The Truth About Cars » Jetta http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 21 Nov 2014 04:29:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Jetta http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com New York 2014: 2015 Volkswagen Jetta Live Shots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-volkswagen-jetta-live-shots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-volkswagen-jetta-live-shots/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 21:59:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=800898 Though the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta bowing at the 2014 New York Auto Show may be refreshed, most of the work may just be too subtle to notice at first. Updates to the outgoing model include LED running lights for daytime cruising, new tail and trunk lighting, revised rain gutters, and underbody shrouding. Under the hood, […]

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Though the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta bowing at the 2014 New York Auto Show may be refreshed, most of the work may just be too subtle to notice at first.

Updates to the outgoing model include LED running lights for daytime cruising, new tail and trunk lighting, revised rain gutters, and underbody shrouding.

Under the hood, three gasoline engines and one turbodiesel help move the Jetta along. The all new 2-liter TDI with a six-speed manual holds a combined 37 mpg while pushing 150 horses with 236 lb-ft of torque through the front wheels.

Inside, the biggest change is an upgrade in technology for the Jetta, including blind-spot monitoring, adaptive front lighting with Bi-Xenon headlamps, and rear cross-traffic alert. Other interior upgrades include new fabrics, air vent controls and ambient lighting.

The new Jetta will arrive in U.S. showrooms Q3 2014.

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Autobiography Of BS© : How I Harmed Sundry Animals http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/autobiography-ofbs-how-i-harmed-sundry-animals/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/autobiography-ofbs-how-i-harmed-sundry-animals/#comments Sat, 18 May 2013 21:34:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=488904   While a minor shit storm erupted the other day over the use of a word denoting short-haired women who love women, and, allegedly, certain cars, I did a lot of the soul-searching and self-reflection demanded from me, and I thought about all the scandals I may have caused in my life, and which I […]

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While a minor shit storm erupted the other day over the use of a word denoting short-haired women who love women, and, allegedly, certain cars, I did a lot of the soul-searching and self-reflection demanded from me, and I thought about all the scandals I may have caused in my life, and which I would regret, if the hate mails are an indicator. There were many scandals, and one of the most egregious involved a car. Oddly enough, it involved a car that allegedly is a top choice among men who love men. The scandal, however, involved people who were into dogs, fish, and other animals. And it was about the Volkswagen Jetta.

In 1973, at the at that time not so tender age of 24, I switched from journalism to advertising. The pay was good and got obscenely better every year. I started working for Volkswagen right away. There was a huge job opening for the FNG: The first oil shock was upon us, and everybody was convinced that cars will be a matter of the past. Seasoned advertising professionals went for safer accounts, like alcohol or cigarettes. I was told to work on Volkswagen, a dead-end job as everybody was convinced. Volkswagen and I fell in love with each other, the relationship lasted longer than most marriages, from 1973 through 2007.

My work on the Golf is documented here and also here. The full series of advertising lows and automotive high-jinx can be found here.

In late 1978, we received briefing materials for a car called Jetta. Actually, at that time, the car had no name, but a number. In the beginning, all briefing documentations were titled “EA,” followed by a number. The EA stood for “Entwicklungs-Auftrag” (development assignment,) the number was a running number. There were many gaps between the numbers when they reached us, many development orders never say the light of day. I don’t remember what the EA number of the Jetta was.

When we were given the documentation, it was handed over with a sneer. The Jetta was not very popular at Volkswagen, even when it existed only on paper. People at Volkswagen and everywhere else were in love with the Golf in 1978. It was a rip-roaring success, so were, to varying extents, the Passat, and the Polo, and the Scirocco. They were all hatches, and everybody at Volkswagen was convinced that from now on, all Volkswagen will be hatches.

The Jetta had an odd appendix that should not be there, it had a trunk.

Jetta Mk1 -Picture courtesy volksforum.com

The trunk was somehow grafted onto a Golf, like a strap-on to a  — let’s not go there. To this day, Volkswagen Classic, the arm of Volkswagen that is tracking the company’s heritage, says that the “base for the new model was the technology and substantial parts of the Golf MkI. The body of the donor car were inherited up to the B pillar.” According to the official history, “the ace card of the Jetta was the formidable 520 liter volume of the trunk.”

And it was exactly that trump card trunk that made my contacts sneer and roll their eyes. The car had a second name before it even hit the market. It was called “Rucksack Golf,” a name that quickly found its way into the media, where it lives on today.

The car was there, because there was a market for a car with a trunk: People who like cars with trunks. Two years before, the Derby had been launched. It was a Rucksack-Polo. The small hatch had a huge trunk strapped-on. The trunk was so big that we fit an eponymous trunk-bearer into it for advertising purposes, an elephant. But that’s a different story for another edition of the Autobiography of BS(c).

Studies had shown that there was a niche-market of around 80,000 units for such a car, and that it would be popular mostly among older people. The Derby did not outlive its first generation. In 1981, it was discontinued, the internal reason for its early death was that “less than 100,000 people buy it, and they are all old.”

The biggest market for the Jetta was expected to be in the U.S., where the Golf saw only limited success. People in America want a real car with a real trunk, we learned at the time, and somehow, they would not get it that a hatch was a much better design, as intended by God and his priests in white, the Volkswagen engineers.

At Volkswagen, cars with trunks were seen as treason, as a betrayal of the ideology based on the superiority of hatches. Derby, Jetta, Santana: Cars with strap-ons were seen as an evil popular in those odd OTHER markets. Internally, and probably to protect one’s imperiled sanity, it was quickly decided that the Jetta is ugly, and if the Americans want such an abomination, so be it, and let’s sell as many as we possibly can in Europe, even if the car is, did we mention it, ugly.

As documented in the Autobiography of BS ©, I did not know anything about cars, and even less so about car design. I declared the car is beautiful. The fact that the car was ugly had already leaked out, the media was waiting, not with bated breath, for the Rucksack-Golf, and it was decided to go on the counter-offensive and to go with my strategy that espoused the beauty of the Jetta.

When the launch campaign for the Jetta appeared, the billboard asked: “Which is more beautiful?” It showed a Jetta and a colorful winged fish. A poster said “Which is more dependable?” It showed a Jetta and a German Shepherd dog. And so forth, you can imagine the rest. You will have to imagine it because the campaign appears to be gone. My private archive, all on 35 millimeter slides, perished when a storage place in Brooklyn caught fire, and what did not burn was ruined by the Brooklyn Fire Dept. Slides are like W.C.Fields. They hate water. Volkswagen has an early catalog on-line, but no pictures of winged fish or German canines. It’s probably better that way.

Soon after the start of the campaign, there was a huge outcry. We were blamed for “animal abuse,” because we dared to show pictures of fish and dogs, instead of the usual happy people who drive our beautiful cars. I was requested to write a form letter to be sent to all who did complain. I wrote that we are sorry for abusing animals in advertising, and that we promise to henceforth abuse people only. I don’t think they sent that letter.

I was told that Volkswagen stated that no fish, fowl or canine were harmed during the production of the ads, due to the fact that the pictures were taken under the supervision of zoological experts. If people would have wanted the truth, they would have heard that the animals were stock photos.

We were perplexed. We had shown carefully casted chiwawas and countless other cute canines before. We’ve shown flocks of sheep grazing on meadows as proof of our greenness. We’ve shown many cars that were dogs. No objections were raised. This time, waves after waves of protests crashed into Wolfsburg. An association of German Shepherd owners threatened to use us as props in the training of their guard dogs, and there were more threats, not suitable even for this mature audience.

We never found out what the reason for this outcry was, but we had our suspicions. The beautiful winged fish was a Manta, which happened to be the name of the Opel Manta, a direct competitor of the Jetta, and the object of many jokes. The stereotypical Manta driver was stupid, and was married to a blond hairdresser. If you weren’t totally dense at the time, you got the not so subtle hint that the Jetta looked better than the Manta – even the stereotypical Manta driver got it. Sometimes.

To this day, Manta jokes are a staple of that oxymoron called German humor. Manta jokes are historically so important that one made it into Wikipedia:

“What does a Manta driver say to a tree after a crash? – “Why didn’t you get out of my way, I used the horn!”

TV Tropes has a rich collection of Manta jokes. Here are a few:

“What remains when a Manta burns down? A golden necklace and a crying hairdresser.“

“How does a Manta driver make a family portrait? He puts everyone in the Manta and races through a speed trap.“

“What’s the last thing that goes through a Manta drivers head, when crashing into a wall? The rear wing.”

(Should anyone feel traumatized by the insensitivity shown towards Manta drivers and blond hairdressers, please direct your protestations to Wikipedia, TV Tropes, or Google.)

Volkswagen of course denied any connection to Manta, the car, and steadfastly maintained their position that this was an innocent campaign to underscore the elegant lines of the new Jetta, that the Manta fish was chosen for its beauty, and that any similarities with other Mantas living or dead would be purely coincidental. Comparative advertising was against the law, and there was an unspoken (or maybe secretly agreed) code of conduct that forbade slights against the competition.

Then and now, taboos were and are there to be broken. Of course, there was the suspicion that behind the shitstorm – at the time fought only with the lumbering weapons of letters to the company and to editors – was more than outraged animal rights activists that protested against the abuse of a fish in car advertising. Of course there was the suspicion that behind the outrage were slighted Manta drivers, or even Opel itself. Opel would have never admitted it either, so it turned into a proxy war.

Jetta MK2 - Picture courtesy flickriver.com

Volkswagen did not take the campaign down. Doing so would have been a sign of weakness, an admission of wrongdoing, and frankly there were no other posters to take the place of the offensively objectionable and profoundly pejorative fish and dogs.

Showing backbone in the face of vicious attacks for silly reasons has a tradition at Volkswagen. The war of the fish and dogs was a minor incident compared to the many years of open and nasty warfare by Greenpeace against Volkswagen, one of the more environmentally attuned automakers. Knowing that it is on the good side, VW did not back down, and did not submit to greenmail. Finally, Greenpeace took its ball, pouted, and went home. “The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on” is an old Arabic proverb, it is part of Volkswagen’s unreleeased corporate philosophy, and it is worth stealing. Husband your resources for when the shit really hits the fan. When criticism was justified, such as in the case of forced labor, Volkswagen was among the first to admit it and to do something about it.

Time heals all wounds, and like many small proxy wars, the brouhaha soon landed in the dustbin of history. The campaign won many medals (except with the animal rights people, the nascent PC police, and Opel), and Bertel was promoted Creative Director, and later President of the advertising agency.

In Germany, the Jetta was a limited success. It sold 90,000 in its first year and it was downhill from there. Later, I tried to resurrect the fish and dog campaign to stem the dwindling of the sales. I argued the campaign had worked before, so why not try it again. Usually, that logic was irrefutable at Volkswagen, in this case, it only received a pained “not again, Bertel.”

As predicted by the marketing strategy, the Jetta was and is a huge success in the U.S. The Jetta Mk I lived on for decades in China. In Europe, later Jettas suffered from an identity crisis, and were named Vento, Bora, or Sagitar in China.

Note: Do not use this article to gripe about  the use or abuse of of a word denoting short-haired women who love women. Extensive room has been given to more than 200 comments, which all are still there.  When threats were issued, the discussion was closed to protect TTAC, and, frankly, the commenters. Do not continue the closed discussion here.  Any such comments would be immediately removed , and their authors would be banned for violation  of an administrative action as set forth in TTAC’s commenting rules.

 

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Vellum Venom: 2003 Volkswagen Jetta (MK IV) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/vellum-venom-2003-volkswagen-jetta-mk-iv/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/vellum-venom-2003-volkswagen-jetta-mk-iv/#comments Mon, 21 Jan 2013 13:54:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=473742 Did you see an instant classic at last week’s Detroit Auto Show?  Maybe that new Stingray. And hearing that the first C7 Vette was on the auction block to support the College for Creative Studies made me a little proud of my former school, too.  But, aside from the always nerve-racking bus ride between CCS […]

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Did you see an instant classic at last week’s Detroit Auto Show?  Maybe that new Stingray. And hearing that the first C7 Vette was on the auction block to support the College for Creative Studies made me a little proud of my former school, too.  But, aside from the always nerve-racking bus ride between CCS and Cobo Hall, my “instant classic” moment from the (1999) NAIAS was the introduction of the MK IV Jetta.  All of a sudden I couldn’t keep my eyes off of Jettas, especially a silver one in the lower hall of Cobo. And time hasn’t changed my opinion…aside from making it more extreme.

 

14 years later, the MK IV Jetta is still the best looking of the breed.  I sampled this from our old friend Captain Mike Solo, who apparently has a thing for VAG products.   Driving this Jetta around made me feel far superior to the current (MK VI) Jetta, and like a God among Men compared to the MK V. Just park one of these next to one of those.

How many cut lines do you see?  Not many. Because so many cut lines originate from the headlights and most are parallel to the strong grille lines, there might as well be none.  Well, at least compared to so many busy designs from the past 20 years.

 

The MK IV Jetta has a certain “1970s-80s clean wedge” theme about it…without being a boring wedge. Utilizing “modern” plastic casting technology for the bumpers and headlights, there is the ability to add a flair of curves and circles not seen back then.  But real subtle, never showy. This is perhaps the best of both worlds: a specific design aesthetic adapted to make a new look for a new era.

 

Note how the base of the headlight sweeps upward, complementing the shape of the bumper, forming the beginning of the fenders and the end of the hood’s horizontal cut line.  The “J” theme presented here is certainly the most distinctive element of the MK IV Jetta.  And damn, it’s so frickin’ beautiful.

 

Transposed “J” theme.  The body color grille doesn’t take away from the theme, and the power bulge in the hood is a natural extension: filling out the “shelf” of the bumper in the center. There’s another important design concept presented here: surface tension.  Never flabby or overwrought, the Jetta has acres of surface tension in its mid-sized body.

 

I like round headlight themes confined to square-ish headlights.  It adds excitement, without making a front end look like some sort of goofy creature with roundish, amoeba-ish eyes.  If it had the MK V’s cool VW logo in the headlight’s reflector cap, it would make the MK V Corolla Jetta a wholly extraneous design in the history of the Jetta.  Well, maybe not.

 

I never liked the emblem butting into the hood’s cut line.  I always wanted it straight up there, doing that with the bumper instead.  This looks like a wart, while my suggestion would be cute and cheeky.  But VW certainly doesn’t agree: this theme continued into the next two generations.  Oh well, can’t win ‘em all. Or any of them.

 

What do you think of the hood’s little circle of discontent? But the grille slats are very Mercedes SL like. Which is cool.

 

The strong parallel lines are most obvious down below. But even more surprising, the grilles look surprisingly multi-layered and expensive.  Not like the cheapy one piece units found on many cheap sedans…or the fog light assembly of the Cadillac CTS-V coupe.

 

 

The clean lines continue all the way to the front wheel. I like how the flat black lower trim visually thins the bumper.

 

The clean, parallel rub strip incorporates a marker light that bends and ends as a perfect compliment to the rub strip. Clean.

 

The “J” theme looks fantastic as you walk around the fender.  While Saturn already did this with the 1996 SL, the bumper’s cut line and gap size makes this a far nicer implementation.  And Ford aped this with their 2005 Focus…and failed.  The Jetta’s tight panel gaps and bullet like shaping trumps ‘em both.

 

Acres of surface tension on the hood. Note the warpage of the building’s reflection on the domed hood.  Combined with the neatly tucked away plastic cowl trim, this is such a beautifully modern and minimal design.

 

The base wheels are a snooze, especially how the plump spokes meet the rim.  The double-5 spoke 17″ wheels available from this era (on the VR6 model?) really added punch to the entire design.

 

The complex reflector design of the side marker light is hip and Euro: no wonder so many moderately aspirational people (i.e. Sorority Girls) flocked to the design.

 

This quirky mirror mount proves the Germans have a good sense of humor.  Not that I am laughing, I merely applaud a good zinger within a subtle statement.  Well done.

 

Functional and nicely tucked away door handles.  The negative area doesn’t try to impart a sense of style, it just does the job.  Which is beautiful in itself.

 

Wrap around door pillars need to make a comeback, even if they are harder to seal or assemble…or something.  With it, the fender, hood and A-pillar blend seamlessly (well, except for the two modest cut lines) into a green house with no non-functional plastic triangle of DLO FAIL. (daylight opening) Instead of the FAIL, there’s a cute little footprint for a sleek side view mirror. While the newest Jetta is by no means hideous from this angle, it isn’t this beautiful.

This car is a modern classic, people.  Stop and stare at one soon.

 

While this shot exaggerates the size of the greenhouse, there’s so much unfettered space here.  It’s delightful considering the submarine stance of most new sedans, even the latest Jetta.

 

Such a clean and strong B-pillar. The canted cut line looks both fast and solid at the same time.  And while newer Jettas try to hide this pillar with blackout trim, the MK IV makes it a significant styling statement.  It’s refreshing, because it doesn’t look cheap…even if it is.

Sometimes less is more…see???

 

The fixed rear window is necessary on the rear door, but VW wisely made the black trim hiding the runner (for the not-fixed window) as small as possible.  Apparently it needs to be a touch wider at the bottom.  Instead of fattening up the whole part, there’s a clever line added to keep your eyes on the slim and tall part, not the fatter part at the bottom.  It works, even though I have mixed feelings about that line…maybe the runner would look slender enough without it.

 

That’s a lot of glass.  And there’s no fake window/black plastic triangle giving the illusion that the Jetta is sleeker.  Instead, a big ass fixed window.  It looks fantastic.  Any day without the triangle of DLO FAIL is a good day.

 

I adore a rear door (get it?) that wraps up and over the area above the wheel arch.  It looks curvy, like the hip of a beautiful woman.  Problem is, it makes for a gigantic fixed window (or aforementioned DLO FAIL) as the moving window can’t roll down into the tire. And some people think this design makes it difficult to get in/out of a car.

 

I beg to differ.  While this vintage Jetta’s door is smaller than the “less sleek door” of the current model, one must remember to aim their head for the center of the interior, even if there’s a temptation to slide towards the back?  And the door makes for a good weapon, as it’s far “pointier” than a blocky door. Which isn’t a problem on the new model, but it’s also stodgy…and this is sleek.

 

This is just a gorgeous family sedan.  Perfect front-wheel drive proportioning and enough space for 5 non-American adults. Every line in its place, simple and pure.  Also note the low belt line where the glass and sheet metal meet.  This means that visibility is quite good in the Jetta…even with that tall and blocky butt.

 

Even the door molding is thin and sleek.  More parallel lines to boot.  Just a pretty design!

 

As mentioned two pictures ago, the green house is low and provides fantastic views of your world.  It’s in stark contrast to the short and fast rear window, which is commonplace in today’s vehicles.  This dichotomy is a blend of past and present.  It’s a fantastic transition, I believe it shows the evolution of passenger car design.  And, for the love of all that’s right with car design, it needs to come back to we can have our visibility again!

 

More clean cut lines around back, and there’s something unique about the tail light texture.  More on that later.

 

While everything is sleek and rakish elsewhere, the Jetta’s rear is tall and blocky.  Not a bad thing, if you actually use a sedan to carry people and their crap. There is still, like the front end, plenty of surface tension on this boxy butt: the crease above the license plate, the gentle curves of the bumper and the top of the trunk.  And, as always, the normal looking rub strip on the bumper is much appreciated.  Two things are still outstanding: the tail lights…and something else? Yup, the lack of a flashy tail pipe.  Who cares about pipes on a family sedan with such nice lines?  Much like the butt of the (C4) 1984 Corvette, the turn-down pipes make the exhaust essentially invisible to the casual observer, which is very cool for some designs.  Designs with C4 or MK IV Jetta levels of cleanliness deserve turn-down exhausts.

 

The extra trunk line (of surface tension) starts logically where the signal lights (within the entire lighting cluster) end.  There is plenty of tumblehome in the roofline, making the Jetta’s body look quite sleek for a small-ish sedan.

The MK IV’s trademark rooftop whip antenna is adorable and annoying at the same time.  Like Mr. T’s mohawk, this is an authoritative statement that also leaves the body sides uncluttered. According to the Wikipedia article on this car, there are aerodynamic advantages here too.  Which makes sense, even if I dropped out of Fluid Dynamics in college…to pursue a car design degree at CCS.  Oh boy, let’s move on to a new subject.

 

Okay, here’s the big thing about the taillights.  As Capt. Mike mentioned, VW went waaay out of their way to blend all the lighting elements into one form.  The yellow signal lights?  They are striped with red bands. The back up lights?  Tinted a purple-ish color.  Added to this car’s red paint, and the lenses are essentially invisible.

Which is so damn cool.  And musta cost a pretty penny too.  Too bad these tail lights didn’t make it to term with the rest of the MK IV Jetta: the clear bits added to the later lenses are likely a cost-cutting measure masked as a “product redesign.”  Or maybe I’m too much of a cynic.  Whatever.

 

Another cool detail: dat trunk lock cylinder.  Not resorting to an expensive sliding cover, the MK IV Jetta simply slides the lock within a perfectly sized Vee-Dub logo with black paint in the negative areas.  Damn son…THAT IS SHARP.

 

 

While not the MK IV Jetta’s finishing touch, the gas cap is a good ending to this article.  It has a logical location and remains relatively flat (not smeared on a fender flare) and purely functional.  Good design never dies, it only gets better.

The sad reality is these Jettas are far from good cars as they age: expensive and difficult to repair when fully depreciated. And now I see far too many of them in the junkyard.  Which saddens me, much like my shattered dreams as a CCS student dreaming of his career at the NAIAS many moons ago.  But that’s life, and that’s Vellum Venom.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a wonderful week.

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Review: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/review-2013-volkswagen-jetta-hybrid-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/review-2013-volkswagen-jetta-hybrid-video/#comments Fri, 18 Jan 2013 14:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=472993 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 […]

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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.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, power gauge, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, Hybrid Badge, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, 17-inch wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interiorm Rear Seats Folded, Cargo pass-through, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Engine, 1.4L Turbo Hybrid Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Engine, 1.4L Turbo Hybrid Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Engine, 1.4L Turbo Hybrid Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Front Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Drivers Door, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Drivers Seat, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Cultural Revolution! China Gets New Santana And New Jetta! Brazil Next? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/cultural-revolution-china-gets-new-santana-and-new-jetta/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/cultural-revolution-china-gets-new-santana-and-new-jetta/#comments Fri, 17 Aug 2012 13:18:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457183 Some thirty years later, China will finally get a new Santana. Here it is, brought to you by our friends at Carnewschina. In case it looks familiar, Carnewschina tells us that the new Santana is basically the new Jetta. The current models, holdovers from the stone age, finally can go to the junkyard of history. […]

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Some thirty years later, China will finally get a new Santana. Here it is, brought to you by our friends at Carnewschina. In case it looks familiar, Carnewschina tells us that the new Santana is basically the new Jetta. The current models, holdovers from the stone age, finally can go to the junkyard of history.

Both cars are sitting on a stretched  Polo PQ25 platform (see Skoda Rapid and Seat Toledo.) Like the old Jetta of lore, the new Jetta will be made by FAW-Volkswagen. The new Santana will be made, like the current Santana, by Shanghai-Volkswagen. Both cars are expected to be powered by a 1.4 liter or 1.6 liter engine, stick or auto.

Supposedly, the Chinese press is complaining that the two look too much alike.  Whiners.

PS:  Our special Southern Cone Correspondent Marcelo telegraphs that the Santana (so far only) will be coming to Brazil, and possibly Mexico. Someone is making good use of the tooling. Or not: Marcelo says the Brazilian version is based on the PQ24. Probably Con-Fu-Zion. We are waiting, Marcelo.

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Volkswagen of America Says Passat And Jetta Uber Alles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/volkswagen-of-america-says-passat-and-jetta-uber-alles/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/volkswagen-of-america-says-passat-and-jetta-uber-alles/#comments Sun, 05 Aug 2012 15:55:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=455520 Scirocco? Polo? Up!? Nope. An interview with VW of America’s VP of Marketing and Strategy reveals that you’ll have to keep waiting for any of those products.  Motor Trend’s interview with Rainer Michel ticks nearly every box on the “forbidden euro fruit” list of VW products. But Volkswagen keeps coming back to two products; the […]

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Scirocco? Polo? Up!? Nope. An interview with VW of America’s VP of Marketing and Strategy reveals that you’ll have to keep waiting for any of those products. 

Motor Trend’s interview with Rainer Michel ticks nearly every box on the “forbidden euro fruit” list of VW products. But Volkswagen keeps coming back to two products; the Passat and Jetta, the vulgarized, Americanized sedans that are doing quite well. The two three-box four-doors are driving VW’s growth Stateside, and the company looks committed to supporting them, before bringing over the kinds of products that endeared the company to enthusiasts, but provided little traction in the marketplace.

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Junkyard Find: 1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/junkyard-find-1996-volkswagen-jetta-trek-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/junkyard-find-1996-volkswagen-jetta-trek-edition/#comments Wed, 27 Jun 2012 13:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=450398 Back in the 1990s, Volkswagen and Trek Bicycles got together for a co-branding deal that shook the world (if you define “the world” as “a couple of zip codes in Marin County“): Golfs and Jettas with sporty-looking upholstery, roof racks, and matching Trek bikes! 15 years later, all but the most fanatical VW and/or bicycle […]

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Back in the 1990s, Volkswagen and Trek Bicycles got together for a co-branding deal that shook the world (if you define “the world” as “a couple of zip codes in Marin County“): Golfs and Jettas with sporty-looking upholstery, roof racks, and matching Trek bikes! 15 years later, all but the most fanatical VW and/or bicycle zealots have forgotten the Trek Limited Edition VWs, which makes this an especially rare Junkyard Find.
The snazzy wheels and bike rack are long gone from this example, found in a Denver self-serve yard last week, but it’s still an even rarer find than a genuine Etienne Aigner Golf.
Rather than the scenes depicting drunk 350-pound dudes blasting seagulls with shotguns in the liquor-store parking lot that one will find embroidered into the upholstery of the super-rare Bakersfield Sportsman Edition Ford F-150 from the same era, the Trek Edition Jetta’s seats feature healthy stick-figure VW drivers doing healthy aerobic activities. There’s basketball, running, and— of course— bike riding.
The upholstery in this car smells worse than the Spandex undies of the winner of the Death Ride, but a good cleaning might render it suitable for use in a Trek Jetta restoration.

15 - 1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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New or Used: When Automotive Wanderlust Strikes… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/new-or-used-when-automotive-wanderlust-strikes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/new-or-used-when-automotive-wanderlust-strikes/#comments Mon, 02 Apr 2012 11:26:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=437591   JD writes: Dear TTAC, I realize opinions are like…elbows. But right now I am looking for a hit to the ribs. I am moving to Northern California, and intend to live up in the hills around Skyline Blvd. / Highway 280. I am debt free on a 2006 Mitsubishi Montero Limited. It is such […]

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JD writes:

Dear TTAC,

I realize opinions are like…elbows. But right now I am looking for a hit to the ribs.

I am moving to Northern California, and intend to live up in the hills around Skyline Blvd. / Highway 280.

I am debt free on a 2006 Mitsubishi Montero Limited. It is such a fantastic sleeper of an SUV; as rugged as I need for weekend camping, rock climbing and/or surfing excursions, and also cleans up well for mid-week business meetings (I work from home, so only need to drive to the office or customer site a couple days per week).

The Monty is in great condition, with 75K miles on the odometer, and still worth approx. $15-20K. It is safe for my wife, infant, and possibly future brood. The Monty is a gorgeous ”carbon grey metallic” color, without the cheesy spoiler option. It’s a stellar SUV in the classic sense.

That stated, I have the itch to sell the Monty and use that cash to buy a slightly ”lesser” vehicle (in terms of value), as well as an enduro-type motorcycle; perhaps a used BMW F 800 GS.

What do you think about pairing the motorcycle with a clean-yet-older SUV such as a 2004 Land Rover Discovery, 1987 Landcruiser, etc. What is the short list of vehicles I could pull off as reputable and upwardly mobile at the office or customer site, yet fully functional in the mountains? I suppose reliability and mpg’s are the major concerns.

Some sporty AWD wagon could single-handedly check all the right boxes in terms of business, mountains, and twisties. However I have always wanted an enduro bike. Plus it seems any decent AWD sportwagon blows my existing $15-20K budget. Too bad.

It just seems that older (classic) SUV’s are so affordable now. Are they really that big of a stigma? Are gas prices truly going to spike? Buying a $6K Trooper or Landcruiser seems to make more environmental and fiscal sense than a $55K Land Rover LR4, etc.

Maybe I am crazy, and should simply keep the Montero. That rig is brilliant.

Our other vehicle (my wife’s car) is a manual, 2002 VW Jetta wagon. Thanks in advance. I am a big fan of your site!

Regards,
JD

Steve Answers:

You’re welcome JD. This is my heartfelt advice.

Don’t spend money. Don’t buy anything.

You already have a vehicle that is well loved and well kept. What’s to say that a 25 year old Toyota or an 8 year old Range Rover would represent a better long-term deal?

An older Landcruiser is usually better off with a hardcore enthusiast, while the Land Rover is probably better suited as a potted plant sculpture. Seriously, these cars are to the expense account what a pissed off ex-spouse is to polite light-hearted conversation.

You can opt for a lot of other vehicles. But none of them in this day of lean supplies and high prices will offer you a better long-term return than keeping a ‘keeper’ that you like. The Monty already suits your purpose, and you already have a Jetta for the gas sipping and stick shifting side of things. So why bother?

I would buy nothing. Take a vacation if you like. Heck, go to Greece and take good notes. Life is short and your clients probably care more about your breath than they do your daily driver.

Sajeev answers:

I know automotive wanderlust hits people at nearly any time and place, but you gotta be kidding me. You might be one of the most passionate lovers of Monteros I know, and you have a neat little Jetta for scooting around with a little more pace.

I’d be more concerned about replacing the Jetta, depending on which motor, overall condition, maintenance records, etc.

When wanderlust strikes again, find a replacement for the Jetta. I recommend a Mercury Marauder, but that’s just me typing out loud.

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New or Used: “Affirmative Action” on a Lease Payout? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/new-or-used-affirmative-action-on-a-lease-payout/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/new-or-used-affirmative-action-on-a-lease-payout/#comments Thu, 29 Dec 2011 22:41:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=423845   Luiz writes: Dear Steve/Sajeev: I am a 35 year old elementary school principal, married with 2 kids (5 and 9), and a certified car nut who thinks and reads about them way too much, and who is a walking contradiction when it comes to cars. Here are some examples: I appreciate older cars from […]

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Luiz writes:

Dear Steve/Sajeev:

I am a 35 year old elementary school principal, married with 2 kids (5 and 9), and a certified car nut who thinks and reads about them way too much, and who is a walking contradiction when it comes to cars.

Here are some examples: I appreciate older cars from my youth that are well-cared for, but I am not mechanically inclined at all, and don’t want to tinker with cars.  I don’t like appliances like CamCords, but appreciate reliable machines.  I dislike car payments, and fully understand the value inherent in keeping a car a long time, but can’t remember the last time I didn’t have a car note, as I’ve sold and bought too many cars to list here, all before their time.  I don’t aspire to own a premium luxury ride like a BMW or M-B, but I sold my last car, a loaded-with-everything-and-a-stick, pristine, 2002 Protege5, with only 52K miles, when I became a principal in March of 2009 and wanted a new car with a bit more prestige.  I know practically all the specs on any car in my price range (can’t go more than 30K max, as the wife has an ’11 Outback we’re happy with and plan to keep till the wheels come off-at least that’s the plan), but I buy cars too quickly.  I could go on and on.

So, in March of 2009, I wanted something sporty, with a tad bit more prestige, that could hold a family of four, and wasn’t too common.  I narrowed down my choices to the TSX, or the GLI/GTI.  Test drove the TSX, liked it.  Test drove the GTI twice, but leased a GLI with DSG as the deal was much better than the essentially-same GTI.  My lease is up in 8 months, and the car has been fantastic, with ZERO issues, and a letter from VW stating that my car’s DSG is covered for 100K miles or 10 years due to similar models having issues.  I also enjoy the car and its performance, which is enough for me, as I live in crowded northern NJ, and take trips into NYC and the outer boroughs from time to time; there’s not much space here to go flat out.  This was my first lease, and the buyout will be 15,000 including tax, for a 3-year-old GLI that will only have about 24,000 miles come March of 2012.  So, should I?

1.  Buy the GLI, which flies in the face of what everyone says (don’t keep a German car, let alone a VW, outside of the warranty period)?

2.  Walk away and buy something cheaper, so I can concentrate on paying down the Outback (I have a SAAB specialist about 3 miles from my house who offers clean SAABs with 2-year warranties, for roughly 3-8K dollars, that I drive by and wonder about)?

3.  Walk away and lease something cheaper (my current payment is $350 a month), knowing that I may have to give up some accessories, power, etc, in order to go down in price?

Please help,
Luiz
Principal / Affirmative Action Officer

(oh, BTW, I’m 6’3,” and it’s quite a bitch to find a car that fits, that isn’t a Chevy Express)

Steve answers:

As someone who was fortunate enough to escape from northern New Jersey, I would encourage you to spoil yourself a bit. The weather sucks. The cost of living sucks. I won’t even mention the horror that is daily commuting to NYC.

I would keep the car. First off you want to get out of the debt trap. At least you pretend to have this goal in mind. So why not do it?

Second, that price is pretty good for a retail transaction. You like the car and know it’s history. Plus VW has seen fit to make up for their recent quality transgressions. To me this all sounds like a winning combination.

Keep it. Pay it. Worry instead about why the title of your work also includes ‘Affirmative Action Officer’. I would fear that more than I would fear any VW.

Sajeev answers:

The buyout on your lease is surprisingly good.  Which makes me wonder if the down payment or monthly bill during the lease were brutal?  But I digress…

Odds are you can get just what you need in a $15,000 Mazda 6 or Camry SE (only the SE) but perhaps that’s more trouble than it’s worth.  Sure these vehicles are sporty and known for far better long-term value, but the time value of your money hunting for one is a difficult number to quantify.

If this is a “keeper” and long-term costs are a concern, you’d be wise to dump the GLI.  I don’t even want to know the cost if the DSG fails at 100,001 miles.  Then again, will you really keep it for that long? And the Camry SE is still a Camry.

Don’t listen to me. Listen to Steve.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com, and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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Piston Slap: The Time Value of Automotive Love http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/piston-slap-the-time-value-of-automotive-love/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/piston-slap-the-time-value-of-automotive-love/#comments Mon, 07 Nov 2011 15:01:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=416344 TTAC Commentator A Caving Ape writes: I have a 2001 VW Jetta 1.8 with 130,000 miles on it. It has its shortcomings that I can’t fix (front drive, rear legroom), but for the most part it’s a fantastic vehicle for me. But I worry that it’s a time bomb. I do most of the small/easy […]

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TTAC Commentator A Caving Ape writes:

I have a 2001 VW Jetta 1.8 with 130,000 miles on it. It has its shortcomings that I can’t fix (front drive, rear legroom), but for the most part it’s a fantastic vehicle for me. But I worry that it’s a time bomb.

I do most of the small/easy maintenance myself, and and happy to pay an independent for stuff I’m not comfortable with (timing belt, front end stuff, clutch when the time comes). This will likely be true with any car I own. I’m very satisfied with the running costs of my car, but from what I can tell I am the only person in the world with a well-functioning early 2000s VW with more than 100,000 miles. This makes me worry that it will crap out on my one day. It’s my only car so this would be very bad.

My question: should I sell it now while there’s nothing wrong with it and I can still get a few grand for it, especially since prices have picked up lately? However that would leave me with (max) 4 grand for a car, plus maybe 3 more I can comfortably part with. But what on earth can I get for $7000 that that I would love as much as my VW, that would also be more reliable? Should I just buy a civic and a motorcycle? Or are all those claims of VWs being crap just a vocal minority, and I’ll be able to keep it going a while longer?

Sajeev Answers

I love those Jettas from a styling and interior perspective, but they are truly crap. Nearly impossible to diagnose MAF sensor issues, bad window regulators, engine sludging (1.8T) even with approved maintenance, and probably a handful of other expensive items found with a second of Google searching. Dig deeper in the forums and I guarantee there’ll be more expenses running up a bar tab that a fully-depreciated Jetta simply cannot pay.

It sucks, because these are truly fun, exciting and beautiful designs. That said, if you devote a large portion of your life to be a 10-year old VW specialist you can make it work. Just be ready for it to consume your life in ways you might never imagine…not that I’d know a damn thing about that. Not one bit.

So I recommend that you sell it, get a Civic and get over the loss of German precision. Or spend much, much more buying a new one with a warranty and enjoy riding the cycle of debt.

Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Always consider the time value of money in anything you do. For car people, that is aimed squarely at the key(s) in your pocket. Maybe you should do more to spend less in the end, but I suspect that there’s a good reason why so many of us simply must have a new or late model vehicle in their stable. And its not just because we got a great lease deal on a 3-series to impress people.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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New or Used: Perception vs. Reality, Wagon Lament http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/new-or-used-perception-vs-reality-wagon-lament/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/new-or-used-perception-vs-reality-wagon-lament/#comments Wed, 07 Sep 2011 14:22:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=409546     Chris writes: For years, my wife and I have enjoyed the carefree enjoyment of running around without a care in the world. Then we had a baby, who is soon going to go from an only child to a big sister. The wife has owned the same car that she bought new when […]

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Chris writes:

For years, my wife and I have enjoyed the carefree enjoyment of running around without a care in the world. Then we had a baby, who is soon going to go from an only child to a big sister. The wife has owned the same car that she bought new when she graduated college: 2000 Honda Insight. Regardless of which side of the hybrid fence you are on, as a car guy, this car continues to amaze me with almost 230,000 miles and no major problems. I have on the other hand gone through a few more cars: Saab 9000, Saab SPG, Ford Bronco, VW Jetta, Nissan X-Terra. My current ride is the X-Terra chiefly bought so I could arrive on muddy construction sites and be taken a little more seriously than my European sports car driving bosses.

While not the ideal vehicle for long distance driving, the X-Terra does a perfectly fine job of carting all of us around in relative comfort as well as through the Northeast’s recent winter from Hell. We think this will also do fine when junior arrives this summer, so that car is staying. The Insight will also stay as we think it is too cool to get rid of and in a pinch will work to transport one of us and a child (we had an airbag cut-off switch installed for the passenger seat to make it baby seat safe), or both of us on the rare night out. But we know we will need two cars which will seat four people and their stuff. We tend to make fairly regular 3 – 5 hour road trips to visit family, so something a little less truck like would be nice for the highway and we have capped our car spending budget at about $20k.

Before being baby bound, the requirements for my next car were that it had to have a manual transmission and a sunroof, pretty simple. But now that we are leaning towards a station wagon (don’t want another SUV), it seems the choices are quite limited, particularly new cars, and has us looking in the used market. VWs are out of the question, new or used, as my experience with the Jetta was one I don’t care to remember. I think I am one of the few that like the look of Saab 9-5 wagons, but I know their reliability under GM is crap, so that is also off the list. The BMW 3-series wagons are a little two small and the 5-series are a little too ugly. An S4 Avant would be great, but other than also being a little small, they don’t come around too often and that choice might be getting a little too close to VW for my comfort. A Subaru wagon would be fine also, but I hate the Outback models and honestly can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a Subaru in the town we live.

All that being said, we seem to be leaning in the direction of one of two cars: a Volvo V70R or a Mercedes E320, which are almost polar opposites. Volvos under Ford ownership scare me a little, but it seems Volvo owners are pretty hard-core and love their cars. It meets both requirements and everyone might be happy, especially the driver. While in the Mercedes, I would be sacrificing my manual transmission, which I can learn to be OK with, but I would be gaining a car with rock solid history on the reliability side as well as once of the safest cars on the road (which you can see is important by the two top choices). As different as both cars are from each other, they do have good similarities like lots of room and all wheel drive.

Steve answers:

Most of what you said is based on perception instead of reality.

“Volvos under Ford ownership scare me a little…”

As a long-time Volvo enthusiast, I can tell you that this is a myth par excellence. Volvo BEFORE Ford had horrific reliability issues with the Volvo S80 and Volvo 960/V90. These vehicles were maintenance nightmares that would almost make a late-90’s Jetta blush.

Then you had the Electronic Throttle Module issue debacle which Ford inherited and paid for over the years. Along with the lackluster S40/V50 and transmission hungry V70/XC70 and XC60/XC90.

Ford pretty much cleaned up some of the mess they inherited, mis-marketed the brand as a Lexus/BMW wanna be, and sold the rest.

“I think I am one of the few that like the look of Saab 9-5 wagons, but I know their reliability under GM is crap, so that is also off the list.”

One of my favorite buys for the money if you want a stick for the family. Given that your throwaway budget is $20k (more on that later), I would buy a late model 9-5 and just have it covered under a CPO warranty if you’re that concerned.

The Mercedes E320 I wouldn’t touch with a 47 foot pole. There is zero sport within that model, abysmal reliability, and the cost of maintaining the beast goes far beyond your other two cars. For all that money and hassle you may as well keep the Xterra and enjoy the savings.

Which just happens to be exactly what I recommend. You already have a vehicle that can handle the travels along with the gas sipper (great choice by the way!). I would just upgrade the Xterra instead of dumping a trailer load of cash in a crappy used car market. Leather seats. Better stereo. A bit more noise insulation. For about a thousand or fifteen hundred you can both be perfectly happy for many years to come.

Sajeev Answers:

While I understand everyone’s love for wagons,  agreeing with everyone and giving the standard answer must be getting trite for some folks: every wagon on the market is generally ham-stringed by their manufacturer’s quirks, mostly the European ones that everyone loves. No way in hell would I consider a Mercedes wagon in your price range: complicated diagnostics, questionable electro-hydro brakes, and other electro-mechanical “quirks” that will drive you mad. And while a great wagon for wagon-ly duties, some Subies aren’t a good long term value: depends on the year, motor and service records. Especially that last part.

My next standard response: look at the Acura TSX sport wagon if you are looking for new, or a last-gen Mazda 6 wagon on the used side. So yes, the “6” should be on your short list.

So yeah, that’s the current crop of wagons out there in the market. It could be worse, but while I know you want a wagon, I question your resolve. If I’m wrong, get the Volvo or Mazda 6 of your dreams. If not, drive the plethora of family sedans from Japan and the US that offer more content, more value and far less stress in the long term. Or CUVs, that offer cool stuff like panoramic roofs, electronic gadgets to keep kids quiet (DVD player FTW) and still have some amount of wagon utility.

Just more food for thought, especially since you’ll have kids, car seats and the resulting bad back or two in your household after it all.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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Shanghai: You’ll Never Guess What’s Under There… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/shanghai-youll-never-guess-whats-under-there/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/shanghai-youll-never-guess-whats-under-there/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2011 14:52:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=392558 What lies beneath the vaguely Alfa-Romeo-like styling of the FAW Besturn B30? Here’s a hint: it’s the car that China refuses to let die. Still don’t know? Well, believe it or not, there’s a Mk. II Jetta under that sharply-creased sheetmetal, as China’s car industry seeks new ways to  keep flogging the same 30-year-old German […]

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What lies beneath the vaguely Alfa-Romeo-like styling of the FAW Besturn B30? Here’s a hint: it’s the car that China refuses to let die. Still don’t know? Well, believe it or not, there’s a Mk. II Jetta under that sharply-creased sheetmetal, as China’s car industry seeks new ways to  keep flogging the same 30-year-old German iron. Because, if it ain’t broke…

fawgo10_4db025beb28af fawgo50_4db025bf7b216 fawgo20_4db025bee4d62 fawgo40_4db025bf471f8 fawgo41_4db025bf60450 What lies beneath? Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail fawgo30_4db025bf26685

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Review: 2011 Volkswagen Jetta SE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/review-2011-volkswagen-jetta-se/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/review-2011-volkswagen-jetta-se/#comments Fri, 04 Feb 2011 20:22:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=382908 General Motors, Hyundai, and Volkswagen are all hungry for a much bigger slice of the North American compact sedan pie. Their past offerings didn’t do the trick. So all three recently introduced cars much different than their predecessors. Having reviewed the Cruze a few months ago, and the Elantra last week, I was eager to […]

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General Motors, Hyundai, and Volkswagen are all hungry for a much bigger slice of the North American compact sedan pie. Their past offerings didn’t do the trick. So all three recently introduced cars much different than their predecessors. Having reviewed the Cruze a few months ago, and the Elantra last week, I was eager to see how the new Jetta, VW’s attempt to give North Americans what we seem to really want, stacks up.

It should come as no surprise that the new Jetta is nothing special to look at. After all, of the five preceding generations, only the fourth might be called stylish. The fifth too strongly resembled a contemporary Corolla. The first three generations were conventionally-styled three-box sedans, and the sixth returns to these roots. Except that while early Jettas were recognizably VWs—essentially the iconic Golf with a large trunk grafted on—the new car is utterly anonymous and forgettable. But why must the new Jetta appear so plain, even cheap? The exterior design of the upcoming new Passat, also driven by VW’s somewhat cynical interpretation of North American tastes, is similarly safe, but looks more polished and upscale. Hyundai’s surging sales demonstrate the appeal of highly stylized cars that appear more expensive than they actually are.

The new Jetta’s interior is styled much like that of the previous car, but finished with all-too-obviously lower grade materials. The door panels, the vinyl upholstery, the HVAC controls—everything looks and feels cheapest-in-class. The lighter the shade, the cheaper materials tend to appear, so the washed-out beige in the tested car is not the best choice for the new Jetta.

The driver’s seat initially feels oddly shaped and a bit squishy. Only the top SEL trim level includes an adjustable lumbar support; the SE’s front bucket seats are lacking in this area. But they do provide better lateral support than most in the class. Without the compromises often imposed by a stylish exterior, visibility in all directions is good. The beltline is low enough that there’s no sense of being buried in the car.

Switch to the back seat and discover the first of the 2011 Jetta’s surprises. The new car is three inches longer than the old one (182.2 vs. 179.3), and nearly all of this increase has been allocated to rear legroom (now 38.1 inches, up from 35.4). While the new Hyundai Elantra is a midsize car based on EPA classifications, and the Jetta is a compact, the tall adults will be much more comfortable in the latter’s back seat. The Cruze’s back seat isn’t in the same league.

For the sixth-generation Jetta’s base engine, VW resurrected the 115-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder last offered in the fourth-generation car (and outdated even then). Wanting to examine the car in its best light, I passed on the “two point slow” (as it’s not-quite-affectionately known) and requested a car with the 170-horsepower 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine and the manual transmission, a five-speed. I’ve never been a fan of five-cylinder engines in the past, as they tend to sound agricultural. But in the new Jetta the five sounds smoother, and I enjoyed listening to its lower, huskier voice more than that of just about any four. As in the past, the VW 2.5 is about midrange torque, not high-end power, but for anything short of 8/10s it performs very well. The shifter isn’t tight and precise, but some thought seems to have been given to how it feels, which makes it better than most these days.

I cannot report observed fuel economy because only the SEL includes a trip computer. The EPA esimates 23 city / 33 highway, considerably better than the old car’s 21/30 but a far cry from the Elantra’s 29/40. Of course you’re getting a much larger, much torquier engine, but the 2.0 only manages 24/34. If you’re interested in excellent fuel economy in a Jetta, then the TDI (30/42) is the obvious choice.

The specs suggest that VW has sacrificed handling for the sake of cost and curb weight, as a torsion beam has replaced the previous multi-link rear suspension. And yet, even shod with the SE’s 205/55HR16 Hankook Optimo tires, the new Jetta handles far better than the new Hyundai Elantra. Perhaps it’s just been too long since I drove a MkV GLI, but even in SE trim I enjoyed the handling of the new Jetta more. With the previous car VW sought to provide the feel of a premium car, and except in the most aggressive driving it felt somewhat disconnected and numb as a result. The new car might be longer, but at just over 3,000 pounds (even with the five) it’s also 200 pounds lighter, and feels it. Given the tires and moderate tuning the new Jetta SE’s limits aren’t high, but feedback through the seat and steering wheel are so much better than the class average and the chassis handles so intuitively that driving it right up to these limits is child’s play. The Jetta’s steering feels a bit loose and light when pointed dead ahead but naturally weights up in turns—the total opposite of the Elantra’s system. Reach the Jetta’s limits—where understeer predictably overloads the outside front tire—and non-defeatable stability control kicks in. Defeatable stability control would be better for enthusiasts, but at least this system seems well-calibrated and isn’t overly intrusive. With lower profile tires and a sport suspension the Jetta SEL with Sport Package should handle even better, but for once I didn’t feel such an upgrade was necessary. As is, the Jetta SE is very enjoyable to drive.

Partly because its suspension is only moderately firm but expertly damped, the Jetta SE also rides very well, smoothly absorbing bumps and maintaining its composure over uneven pavement. The simplified rear suspension has no readily apparent ill effects. Hyundai should benchmark this car when reworking the Elantra’s suspension. One off-note: over bumps in hard corners the new Jetta’s front suspension twice produced a loud bang. The reason wasn’t clear. In general noise levels are reasonably low, if not as low as in the previous, more luxurious, heavier car.

One more surprise about the cheaper new Jetta: when equipped like the previous Jetta it’s not actually cheaper. The Base 2.0 trim might start at an attention-getting $14,995 (plus $770 for destination), but an SE with the 2.5 and optional sunroof lists for $21,565. The 2010 SE, with its nicer interior and slightly higher level of features (such as rear disc brakes, power reclining seats, and manual lumbar adjustments), listed for $21,145. A special Limited Edition model with nearly as many features cost even less, $20,045. Based on comparisons using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool, the new Jetta 2.5 is priced about the same as the similarly powerful Mazda3 s after adjusting for feature differences. An Elantra costs less, while a Chevrolet Cruze costs more.

So, has Volkswagen successfully targeted the North American compact sedan buyer? I enjoyed driving the car much more than I expected to, but Americans have repeatedly demonstrated that excellent handling isn’t worth much to them. They care more about ride quality, but while the Jetta rides very well it doesn’t have the sound and feel of a premium car. Aside from its underwhelming engines, the porky Chevrolet Cruze is now king of that hill. Even if the new Jetta did sound and feel expensive, it looks cheap, especially on the inside. Ironically, while GM was benchmarking the previous Jetta when designing the interior of the Chevrolet Cruze, VW was taking a big step in the opposite direction. Cheap interiors have been widely blamed for the descent of both GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy, so it’s a shock to see VW, producer of the former benchmark, now making this mistake. To top it off, the car has been noticeably cheapened, but when decently equipped it’s not actually cheaper.

In the end, we have one thing that Americans value and the Jetta unquestionably delivers: rear seat legroom. Is this enough? Unless people are simply drawn to the idea (if not so much the actuality) of a $15,000 German-engineered car, apparently so—Jetta sales are way up this year.

Vehicle provided by Dan Kelley, Suburban VW in Farmington Hills, MI, 248-741-7903

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data

Jetta trunk Jetta and Kizashi Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Jetta side Jetta engine Jetta rear quarter Jetta front quarter Jetta rear seat Jetta front Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Jetta interior Jetta interior angle Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Two Jettas, No Choice Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-two-jettas/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-two-jettas/#comments Wed, 27 Oct 2010 23:13:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=370498 Notice a difference between these two pictures? No, not the fact that one is a sexy press shot and the other is a bush-league amateur snap. Both pictures show the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta, but one of them has a torsion beam rear axle, the other has a variation of the Golf’s multilink setup. One has […]

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Notice a difference between these two pictures? No, not the fact that one is a sexy press shot and the other is a bush-league amateur snap. Both pictures show the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta, but one of them has a torsion beam rear axle, the other has a variation of the Golf’s multilink setup. One has a 2.5 liter blunt instrument of an engine and a slushbox, the other has a high-tech “twincharger” engine that won the International Engine Of The Year award two years running, mated to a dual-clutch ‘box. One has a nasty, plasticky interior, the other offers “higher quality materials and trim.” By now you’ve probably guessed that the less desirable of these two Jettas is the US version, and the fancy-pants version has just been announced for the European market…

So, how much extra are the continentals paying for their technology-laden versions? Autocar says the Euro-fun starts at £17,000, which given the current exchange rate would approximate close to $27,000. And that’s for a 100 horsepower version of that technically impressive, turbo- and supercharged engine. America’s 115 hp base model (featuring the ancient “two point slow” engine and rear drum brakes) starts just under $16k. Now, these numbers aren’t directly comparable for a number of boring reasons, including purchasing power, tax structures, and more. Still, for fans who know what Volkswagen is capable of engineering, this has got to be one of the most frustrating comparisons ever.

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How Pedestrians Create Boring Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/how-pedestrians-create-boring-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/how-pedestrians-create-boring-cars/#comments Thu, 16 Sep 2010 22:17:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=365945 As The Wall Street Journal‘s Dan Neil explains, pedestrians aren’t just annoying, they’re also responsible (in part) for some of the most astonishingly dull designs in all of autodom… like the 2011 VW Jetta. Trends towards rising beltlines, strangely high hoods, reduced visibility, and general carved-from-cheese-ishness in automotive design can all be tied to European […]

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As The Wall Street Journal‘s Dan Neil explains, pedestrians aren’t just annoying, they’re also responsible (in part) for some of the most astonishingly dull designs in all of autodom… like the 2011 VW Jetta. Trends towards rising beltlines, strangely high hoods, reduced visibility, and general carved-from-cheese-ishness in automotive design can all be tied to European pedestrian crash test standards. With a little help from unimaginative designers, global product strategies and consumer apathy, of course.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Das Auto (Auf Deutsch) Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-das-auto-auf-deutsch-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-das-auto-auf-deutsch-edition/#comments Fri, 06 Aug 2010 18:28:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=362331 Just how American is the new Volkswagen Jetta? When a German car company comes out with a new car, they usually release it in Germany first, so the Teutonic car bible Auto Motor und Sport can run a big multi-page review in the front of the magazine. Not only was the 2011 Jetta launched in […]

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Just how American is the new Volkswagen Jetta? When a German car company comes out with a new car, they usually release it in Germany first, so the Teutonic car bible Auto Motor und Sport can run a big multi-page review in the front of the magazine. Not only was the 2011 Jetta launched in the US, but the latest issue of AM und S carried only a half-page mini-review. In the final paragraph, the buff book explains that smaller gas engines and a variety of diesels should be available for Germany, and that

Here [in Germany], the comfortable Jetta will get a higher-quality appointments/equipment (hochwertigere Ausstattung) as well as a multi-link rear suspension.

The hochwertigere Ausstattung line is (purposefully?) vague, and could mean that the German-market Jetta will get a better-quality interior (as implied by the caption “US version with hard plastic and simple instruments”) or that it will simply come with a higher equipment level. In any case, don’t expect the German market to be thrilled by the version that we drove. Or that VW’s “Das Auto” tagline means much of anything to our Mexican-built Jetta.

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Review: 2011 Volkswagen Jetta http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/review-2011-volkswagen-jetta/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/review-2011-volkswagen-jetta/#comments Fri, 06 Aug 2010 17:09:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=362300 In spite of its name and the fact that it’s the one of the largest automakers in the world, Americans tend to see Volkswagen as something of a niche manufacturer. Certainly Volkswagen’s reputation in this country is for making cars that conform to our ideas of “European-ness.” Unfortunately for Volkswagen, relatively few Americans want to […]

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In spite of its name and the fact that it’s the one of the largest automakers in the world, Americans tend to see Volkswagen as something of a niche manufacturer. Certainly Volkswagen’s reputation in this country is for making cars that conform to our ideas of “European-ness.” Unfortunately for Volkswagen, relatively few Americans want to spend extra for the taut suspension, high-quality interior and refined ambiance of a European car. So, with the 2011 Jetta, Volkswagen decided to give America what it was asking for: more car for less. Sounds hard to resist, right?


In a way, tailoring the Jetta to US tastes was almost inevitable. In Germany, the Jetta is known as the “backpack Golf,” and is forever in the shadow of its iconic hatchback sibling. Stateside, the Golf is as rare as lederhosen, selling about a quarter of the Jetta’s volume in a good year. And with a sedan-oriented Chinese market on the rise, a larger, cheaper Jetta makes all the sense in the world.

By now Volkswagen enthusiasts are probably starting to get scared… and well they should be. This car was not designed with them in mind: it was designed with the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and a $16k price-point in mind. From the outside, there’s little family resemblance to its brand-mates beyond a sense of disciplined cleanliness that some will call restrained and others will call dull. Though pictures don’t do the comparison justice, a Kia Forte that wandered into one of the launch event parking lots was nearly indistinguishable in the crowd of 2011 Jettas. Take that as you will.

As with most cars that are built to a price point, the compromises don’t leap out until you actually sit in the thing (with one all-too familiar exception). And in the 2011 Jetta they don’t so much leap out at you, as sulk around waiting to be caught. At first glance all seems nearly right with the world, as the interior design is satisfyingly VW-like. But then you notice the simple instrumentation, an awkward seam by the window switch, the distinctive shapes and proportions of molded hard plastic. By the time you start touching things, it’s clear that there’s no point in even comparing this car to its predecessor.

But how many consumers out there knock on a car’s dashboard during the buying decision? Volkswagen is clearly betting that not many do, because the shockingly hollow-sounding experience does not inspire confidence. On the other hand, plenty of consumers do use HVAC dials, and the Jetta’s wiggle when you grab them, like skinny Elvis after a handful of dexedrine (or, to use a less indulgent simile, like a Scion xD’s). In fact, nearly everything you touch will tell you that VW has taken a page from Toyota’s consequence-free decontenting spree, and that any sense of European charm is strictly coincidental.

So how much Euro flavor has been left in the drive? On paper, the switch to a torsion beam rear suspension proves that money has been saved, but the experience is blessedly competent. The steering is not “Corolla light” as some reviewers have indicated, but is well-weighted for a solid, progressive feel. Unfortunately, the steering’s heft isn’t well-connected to what’s happening on the road, and things feel somewhat vague and uncommunicative when the road starts winding.

The Jetta’s suspension is also better than many of its mass-market competitors. Body lean is surprisingly well-controled, without sacrificing cruising comfort. On rough, potholed roads, strong progressive damping smothers even the harshest bottom-out, as if Volkswagen slipped a few extra slices of American cheese into the shocks. And since the Jetta is slightly lighter than its predecessor, everything feels well-controlled, despite the absence of a truly nailed-down “Euro” feel.

On the engine front, Volkswagen had little scope for decontenting. Our well-equipped SEL model was powered by the 2.5-liter iron-block five-pot that comes standard on all but the bare-base and GLI-spec Jettas, and has long been a whipping boy for Euro-obsessed VW fans. If you know anything about VW’s European TFSI engines, the 2.5’s lazy grunt and throaty five-pot gargle will seem unforgiveably proletarian. Most Americans, on the other hand, will appreciate its good power (170 hp, 168 lb-ft, 0-60 in about 8.5), slightly musical engine note, and tolerance of regular gas. On an objective basis, a slight bogging in first gear followed by an abrupt rush of power at 3,000 RPM is the only real annoyance we found (although weak-for-its-class fuel economy can be expected).

What we’re looking at with the new Jetta then, is not a budget taste of German sports-sedan nirvana, but a more value-oriented commuter. Skip the slightly-vague five-speed (like you need to be told), lean back in your faux-leather “V-Tex” seat, and cruise in the detached American style, and you’ll not be wildly disappointed. Nor will your rear-seat passengers, who will doubtless appreciate the extra 2.7 inches of rear legroom (resulting in a BMW 7-Series-competitive 38.1 inches, thanks China!). Trunk space is also remarkably good, although the rear seats don’t fold flat to optimize the center pass-through.

Given this competent cruising focus, one can’t help but return again and again to the savagely cheapened interior. It’s one thing to give Americans old-school engine and suspension technology, and a homogenized version of the European driving experience, but who says that we don’t want to touch nice things? Were the Chrysler-built Routan minivan a stunning sales success, the 2011 Jetta’s similar-quality interior would make sense. Instead, VW’s justifications for the accountant-grade plastics and flimsy switches are convoluted and difficult to swallow.

First, let’s deal with the price issue. VW insists that, despite favorable impressions of the car, American consumers haven’t considered Jetta due to its high price alone. Fine. But in order to reach its $15,995 base MSRP, the Jetta “S” needs more than a Wal-Mart interior… it needs to travel back in time. In addition to the torsion beam rear-suspension, base Jettas are also saddled with rear drum brakes, and the old “two-point-slow” two liter engine, making 115 horsepower with minimal mileage improvements over the 2.5. Needless to say, Volkswagen didn’t bring a single “S” model to the San Francisco launch, but on paper we’re looking at a Jetta III with more room and a worse interior.

In order to make this questionable achievement possible, every other Jetta including our $23,395 SEL with sunroof is saddled with the same $16k-competitive-ish interior. The only exception is the forthcoming GLI, which should also offer a more rewarding drive thanks to sports suspension with a multilink rear setup, and the GTI’s 2.0T engine (not to mention a hefty pricetag bump). Over the weekend launch, VW’s reps constantly dangled the GLI as the cure for our SEL’s sub-Euro performance and handling shortcomings, but were cagey about exact interior improvements… at least until we asked about a wagon version.

Instead of offering a new wagon, Volkswagen will continue to offer the previous Sportwagon alongside the new 2011 Jetta. With its new Golf-alike fascia, the Sportwagon now more closely resembles a European-style “Golf Variant” look, and offers everything that VW’s accountants stripped out of the new Jetta. Which is handy, considering that the vast majority of Sportwagons are ordered with TDI engines. In other words, all of Volkswagen’s premium-enthusiast Euro-appeal has been stripped from the Jetta, and been concentrated into the higher-quality, better-driving, more-expensive Sportwagon that true Euro-enthusiasts would have ordered anyway.

Volkswagen invited us to a weekend-long press event for this review. They paid our airfare, put us up for two nights in one of the nicest hotels in San Francisco, plied us with several excellent meals, and picked up our bar tab every night. The last point alone is projected to have dropped the company’s global profit by at least two percentage points.

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2011 VW Jetta: Cheaper Than The Chevy Cruze? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/2011-vw-jetta-cheaper-than-the-chevy-cruze/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/2011-vw-jetta-cheaper-than-the-chevy-cruze/#comments Tue, 15 Jun 2010 16:15:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=358914 It’s all speculation until we get official pricing from VW of North America, but according to Autoblog, the new Jetta will be priced starting “around $16,000″ when it shows up stateside this October. With Chevy’s Cruze starting at $16,995, we face an interesting prospect: VW’s entry sedan might well be cheaper than Chevrolet’s. Of course […]

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It’s all speculation until we get official pricing from VW of North America, but according to Autoblog, the new Jetta will be priced starting “around $16,000″ when it shows up stateside this October. With Chevy’s Cruze starting at $16,995, we face an interesting prospect: VW’s entry sedan might well be cheaper than Chevrolet’s. Of course the base Jetta will continue to be saddled with its predecessor’s agricultural 2.5 liter, but the Cruze’s base 1.8 hasn’t exactly earned many accolades either. Of course the base Cruze comes with a goodly amount of equipment, but it’s got an uphill fight on its hands if the more desirably-branded Jetta pips it on pure price point.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta Image Embargo Busted http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/2011-volkswagen-jetta-image-embargo-busted/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/2011-volkswagen-jetta-image-embargo-busted/#comments Mon, 14 Jun 2010 19:51:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=358858 Apparently these press images were embargoed until tomorrow… and yet here they are. But who, you might ask, would risk being boarded by Volkswagen commandos in order to deliver these images to the huddled masses, yearning for a a glimpse of the new blandness? Oh right, it says Auto Express on the picture. According to […]

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Apparently these press images were embargoed until tomorrow… and yet here they are. But who, you might ask, would risk being boarded by Volkswagen commandos in order to deliver these images to the huddled masses, yearning for a a glimpse of the new blandness? Oh right, it says Auto Express on the picture. According to the embargo-running Brits, this is the first Jetta to be more than a Golf with a trunk: thanks to VW’s new modular architecture, the wheelbase has been extended for more rear-seat legroom. More details when Volkswagen is good and ready, likely sometime tomorrow.

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With Concepts Like This, How Can VW Lose? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/with-concepts-like-this-how-can-vw-lose/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/with-concepts-like-this-how-can-vw-lose/#comments Mon, 11 Jan 2010 19:57:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=341449 You might need to click through to the gallery to fully grasp the stunning blandness of its New Coupe Concept, which just debuted at the NAIAS. Volkswagen has said again and again that it plans to take over the American market by screwing its loyal followers and selling out for mainstream appeal. The NCC is […]

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You might need to click through to the gallery to fully grasp the stunning blandness of its New Coupe Concept, which just debuted at the NAIAS. Volkswagen has said again and again that it plans to take over the American market by screwing its loyal followers and selling out for mainstream appeal. The NCC is the apathy-osis of this philosophy, showing an approach to the sports coupe genre that makes the business of car look like a less glamorous offshoot of the packing materials industry. It’s a hybrid. It’s a “poor man’s A5.” It’s a dust bunny to the Scirocco‘s sandstorm. Most of all though, it’s a sign of how misguided VW’s approach to the US market really is.

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TTAC Desert-to-Burning-Desert Eco-Challenge, Days 5, 6, 7: Leaving Las Vegas http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/02/ttac-desert-to-burning-desert-eco-challenge-day-567-leaving-las-vegas/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/02/ttac-desert-to-burning-desert-eco-challenge-day-567-leaving-las-vegas/#comments Tue, 03 Feb 2009 16:31:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=235831 When I called Las Vegas home, massive towers were going up, traffic was bad (especially on the Blue Diamond Highway), tourists were annoying and gas was cheap. Now, leaving Las Vegas, massive towers are going up, traffic is bad, tourists are annoying and gas is—once again—cheap. But it’s always worth saving a few gallons. After […]

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When I called Las Vegas home, massive towers were going up, traffic was bad (especially on the Blue Diamond Highway), tourists were annoying and gas was cheap. Now, leaving Las Vegas, massive towers are going up, traffic is bad, tourists are annoying and gas is—once again—cheap. But it’s always worth saving a few gallons. After all, that $1 could win you the $1m payout at the Luxor’s giant slot machine. It’s thinking that makes both Sin City and the VW Jetta diesel so great.

I’ve combined the last few days into a single blog post; I didn’t drive much. Saying that, my personal CO2 levels soared during my stay, as I ascended Frenchman (Sunrise) Mountain. Looking at, and then leaving, the smog choked valley, I headed for Colorado’s ski resorts, resuming TTAC’s one-man, one-car Eco-Challenge.  And quite the challenge it is: mountains are to hypermiling what smog pumps are to 70s muscle cars.

Driving north on I-15 towards St. George, Utah, I surmounted and plumbed several familiar passes and canyons. To preserve precious dino juice, I couldn’t deploy my usual technique: mash the throttle to maintain my speed. I had a planet to save, dammit! Well, a pocketbook to protect. And a blog to write. So I followed a simple formula: slow up, coast down.

Local conditions prevented successful implementation. Driving the little Jetta at 60mph in heavy traffic—all of whom were busy ignoring a 75mph speed limit—proved downright dangerous. My law-abiding ways forced all manner of vehicles, from Toyota Corollas to full tractor trailers, to swerve, merge or otherwise move around me. Common sense and TDI torques (just kidding) prevailed.

Upon reaching St. George, I finally replaced the tire I punctured in Kingman, Arizona. I’m not brave (or foolhardy) enough to tempt crossing the San Rafael Swell without a spare; driving 120 miles without a plan B sounds like a fool’s errand to me.

The stretch from I-15 to the I-70 junction was pretty, and pretty mundane. The blast east on the I-70 towards Grand Junction (my stop for the night) was equally uneventful, if more aesthetically intimidating. Bathed in the salmon-colored glow of winter’s setting sun, the snow-topped Rockies are awesome—in the original “standing mute before God” sense of the word (as opposed to “Wow! That’s an awesome sweater!).

My fuel mileage was not quite as spectacular. The mountain driving, higher speeds and a tank of totally bogus diesel torpedoed my mileage figures for this leg of the trip. In fact, I “achieved” the worst mileage to date.

513 miles for this leg of the trip

13.1 gallons of diesel consumed

39mpg average

2 Starbucks Soy Mocha Lattes drunk

1 new Bridgestone Weatherforce tire

1 new pet peeve (matching my speed whilst 5 feet behind me, at night, in a SUV, causing lights to shine in my eyes no matter how fast or slow I go. I hate you Mr. Toyota Sequoia Driver, yes, you, in the blue one on I-70!)

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