2014 Volkswagen Jetta SE with Connectivity review: This SE model is not the VW Jetta you're looking for

Functioning like a sort of OnStar for Volkswagens, Car-Net brings a number of connected features including automatic crash response, roadside assistance (provided by VW partner Allstate), and stolen-vehicle location. Family features include notifications (via e-mail or SMS) for exceeding preset speeds or entering or exiting preset, geofenced zones. Remote services include remote vehicle locking, horn honk, destination download, and a concierge service that lets the driver speak to an operator to search for a destination and have the location downloaded to the navigation system, if equipped. (Ours wasn't.) Finally, Diagnostics tools allow the driver to schedule visits for service and receive vehicle health reports.

2014 VW Jetta SE
The Car-Net system adds a number of connected-car features to the Jetta, which our basic SE model wasn't able to take full advantage of. Josh Miller/CNET

Drivers can either interact with the Car-Net features by pressing one of the three buttons located on the ceiling console in the vehicle -- information, roadside assistance, or SOS -- to speak to a call center operator, use an iPhone application (an Android version is coming "soon" according to a VW representative), or access the service through a browser on a Web-connected personal computer.

I was able to try out the VW Car-Net app previously on the 2014 Volkswagen Passat SEL and was also given demonstrations of the roadside assistance and vehicle-tracking features and found them to also be easy and accessible. I'm sure that it would function similarly on this VW, with the caveat that the Jetta SE's lack of navigation will disable features like address download. Without a navigation system in place, Car-Net's day-to-day usefulness is severely limited, but having the emergency and roadside services watching your back may add to your peace of mind.

A six-month free trial of the Car-Net service is included in the MSRP, after which it'll cost $199 per year to retain access. Going month to month will be more expensive, and committing to multiple years yields discounts. VW states that the system brings its vehicles into parity with telematics systems offered by GM, Hyundai, and Toyota at a competitive price.

Basic transportation
Under the hood, you'll find Volkswagen's 1.8-liter turbocharged and direct-injected four-cylinder engine. Power is stated at 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, which gets sent to the front wheels via either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox.

On paper, the Jetta is already looking better than the new Corolla, but don't let the turbocharged engine fool you. This is no driver's car. Like the Toyota, it's basic transportation -- more grocery getter than corner carver.

Gone is the torsion-bar rear end of the previous model year; the Jetta's multilink rear suspension is back for 2014. However, rather than a performance upgrade, the benefit here is a more smooth, controlled ride over bumps. The Jetta is more comfortable for it, which is a very good thing for commuters. However, the suspension and steering are still pretty vague and dulled, which is not so good for enthusiasts -- they'll want to check out VW's GTI or the Jetta's GLI trim level.

1.8T engine
The 1.8-liter turbocharged engine makes good power, but you'll have to do a lot of shifting to tap into it. Josh Miller/CNET

Mash the right pedal to make a pass and you'll find that turbo lag is a noticeable issue for this 1.8-liter turbo if you catch it off-boost. Once you get the turbo whistling, power is not bad at all, but you'll have to keep working the five-speed manual gearbox to make the most of your revs. Even then, the ratios seem too broadly spaced and you'll sometimes find yourself waiting for the power. It probably could use another forward gear, which most drivers will probably get anyway when they inevitable opt for the six-speed automatic.

Fuel economy isn't bad at 26 city, 36 highway, and 30 combined miles per gallon. The trip computer reported a steady 30 mpg during my testing, which seems bang-on the EPA's guesses, but I'd have expected just a bit more from my relaxed and freeway-heavy testing cycle.

Don't get me wrong, the Jetta gets the job done. It's a more than competent highway cruiser, where its suspension isn't taxed very much and is able to soak up those expansion joints and jostles from cracked pavement. At speed, the Jetta feels solid and settled; its turbocharged engine hummed along happily in the meaty part of its torque curve. As an enthusiast, I'd like a bit more soul in my drive. But if you're looking for no-frills, no-thrills transport, this VW Jetta SE fits the bill.

Basic math
The 2014 VW Jetta SE with Connectivity is a solid car for the money, but I didn't feel that it was outstanding or impressive. The power was good, the fuel economy was good, and the Car-Net telematics adds peace of mind, but I wasn't wowed during my week with this vee-dub. At least at this SE trim level, it's a car for people who don't necessarily care about cars. So if you're comparing it with the Toyota Corolla or Mazda3, our example's $20,420 as-tested price (which doesn't include the $820 destination fee) is not a bad deal.

2014 VW Jetta SE
It may seem like I've complained about the Jetta SE's performance and tech, but it's a competent car for the price. Josh Miller/CNET

But it doesn't take more than a glance at Volkswagen's lineup to see that the Jetta SE with its 1.8-liter turbo isn't the best deal in the automaker's stable. For not much more than our as-tested price, you could be driving a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI with Premium. This diesel-powered model packs much more torque (236 pound-feet), much better highway fuel economy (42 mpg), and better dashboard tech that includes Volkswagen's awesome Fender audio system. If you're in the market for a Jetta, do yourself a favor and scrape together an extra $4,435 for a much, much better car in the TDI.

Tech specs
Model 2014 Volkswagen Jetta
Trim SE with Connectivity
Power train 1.8-liter turbocharged and direct injected four cylinder, 5-speed manual transmission, FWD
EPA fuel economy 26 city, 36 highway, 30 combined mpg
Observed fuel economy 30 mpg
Navigation Not available
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Disc player Single-slot CD
MP3 player support Standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, MDI iPod connection, Bluetooth audio streaming
Other digital audio SiriusXM satellite radio
Audio system Six-speaker RCD 310 standard audio
Driver aids n/a
Base price $20,420
Price as tested $21,240

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  • Trim levels SE
  • Body style Sedan
  • Available Engine Gas
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