback GT – 289 with 3.00 gears ran 22 mpg at a constant 70 mph, not bad for an old girl without overdrive.

      And it’s always about the seats, glad to hear those thrones were working for you Jack.

    • 0 avatar
      Lampredotto

      My wife’s 2012 TDI Sportwagen has averaged about 38 empeegees in a 50/50 mix of suburban and highway driving. No eggs in the foot wells when either of us drive, either. Baltimore traffic demands that you accelerate with authoritah.

      • 0 avatar

        My Jetta SportWagen TDI did about 42 MPG. The Golf SportWagen TDI seems to be doing a tad worse, plus it has a slightly smaller tank (13.2 gal vs 14.5 gal) on account of the AdBlue reservoir…

        • 0 avatar

          My 2012 TDi has pulled a very consistent 39 mpg. Best was 42, worst 36. 85,000 miles. Usually 39.X when I do the calculation at fill ups.

          I just drove the tested car, just one version bigger. I was given a loaner Passat while the DPF filter in my car was replaced….same engine and radio as the tester. Engine with automatic was quite nice. Smooth, good torque. A GT-R won’t be scared (or even notice) but for a base engine, it gets five stars. The Trans shifts well and is unremarkable.

          The base radio in this thing is an embarrassment, but you can see how things are getting cheaper as most of the bluetooth functions are by voice command only.

          Otherwise, the drive train is better than the various Honda/Hynd/Toy competiton that I’ve tried…and the Passat is very stiff. I’d go one up on the suspension but I’m not that target market.

          A TDi dpf is a $2,400.00 day, out of warranty. VW has done a recall and updated the engine management software, and this plus the clean dpf, the car feels a bit quicker on boost. We shall see if the mileage changes….

          My neighbor has the “Launch Edition” with this engine and a MT, and has nothing but praise for it.

          The best value is probably this engine, with trans of choice, in a lower level Jetta or Golf. You can always buy a set of new sway bars for it.

    • 0 avatar
      manny_c44

      Over a 1000 mile stretch, when I was keeping track, my 2014 Jetta TDI returned 42 real world mpg. This is suburban/rural/highway — so not too many traffic lights. Also Diesel is only 4 cents more than gas now and hopefully continues to drop! Getting 50 mpg on highways in a car that drives like this is nice.

    • 0 avatar
      baconator

      FWIW, I have a 2014 Passat 1.8TSi – same engine & automatic transmission. It routinely gets 31-34 in mixed commuting and I’ve seen 36-40 averages on longer road trips. The higher numbers are correlated with cooler weather.

      This drivetrain really is very efficient, it makes great noises, and has quite a bit of torque where it matters. It’s not getting enough positive attention, IMHO.

  • avatar
    pbr

    This is a VW I understand. Fundamentally sound, bit more of a driver’s car than the Asian/North-American competition, and INEXPENSIVE.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I’m curious why you compared the Jetta to the Accord and Camry, rather that the Civic and Corolla, which I would think are more direct competitors.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      I was thinking the same thing…

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The Jetta is a Corolla for the ignorant and vain these days. I’m guessing Jack was having an off day.

      Thirty years ago, the Jetta was the best VW you could buy in the US. The Golf was UAW and then Puebla junk. The Scirocco was stuck on the MKI platform. The Fox seemed like it could have come from socialism. Meanwhile, the Jetta was made in West Germany during VW’s least bad era of water-cooled quality. The Jetta escaped Pennsylexico production because it wasn’t in demand. By moving Rabbit/Golf production from West Germany, VW killed its demand. Americans were smart enough to buy lots of Jettas though, because they were better built cars with better interiors. These days, Jettas are costed out compromises for people that think they’re impressing others.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        You are wrong.

        The Corolla or Civic or Elantra is NOT a Jetta. Not in the highway. Period.

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        CJ, you’re off on this one, with all due respect.

        The new 1980 Jetta I owned over 18 miserable months exceeded in bad quality all 5 Audis I owned. What a turd of a car. Came with front springs and three inch ground clearance courtesy of springs (oops there Franz) for a Euro 1300cc Golf. The gearshift was so bad, I had to drive with the boot removed to manipulate the linkage now and then to make it work – dealer clueless. A giant vaccuum flask to operate the HVAC was held by rubber bands to the underside of the hood – they kept breaking, the flask would fall onto the engine and the pneumatic heater A/C controls would quit. And it needed a new muffler in that 18 months.

        Yes, what a wonderful car. I try to forget it. If the Westmoreland mouse fur trimmed Golf was worse, and I never heard it was and drove only one, it was worse than the the worst.

        The Audi Coupe that replaced it was superb. Nothing major broke in 95,000 miles except one power window motor. My favorite car purchase of all time. Unfortunately, it induced me to buy more Audis, and they weren’t as well-made.

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    Why are we comparing this to an Accord or Camry when its competition is the Civic and Corolla?

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I want to say it costs more than a Civic/Corolla. Camry/Accord is going for like $18K which I imagine these are too.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Jack’s comparison is apt, because the Civic and Corolla both suck, albeit in different ways. Practically speaking, you have to step up to an Accord or Camry to find something that drives as well as the current Jetta. And the Golf is better.

      The Civic is dull. And the Corolla is a slow, lifeless, characterless little turd with two-generations-ago quality. I have no idea why the Corolla is as popular as it is – clearly people who buy them don’t bother to try any other cars out, because if they all actually shopped the competition, Corolla sales would tank post haste.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        Focus and Mazda3 drive pretty well too. The Cruze is also a good car.

        The Jetta certainly has advantages compared to those cars as well. From what I’ve read about the 1.8TSI, the difference between it and the 2.0L engines in the Focus and Mazda3 probably feels like more than the 10-15 hp difference on paper. Mazda3 is priced significantly higher with the 2.5L engine and the Focus has nothing unless you get the ST, which is a different animal. The Cruze has its strong points, but the engine is not one of them.

        I think the Jetta is better packaged than most compacts as well – almost the same wheelbase as a Focus, but much more rear legroom and a significantly larger trunk. It’s narrower than the Focus, but I doubt it feels as cramped. It is 5 inches longer than a Focus sedan, but that pays off with the trunk space. If the difference in length between these two cars matters that much, then you probably need a smaller car anyway.

        It sounds like VW offers significant discounts on the Jetta too. Similar to what Mark mentioned in a recent review, if nothing on the market appeals to you, but for whatever reason you need a new car, a Jetta is probably a great way to buy some time.

        • 0 avatar
          manny_c44

          “…the difference between it and the 2.0L engines in the Focus and Mazda3 probably feels like more than the 10-15 hp difference on paper…”

          So true, so true. My Mazda 3 test drive was essentially an econo-box shiver…’I have been here before and I don’t want to be here again’. Enter Jetta.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        ” I have no idea why the Corolla is as popular as it is – clearly people who buy them don’t bother to try any other cars out, because if they all actually shopped the competition, Corolla sales would tank post haste.”

        Exactly! My ex has a Corolla. I asked why not a Civic or Focus. “I didnt look at them, I only drove the Corolla.” Whaaaa? Were you afraid of accidently ending up with something that isnt an ugly toaster on wheels?

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          It’s a perfect match for someone with obviously so little interest in cars. That’s not the insult that most car enthusiasts make it out to be. As far as practicality, utilitarian function, reliability, and cost of ownership go, it’s tough to beat a Corolla.

          Could’ve ended up with a Focus and the DCT and MFT everyone rants about.

          • 0 avatar
            tmport

            I’m a car guy, and I still might end up with a Corolla (or, more likely, a Scion iM). Why? Because I want to keep my car 8+ years, so it has to be both practical and reliable. The Focus is not sufficiently reliable. The Jetta is not reliable. The Civic is nice, but it’s smaller inside and also costs several thousand dollars more than a comparably-equipped Corolla. The Mazda is even MORE expensive, and I worry about rust after 5+ years of salt-laden winters. So the Corolla really is an excellent choice: reliable, efficient, reasonably inexpensive, and (after the latest refresh) pretty nice inside.

            However, it doesn’t have a hatchback, so the Scion iM is intriguing…plus it has an independent rear suspension.

      • 0 avatar
        Daniel J

        From a “cross” shopping comparison, I don’t think its valid at all. Its in a different segment than the Accord or Camry. When we got our CX-5, we saw the same people test driving the mazda 3 and the Jetta, not a jetta and a mazda 6.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      It is a compact car, but frankly it rides more like a mid-size. Just lacks the elbow room. Is there class between?

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Interior quality and road noise are where you start to see the price difference between the Jetta and Golf make some sense.

    It amuses me that VW puts degrees F on the HVAC and calls it single zone climate control. That temperature knob is best regarded as one you turn towards the blue to make it cooler and towards the red when it needs to be warmer, just like in a $14K Versa. In my VW it never seems to make any attempt to maintain a set temperature.

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      That was the “Climatic” system, and it was a true thermostat just like the one in your house or any automatic climate control system. The manual fan control and vent control made it a “semiautomatic” climate control, but it was a great system IMO. Unfortunately they ditched it in the middle of MY 2010 or so. I’d guess it was probably eliminated in the US market because US consumers didn’t understand that it was a thermostat and just cranked it to high or low depending on season. At least my ex used it that way, which always annoyed me greatly. I’d set it to ~72 all year round and just adjust the fan speed and it worked great for me. Then I’d get in after she was driving and it’d be turned to 60 degrees because it was hot and she wanted max AC.

  • avatar
    Edsel Maserati

    It didn’t take as long for me to warm up to the Jetta I had for a week. I found the 1.8 liter turbo four was a very good engine, and a HUGE improvement over that old five. Soon as the revs build, the thing is just singing. A willing accomplice, I’d say. It gave a Germanic thrill I’d never felt in a Camry/Accord. So right away I was in serious like with this car. It had real spirit when pushed, and yet was able to do the sedan thing acceptably well.

    On a 400-mile trip I also saw plus-35 mpg. Banging hard around town still rewarded me with mid-20s fuel economy.

    The radio did look primitive. If I were looking at this car I’d hunt around for options. I know there’s a Fender Premium Audio option but didn’t get a chance to see it or hear it.

    It might be a trifle elemental but that’s a big part of its charm. I would seriously, seriously consider getting one.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    39 MPG highway. That’s crazy. My Civic 1.8 is lucky to break 30 MPG. More confirmation for my wife to get the GSW TSI. On lease of course….

    • 0 avatar
      thirty-three

      My Mazda3 2.3L gets 30 MPG on the highway. My old Civic got 42 MPG. What’s wrong with your Civic?

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Yeah seems odd, unless you hot-foot it everywhere. My 2012 5spd sedan gets 38 consistently in mixed driving with the A/C on most of the time, with careful driving. A recent road trip down to Atlanta netted me tanks of 39.5, 40.5, 40 mpg. That was with mixed cruise control and A/C use, and keeping the speed down closer to 72-73 mph. It’s humming at 3000 rpm at 70 mph, my guess is that the Jetta is much more relaxed and torquey in how it goes about getting that impressive MPG. I do wonder if that onboard computer is a tad optimistic, even so 36mpg ish in a heavier, more powerful, automatic vehicle at higher speeds is impressive.

  • avatar
    Pinzgauer

    My driven fairly aggressively 2.0TSI 2012 Beetle 6MT averages about 30.5 mpg in mixed driving and about 35mpg on long highway runs with those heavy 19″ wheels that come on the Turbo. Its pretty amazing, honestly.

  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    Great review. My neighbor had the first year Jetta with the 2.5. They liked it a lot, but I couldn’t fathom why they didn’t get the turbo motor.

    The on the other hand, I realized most people just don’t care. This is a great car for those who rather rock a low-spec Android phone over an iPhone. Camry being the iPhone.

    • 0 avatar
      GermanReliabilityMyth

      Probably for the same reason I bought a JSW the last model year it was offered (2014). Statistically, it’s one of VW’s most reliable engines and has a lot of character to boot. The Aisin transmission is an added bonus, even if it does utilize a VW-designed valve body. Granted, on my last roadtrip, I was a far cry from Jack’s reported mileage with the TSI, but I was carried in comfort with no apprehensions of arriving attached to a tow truck.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      The I5 was a bit coarse-sounding, but it really is a pretty decent (and very sturdy and simple) engine. It won’t win any awards for power or economy, but simplicity and reliability count for a lot.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      That 5-cylinder helped put some nice red circles next to VWs in Consumer Reports reliability charts and they need that. Power and refinement was also fine compared to what it was competing against. If you drive one back to back with the buzzy low-torque 1.8s in the Corolla, Civic, Elantra, Sentra it stands out.

      Granted, you get Camry V6 fuel economy with decidedly non-Camry V6 performance, but you can’t have it all.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        5-cylinder + 5-speed manual = happy VW powertrain ownership

        Also:

        2.0T + 6-speed manual = indifferent VW powertrain ownership

        2.0T + DSG = sad VW powertrain ownership

        3.2 VR6 + DSG = Zoloft and Paxil required for this sort of VW powertrain ownership.

      • 0 avatar
        GermanReliabilityMyth

        Agreed on all counts. As you said, there’s no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to engineering. Just like you can have a car that’s cheap, fast or good but you only get to pick two. You can have an engine that’s powerful, frugal or reliable but you only get to pick two (with the VW 5 cylinder, you get reliable and have to split the difference with power and frugality). This might sound weird, but I consider this engine to be sort of a spiritual successor to Volvo’s famous redblock. Torquey, somewhat low on horsepower and less efficient than its peers, but under-stressed and dead reliable as a result.

        I’ve owned many, many 4 cylinders built by Japanese makes (Suzuki, Honda, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan, etc) and the comparatively smooth application of power and even torque curve makes it a real honey of a motor in the refinement department, apart from the “tractor rattle” start up.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          You’d get the “tractor rattle” from the VW 2.0T engines of that era too. Especially the earlier FSI version.

        • 0 avatar
          kvndoom

          I seem to remember doing a search for I5 Golf’s and only found 2 door cars… I want a GTI but it’s bad enough I can’t trust the engine but I also can’t trust the previous owner.

          One thing I love about japanese V6’s is that they don’t have much of a mod community. But I miss that German refinement.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Ah, only if you needed a GTI when I was selling mine. My wife mostly drove it, all maintenance records complete, replaced some of the problem items with better parts, was never tuned, purchased new in AZ and did most of it’s miles there.

            I sold it for more than dealers do because it was so clean and unabused.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I like the sound of this, sounds like a solid choice and a “Goldilocks” middle ground of a lot of people: A bigger trunk and legroom and more solid feeling than other compacts, while being a bit cheaper and smaller than a true midsize. I wish those cloth heated seats made their way over to the Golf Sportwagen S, that’d give me all the more reason to want one. In fact, I wish Jack was able to drive a Golf Sportwagen on the same route to see how it’d compare in terms of NVH, ride quality, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      If the outgoing Sportwagen and current Golf hatchback are any indication, there is noticeably less road noise than this Jetta.

      If you don’t need all of the enormous interior capacity of most midsizers, this Jetta is a good alternative. C.5 segment?

    • 0 avatar
      EAF

      Keep your 4Runner! 39mpg sounds nice but those fuel savings will be offset by the cost of yearly turbo replacements amongst other things.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        Based on whose experience? Put up or shut up. If you’re right, then I’ve somehow skipped about a dozen turbo replacements in the past ten years. Why wasn’t I sent the memo?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I have both a 20mpg 4Runner and a 38 mpg Civic (both my hand calculated averages for commuting and general use). 4Runner is in my garage partially torn apart for a starter contact replacement, a $5 copper piece and 2-4 hours of my sweat and blood. It’s fun to wrench on it occasionally… until it isn’t. Things would be more tolerable with air tools, I will say that.

        This would hypothetically replace the Civic, which has been a great commuter in terms of totally issue-free operation for the last 41k miles, but the road noise is getting a bit old, especially given a favorable financial disposition. I want something cushier to ‘reward’ myself with, and wagon practicality is always a consideration for someone with 2 larger dogs. 4Runner does a great job especially with the lowering rear glass that the dogs love, but it isn’t the most pleasant long distance vehicle in terms of ride/handling/crosswinds/etc. IE everything that comes along with a 20 year old SUV with 10 inches of ground clearance.

        • 0 avatar
          EAF

          Gtem,

          Torn apart? Your starter is located under the intake manifold isn’t it? Lol I believe I ran into one of these setups on an SC400, I want to guess and say it was a 1UZ engine (v8)? Def not a 2JZ. Your 4runner uses what? 1GR?

          A while back, but I believe I went with a new starter, new intake manifold and t/b gaskets, new injector o-rings while everything was on a bench. Im sure you will get more life out of replacing or wheeling contacts but Im LAZY and CRAZY OCD and wont risk the same job twice.

          What does your bro say about the EA888? I’ve replaced several Borg units in the FSI, essentially the same turbo that the TSI is equipped with. Although, I did have to free the screen from sludge in more than a couple. Probably what caused their demise. Lol

          My buddy tells me he has R&R several rear main seals, chain tensioners and water pumps on very low mileage TSI’s. The later are plastic, directly connected to the oil cooler, and externally belt driven by the forward balance shaft. Typical VW assinine engineering. :-(

          I would drive that R18 until it quits at 350k miles. Happy wrenching!

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    pretty much sums up my experience with a Jetta rental. competent transportation that excels at getting you where you need to efficiently and without pizzaz. Around town I find it to be rather boring aside from the 1.8t’s power, but it does impress on the long drives. Doesn’t try to wow you, but it gets the job done well. That 1.8t is something else though. VW’s experienc with turbo direct injection engines shows through here, as this is one that manages to both beat its EPA numbers easily AND provide inspiring performance

  • avatar
    brettc

    Jack, did you notice what type of tires this one had? When we bought our 2014 Jetta I refused to take delivery until they swapped the horrific Bridgestone EL400s for some Continentals off another Jetta. After enduring them on my 2012 wagon for about 4000 miles, I ordered a set of Pirelli Cinturatos. Those Bridgestones are scary junk so I’m wondering if the high road noise and the other fun you had in the rain was due to them.

    The “NCS” Jetta is an okay car for the price and they definitely sweetened the deal with the addition of the 1.8. I’m just hoping it doesn’t develop expensive turbo problems or something with the timing chain. My wife likes the radio, she didn’t want a touch screen so she was happy with the no-frills unit.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Right engine, wrong car. For the difference in price the Passat 1.8T is a no-brainier. It’s marginally more expensive, but incredibly more spacious. It has a roomy backseat and a trunk that rivals a Crown Vic.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I haven’t driven the Passat 1.8T, but I’d imagine it’s a bit overmatched there. But it’s dead solid perfect in the Golf.

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      @Mandalorian and FreedMike – I’ve driven the Passat and the 1.8t does absolutely fine there. No perceptible difference in real world driving, but the curb weights are not that different. the Passat is a relative lightweight @3230 lbs for the 1.8t Limited Edition and a Jetta SE is only about 100 lbs lighter @ 3124. Similarly equipped, the Passat is about $4k more for a 1.8t LE ($24.8k including destination). A base 1.8S keeps a lot of your basic modern convenience features (bluetooth, cruise control), and the manual transmission is a relative bargain at $22k MSRP. The automatic is a $1100 option.

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        That “Limited Edition” Passat is a steal IMO. It adds a bunch of decent features for ~$2k over the “S” base Passat, and still costs less than the SE. Plus Passats are moving with HUGE discounts at the moment.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      And an extra couple hundred lbs. No thanks. I’ll take the road noise and smaller trunk/back seat that hardly gets used anyway for the better driving experience. Lightness can’t be substituted.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @SportyAccordy

        Agreed. I simply have no use for a daily driver car bigger than a Golf/Jetta. Which happens to be the same size as my 3-series. The new ones are probably bigger than my 3. The Accord and Camry have grown to the point that they are utter barges.

        I don’t get the “car by the pound” mentality, and anyone who doesn’t like the backseat can arrange their own alternate transportation. I don’t sit back there.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          The Camry hasn’t really grown since 2002, and weighs about the same as the Jetta. The Accord has trimmed down in size since the supersized 08-12 car, albeit it is a bit chunkier than the Camry. I wouldn’t consider either one a “barge” relative to the Jetta. Yes they’re bigger, but I wouldn’t hyperbole with calling them ‘utter barges.’ Your E9X BMW’s wheelbase is within an inch of either the Accord or Camry or Passat. Is it a barge as well?

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            Wheelbase is a poor metric to defend Accords and Camrys with. BMW is pretty good at pushing the wheels out to the corners. The wheelbase is within an inch, but the overall car is over a foot shorter than an Accord. So no, an E9x is not a barge.

            “Mid-size” sedans have reached “I need to clean out the garage to make room” territory. Hilariously, some of them still have somewhat cramped backseats.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Exactly as Burgers and Beer said. Small car, long wheelbase due to RWD and the need to package an inline six with much of it behind the front wheels.

            The midsizers are barges.

  • avatar
    stephenjmcn

    The Jetta seems to be ‘rocking’ the 2009 Skoda Octavia’s ICE system there. Who said it’s not Euro? :)

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    Like vanilla ice cream with fake vanilla.
    Ok, move on. Nothing to see here, move on.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    For those who can’t wait for the 2016 (new screen – improved A/C controls?) this is the trim level to get.

    Except “connectivity” gets better wheels and body-colored mirrors. Perhaps a carbon fiber mirror cover can add some flair to these cheapo-looking ones. I do like the other 16″ wheels though, they look a little more sophisticated.

    And the lightning package that’s available even on lower-spec golfs for about a grand does not seem to be available here until the SEL trim, which is a little crazy.

    It’s a good enough car to get you thinking.

    Thanks for the review Jack.

  • avatar
    KrohmDohm

    I have a special affection for Jetta’s. My senior year of high school I had a 1986 2-door in white with a 5 speed. It even had a Blaupunkt.(woot!) Of the 4 cars I had in high school(don’t ask) this was my clear favorite.

    But for the extra $3,900 I paid for a 2015 Camry XSE in May it make this Jetta a non-starter. Better infotainment system by far, more passenger space and equal cargo space. Road and mechanical noise is as quiet as you’ll get without buying a Lexus. I even got 34.5mpg on a 4 hour trip to Maryland recently. No mountains but lots of stop and go traffic taking the non-interstate route.

    • 0 avatar
      laphoneuser

      Judging by the price difference, your Camry is the 4 cylinder? I’m actually considering an SE Camry or a Jetta 1.8. Seems like about a $1000 price difference between the two.

      I’d love for Jack to compare the two, since he’s driven and written pieces about both, but how is the acceleration on your Camry? Is it “enough” for most situations?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        For any situation I’ve found myself in, the current 2.5L 4 cyl motor is plenty. 0-60 in about 8 seconds flat, the transmission is very responsive and will drop a gear very quickly if you need to pass on the interstate, otherwise it will happily loaf along at 2100 rpm at 75 mph, not downshifting for most smaller hills. The Toyota V6 is a peach of a motor, but I’d be hard pressed to justify the extra expense and loss of some fuel economy when the 4 cylinder drivetrain is so darn competent. The 2015 refresh of the Camry fixed just about everything I disliked about the 2012 car, namely the ‘grounded to the ground’ edgy styling and some creaky and cheap dash elements and cheap HVAC controls. I grew up a hardcore Honda kid that poked fun at Toyotas for being boring so it seems crazy, but would now very seriously consider scooping up a new Camry, at the ripe old age of 26 :)

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          The 2015 interior is indeed an improvement, enough so that I think it edges out the Accord’s, at least in v6 trims. The XSE V6 is a sharper drive than the Accord V6 as well. The Accord felt like the fuddy-duddy car to me, so apparently the tables have turned a bit.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        @laphoneuser – I’ve had many 2.5L Camrys as rentals and love the car. It’s actually one I seek out on the rental lot. the engine is perfectly adequate for the car. No it’s not as exciting as the turbo engine in the Jetta (have rented both that and the Passat with the 1.8t), but I never once felt I didn’t have enough power, including on several rather effortless 80 mph cruises.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I will say, that’s VERY impressive fuel economy for this size car, right? That’s better than the Cruze will get you, which I think is a few inches smaller in all directions.

    Course the Cruze probably has more equipment, and is better made and heavier.

    • 0 avatar
      tmport

      I’m scratching my head wondering why some people think the Jetta is bigger than the typical compact. It’s not. It competes squarely on size with other compacts; the Accord and Camry are both about 10 inches longer and a couple inches wider.

      Jetta: 183.3 inches long, 70 inches wide, 57.2 inches high, 104.4 inches wheelbase

      Cruze: 181 inches long, 70.7 inches wide, 58.1 inches high, 105.7 inches wheelbase

      Corolla: 183.1 inches long, 69.9 inches wide, 57.3 inches high, 106.3 inches wheelbase

      Sentra: 182.1 inches long, 69.3 inches wide, 58.9 inches high, 106.3 inches wheelbase

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I am gonna say it’s because of the following:

        It looks 98% the same as the Passat. People see one of those, and equate it to Jetta because everyone knows what a Jetta is, and nobody knows what a Passat is.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    And this summarizes one of the VW’s problems here in the US market when it comes to the Jetta and the Passat: they’re competent players in an otherwise crowded field. There is very little that Average Joe Consumer can find in these products that would sway them into the Volkswagen court.

    Personally, unless you are on a very strict budget, I find that when you’re talking a $4,000-$5,000 difference in a car that you’re planning on keeping for 5-7 years, you should pick the more expensive option if it’s truly the better car. In this case, it sounds like for about $4k you could get yourself into an Accord, Altima, Mazda or even well equipped Golf and be much better off than picking up a Jetta.

    The reality is that every serious player in the auto industry can do the basics right. Everyone builds a (relatively) safe, comfortable, economical transportation unit. That’s what VW has done here, and ostensibily, one that is faaaaaaaaaaaaaaar more reliable than the previous generations. The problem for most buyers is: so what? If I’m doing the basic transport thing I should just go for the known, reliable choice, right? As they used to say, “nobody got fired for buying IBM”.

    No doubt the Jetta VII will run circles around this. It’ll be a MKVII Golf with a trunk, plus whatever upgrades are competitive when it launches in about two years’ time.

    I take the current Jetta and Passat as the last vestiges of “old” Volkswagen, pre-MQB. With the new A3, Golf, GTI, 1.8T, Tenn + Puebla factories and California technical center VW has put down a substantial investment in North America to (finally) demonstrate a commitment to understanding and catering to this market. They’re rolling out new models for us much more quickly than before (GTI->Golf->Sportwagen->R->Alltrack, all within about 18 months), they’re upgrading key components (infotainment MIBII) substantially more rapidly.

    They’re finally getting it. Now, get a CUV and SUV to market, upgrade the US Passat to match the Euro model and keep improving reliability and they’ll start showing some steady incremental growth.

    • 0 avatar

      Interestingly, the Mk.5 and Mk.6 Golf platform are basically the same, but the Mk.6 received all kinds of structural updates. The Jetta rides on that platform. But most of the past-era vehicles debuted prior to the Mk.6 Golf and so still ride on the somewhat older Mk.5 version of the platform. This includes the Tiguan and the recently-departed Eos and Jetta SportWagen. The Q3 probably is on the Mk.6 version of the platform, but it is definitely not Mk.7/MQB-based.

  • avatar
    Willyam

    I rented one of these in a handsome dark grey in Chicago in May, and was pleasantly surprised to find super low miles on it. I was not so pleasantly surprised to find a huge rocker panel dent already, but that’s renting.

    I also found it got great mileage, but the surprising fact for me was when I headed into Chicago for the Navy Pier at, yes, 5:30 in the afternoon, the Jetta was totally in its element. It feels smaller than it is, and once you get used to the turbo it was great at carving traffic.

    The air conditioning compressor kept switching off (light was on, but the cool air would just stop). Switching the air on and off a couple of times would eventually bring it back, so, yeah it’s a VW.

    I hadn’t been in a VW in a long time, but I had read the reviews about the great interior cheapening, and they’re all correct. And all comments regarding the bizarre iPod/Bluetooth/Phone integration are also correct. It was a neat rental, but having owned a GTi would I expect a pressurized small-motor Jetta to last? Not yet…

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Could the compressor thing be a design feature, when you’re parked the compressor shuts off in short bursts to just do recirc?

      I recall my old Impreza did this at stand-stills, and I never knew whether it was supposed to, or what was going on. It got hot quickly in there with all that glass (wagon).

  • avatar
    iMatt

    It’s interesting to see how many commentators perceive the Jetta so negatively even after Jack’s somewhat positive review and Mark’s own admission that the Jetta is just as good as the new Golf.

    I don’t see the Jetta as having any direct competition. Dollar to dollar, it blows the Civics and company out of the water and as Jack says, can be a cheaper yet competitive alternative to cars one class size up.

    In Canada, the land of entry level Camrys and Accords starting at $26 k, this seems like an even better deal at thousands of dollars less.

    Heck, after destination, my base model came in at $16 000 *nearly $3000 less than a mid range Honda Fit. That’s subcompact car territory. i.e Spark and Sonic…

    One last thing to note, I’m surprised to see such a cheap looking head unit and non-painted mirrors on Jack’s mid-level tester, Jettas sold up here come with the 5.whatever inch touch display.

    Edit – Just checked TSI Jetta’s pricing to that of Honda’s Accord, price differential is much less than I figured coming in at just over $1000 in the Jetta’s favour. yikes.

    • 0 avatar

      They changed up the trim levels a bit. It used to be that the only difference between the S and the SE was the upgrade to the 2.5-liter or 1.8-liter TSI over the 2.slow. The SE w/Connectivity was the big upgrade, and got you alloys, Bluetooth (and the steering wheel controls to go with), and painted mirrors w/indicators. Still another upgrade was required to get the RCD-510 touchscreen system or the RNS-315 navigation unit, although you can swap either of those in with no issue at all.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J

      I have not test driven a 6th gen. I have test driven a 5th gen, and price wise, it was just as expensive as an Altima and other midsizers at the time, and had less room, and had worse ride. The materials were about on par, but not worth the money IMHO. The current Jetta, IMHO, competes with the Verano in terms of both content and size outside of the base model.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        The 5th gen Jetta had better interior materials than pretty much all the midsizers at the time. It also drove better and had some excellent value trims. The 2.0T Wolfsburg Edition Jettas were an excellent value in the at around $21K-$22K.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I remember my brother’s friend bought a pretty basic mkV back in 2008(?) with the 2.5 and a stick shift when he graduated and landed his first engineering job. I was definitely impressed by how solid it felt going down the road, that gruff engine would pull it out of the hole really nicely, and those 5 position (!) heated seats were pretty novel to someone who had grown up in Japanese cars.

          A poster above got it right, it’s sort of the modern day Volvo 240. Not efficient or a good value in strict terms of A-B transportation, but a very satisfying and practical car to live with on a daily basis.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Before I bought my 2010 Sportwagen I looked at the 5th gen sedans, and for the same $18.5K price as a Civic LX or Corolla LE you got heated seats, heated mirrors, road noise suppression, and an interior that shamed not only every C-segment competitor, but almost every midsizer as well. It was a great value. I’m sure the value proposition changed as you loaded on options.

        Our other car is an Altima from that era as well. It does not ride better than the Jetta and MSRP’d for ~$3K more with less equipment.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I wish there were more lightly used jettas around in my area when I was car shopping 2 years ago. The options on the ground at the time were a new 2.0 base jetta for $15k, new corolla LE 4spd auto for $15k, or my civic lx with 11k miles for $15k. I liked the jetta but even compared to the automatic corolla it was a bit sluggish up hill. I wish I was less fixated on fuel economy then, a big factor in my decision. My civic has absolutely no sound deadening in the wheel arches and with my new tires its a howling travesty from 40-50 mph. My gfs camry with the same exact tire is perfectly quiet.

  • avatar
    wmba

    The new Audi 2.0t TFSI Atkinson-cycle turbo with 188 hp announced a couple of months ago, and missing from the North American product release in the new A4 specs has surfaced in Europe. It is in the new A4 already available there. You can read a review in Autocar, where they prefer the diesel.

    Audi says it will discontinue the 1.8 turbo used in this Jetta completely, and replace with the new Atkinson 2.0t. I wonder what VW will do?

    If, as I suspect and Jack alluded to, VW does its usual job of forgetting to discontinue old models for decades, making them in an old tin shed out back, the 1.8t which is only four years old will soldier on in some VW vehicle for years, even though everywhere else the new Atkinson cycle will be available. Gotta keep that Silao engine plant in Mexico churning out something or other for North America.

    Don’t wish for the 1.4TSI here in North America. Timing chain problems plus the complete recall of the useless dry-clutch 7 speed DSG it powers in the rest of the World is VW at its finest. Why wish damnation on yourself?

    There must be an army of clerks at VW Group HQ keeping tabs on what bits fit what car in what market, standard for a $200 billion annual sales bureaucracy that cannot get its marketing act together. A brand new Jetta Mk 5 will no doubt be available in Sumatra in 2020 with the 2.0 slow and a Blaupunkt Berlin casstte-radio for tunez.

    • 0 avatar

      Audi will quit using the 1.8 TSI? Really? I don’t know what else they use it in overseas, but here, the only thing I can think of is the A3, where it’s a perfectly fine base engine, especially because it probably doesn’t require premium fuel.

      We have the 1.4 TSI here as well as the 7-speed dry-clutch DSG…in the Jetta Hybrid.

      And as far as older models being used for emerging markets, I was just talking about that and I think that’s a fine idea. Why engineer a sh*tbox from the ground up when you can just use an existing, older vehicle whose costs have already been amortized and was probably better-engineered?

  • avatar
    tonycd

    Too bad VW apparently cheaped out and left out the additional port fuel injectors they included on the newest GTI and Audi 2.0T engines that solved the disgraceful carbon deposit problem of their previous direct-injected engines. Owners report having to have the top end torn apart and bombarded with walnut shells to scrub the layers of carbon off. No, thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      tony –

      If by “owners report” you mean a few posters over on the ole’ Vortex forums – just remember that place can be a real echo chamber. For every ‘enthusiast’ barking about having to a walnut blast there are several dozen other drivers (myself included) who haven’t had to do squat over 122,000 miles. Of course, YMMV.

      The dual injection system was put into the Euro market cars more for emissions control than anything else. The fact that it ‘washes’ the valves is a secondary effect and whether it has a positive impact, I’ll leave to those who are far more scientific than I to say.

      According to Volkswagen’s patent (http://www.google.com/patents/US6866031), they suggest occasionally running the engine over 3,000rpm for a 20-30 minute duration to burn off carbon deposits as a way to minimize the issue.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Last I looked at this the port fuel injectors were only on the Euro market GTIs. The North American GTI’s is built in Mexico, and that factory did not have the port injectors at the time.

      Hopefully they’ve added them since.

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    This car seems like a bargain when you think of everything you get for 20 grand. I could see the potential 320i buyer going for one of these instead…or A3 buyer.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    How do you avoid cops? That is the question.

  • avatar
    Chan

    Have the new VW Turbos been reliable? I have heard that the 2.5L inline-5 has been a rare gem in VW reliability.

  • avatar
    Der_Kommissar

    Wanted to like the SEL trim ’15 jetta. They were clearing them out at a great price. There were three things I could not quite get past 1) obviously cheap interior 2) Only came in shades of gray, black, or white 3) Did not like the standard gauge cluster and trip computer, and the one that had the lighting package (get’s the golf cluster) had sold before I got there. Solid drive, engine, and ergonomics, but as Jack pointed out, no passion. If I could have gotten it in blue w/lighting package I think I could have been happy.

  • avatar
    ksmo

    I can’t believe I missed this article.

    Jack, you are so on point with this review of the Jetta.

    I actually own this car. Very similar to your rental, except with a manual transmission, and sadly not white. There wasn’t a white SE manual to be had anywhere near me when I was ready to buy.

    But anyway, a 2015 Jetta SE with a 5 speed is sitting in my driveway as I type this, with about 6500 miles on the clock. The most basic Jetta you can get without losing the 1.8 engine is the one to buy, bang for the buck.

    Also, I notice some of the comments here refer to Hondas, etc. My wife has a ’14 Civic EX, so I can comment on that car as well and in comparison to the Jetta.

    Regarding the Jetta…

    It was the best compromise of price, fuel economy, interior space (especially rear seat room), and driving dynamics I could find in a new car for $20k. I actually bought mine for a fair bit less than that.

    The 1.8T engine is a total gem. I consistently average 35 mpg or better. One tank, I got 39, and that’s with a bit of city driving thrown in, albeit in cooler weather with the A/C off. I’ve never seen a tank where the average was less than 33.5 mpg, and one that low would be a rarity in the summer months with A/C cranked. By the way, speaking of air conditioning…it’s OK in the Jetta, but not stellar. American cars seem to feature decent air, and the imports never quite as good.

    This car has just enough power to make things interesting. It, like everything else, could use another 20 horses, no doubt. But the 170 horse engine is really an overachiever. I can’t believe more people haven’t discovered it. It’s a really good balance, what VW has done here…you have plenty of zip on tap if you need to pass or beat feet up an on-ramp, but keep your foot out of it and you can see 40 mpg on the interstate. I have owned several Volkswagen TDIs, but honestly the 1.8T is so good that I passed on diesel this time around. The mpg is good enough on the gasser that I wasn’t willing to play the game of low sulfur fuel versus (seemingly) fragile high pressure fuel pump.

    The car could use a 6-speed. The 5 speed manual is geared really tall. You’re running something like 2k rpm at 70 mph in 5th. This helps fuel economy, I’m sure. But the trans as a whole feels pretty long-legged, and although I’m normally more of a 5 speed guy than a 6 speed guy, a 6th cog would nicely eliminate some of the rather large gaps in gearing as it sits. Not even remotely a deal breaker, though, and I’ll take a nice tall 4th and 5th gear over the too-short manual transmission in, for example, a Honda Fit. I’m getting too old to drive a buzz-fest on the highway.

    Seats. Thank you, thank you VW for finally giving me the option for cloth instead of vinyl. The SE cloth is excellent, very sturdy, and not mouse fur. Surprisingly supportive seats for an econocar. Real humans can fit in the back seat, as can kiddos in car seats.

    The car is very quiet for a cheap car. I almost bought a Mazda3, and in fact wanted to like that car better. But in the end, the Jetta prevailed. It was quicker, roomier, slightly cheaper, and felt more upscale, i.e. quiet and solid. Mine is squeak and rattle free, but with only 6500 miles on it, hard to tell if this will last. For now, it feels like a more expensive car than it is, on the road.

    The Jetta isn’t perfect by any means. The door plastics are quite cheap. The hard dash is unfortunate. I would have gladly paid a couple hundred bucks more for VW to put in some decent interior door panels and a rock hard dash. But really, it’s a nitpick. I don’t drive around rubbing the dashboard.

    The stereo sucks balls. I actually like the minimalist head unit sans touch screen, but the sound quality is poor. I’ve been tempted to swap the speakers out with something decent, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

    If anything makes me eventually get rid of this car, it will be the lack of soul. Jack mentioned it in his write up somewhere. Basically, the car is exceedingly competent in many areas, but fails to really make you love it. Something is missing, I can’t put my finger on it. It’s a bit boring. I wish a GTI was $5k cheaper.

    Oh, and regarding Hondas and the like…my wife has a ’14 Civic EX. Allow me to compare this to the Jetta real quick:

    Her Civic feels like a complete tin can compared to my Jetta. Much higher road and wind and engine noise. The Civic’s suspension feels much harsher and one-dimensional than that in the Jetta, which strikes a much better “three little bears-just right” balance. The Jetta’s powertrain blows the Civic out of the water. The CVT in our Civic EX makes the car about as exciting as a loaf of Wonder Bread. Sloooow. You need to pass in the Honda? Mash your foot down and wait for the engine/CVT to painfully respond. If you drove the Jetta and Honda without knowing which car you were in, you’d guess that the VW cost 50% more money. In reality, the Civic was a hair more expensive. It has a sunroof and automatic where the Jetta does not.

    Where does Honda beat VW? Well, the electronics, mostly. The head unit and trip computer are better in the Honda. Bluetooth is easier to set up. Honda puts incredibly cheap speakers in the car, though, with zero bass…all treble. Horrible. But the interface is superior in the Civic, it has a standard rear backup camera, lane watch, etc. Oh, and supposedly the Civic will be the more reliable car. My wife isn’t a car person, and wanted more of an appliance, which is why I got her the Honda. She just wants to drive it for 150k and forget it. Civic is perfect for that.

    Credit to Honda for more reasonable service visits, too. An oil change on her car cost under $50. I took the Jetta in at 5k miles and even with a $15-off coupon I was out of there at $70. Not the end of the world, of course, but VW specifies some pricey oil found only on Mars for their vehicles.

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    ksmo – great review. I just bought a used 2014 Jetta SE. I have the 1.8T and manual tranny, mine is so basic even has steel wheels.

    I basically agree. I like the tall gearing but 5speed leaves some big gaps ‘tween gears. It takes some time to get used to driving this compared to conventional 5speed/motor (2.0 liter Ford Zetec) but torque down low is amazing.

    I never understood complaints about hard plastic in car interiors, I mainly want something practical. That said the dash plastic seems out of place in modern car. For seats I have the plastic-leather, I wish they had cloth.


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