The Jetta has proved a very strong seller for Volkswagen, so the company put a lot of effort into redesigning the latest model for mass appeal. At its lowest trim, the car is priced to sell at less than $16,000. Our SEL trim car is a little pricier, topping $21,000, but at this level it comes standard with cabin tech.
Volkswagen's redesign of the Jetta modernized the looks by smoothing the metal and de-emphasizing ornamentation, but the result is also very nondescript vehicle. The once proud chrome surround for the grille has been replaced by this simple narrow vent.
The 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine in the Jetta SEL is rated at 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, decent numbers, but we found a hard time getting much acceleration out of the car. Other engine options are a 2-liter four-cylinder, a direct injection turbocharged 2-liter four cylinder, and a turbo diesel 2-liter.
A little bigger than the outgoing model, the Jetta fits four passengers easily.
The suspension for the Jetta is fairly average. It offers a good ride without being too soft or firm.
The trunk is surprisingly capacious, with excellent depth and a hatch that opens in such a way as to provide good accessibility.
The cabin looks good, and reflects the class of the car, but hard plastics across the dashboard give it a lower-end feel.
The steering allows a little slack, making driving comfortable without requiring constant adjustments to the wheel. Lazy drivers will like the Jetta.
The fuel gauge is digital, using the semicircle of lights in the display between the tachometer and speedometer. The center display also shows trip information.
It is surprising that Volkswagen sticks to a five-speed manual in the Jetta, when so many other car companies are going to six speeds. But we like how the Jetta shifts through its gate.
The flash-memory-based navigation system is simple, with no advanced features, but it operates quickly and comes standard in the Jetta SEL.
We particularly like this design scheme for the cabin tech interface, which is repeated in the different application areas. Among the destination entry options, we were surprised that we could not select locations on the map.
When entering addresses using the onscreen keyboard, we found it easiest to use the touch screen rather than the knob and buttons that sit below the screen.
This Bluetooth phone system works very well, downloading a phone's contact list and making it available onscreen and through voice command.
The Jetta offers a good array of media sources, such as iPod and Bluetooth streaming audio. A single-CD slot sits above the screen.