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Roadshow Video Reviews
2014 Volkswagen Jetta SEIn a sea of compact cars that have a lot of glitz and gimmick for the price, the Jetta remains the one apart with a different flavor and restraint.
-In the sea of little compact cars that only seemed to try and look like more than they are, the Jetta is a refreshing departure. It's austere, it's German, it's solid. But it's not fancy and glitzy. We're gonna prove it now as we drive the 2014 Jetta SE with an all new motor, and check the tech. I knew after about 10 minutes in this car when I first took it out, this was gonna be a video about the simplicity of the Jetta, and how it excels so well when it's not trimmed up. I'm not a huge fan of Volkswagen technology in the cab, and it tends to be kinda dull-- their audio systems don't impress me, things of that nature. But the essential cabin structure, the way this car is laid out, its sort of German nature makes it great at its core. And that's how I'd order a Jetta. I also like the fact that it's a handsome cabin, not a fancy cabin. Too many cars in this class tend to lay on the plastic chrome and the plastic wood and all kinds of swoopy designs to draw your eye away from the fact that it's an inexpensive car. Well, it's an inexpensive car. There's no reason to make apologies for that-- if it does what it does well. Now, as I mentioned, you don't pay a lot for a Jetta SE, but you do pay one penalty. It doesn't look like much. There's not much trim at this trim level. It looks like this one big blob of paint on wheels. If you go a little higher in their hierarchy, you do pick up things like fog lights that do wonders for the face, and you can option this guy up with a little simple little trim spoiler on the trunk lid. Sounds silly, but it does wonders for that sad little rump. And for reasons that are lost on me, the Connectivity package that we have includes alloy wheels. They'll figure. Inside is an oasis of yesterday. This car, being simply trimmed, has no stuff that has a learning curve. You've got a radio. It was funny when I told Antoine I was gonna take this car out and get ready to review it. He says, "Enjoy the AM/FM." He wasn't kidding. AM/FM radio, no HD. Satellite radio right there. Media brings you up Bluetooth streaming or-- my iPod, which is here in the console. And that's it. This is a throwback to the way cars used to be, but it's also refreshing to see a head unit that is so robust and simple that you don't need to think about it and be distracted while using it. Simple gauge cluster goes with it, as well. Tech, speedo, and a simple fuel gate, I don't think it even has a temperature gauge. I'm sure you'll get an area light when the thing's melting down. But beyond that, this is what you see. One screw up here, ergonomically though, when you wanna page through the various odometers, you have to pass through-- every time-- setting the clock. Look at that. I just set the hour, then the minute, then I can get to Auto 1, Auto 2, and DTE. I have to be missing something. But I don't think I am. Similar on the climate controls, this is a vehicle that has no automatic temperature control on it. You simply set a fan speed and ballpark hot or cold. We have the 5-speed manual gearbox. An automatic is available. We'll talk about that in a moment. And once we get on the road, we're gonna see this is actually a pretty nice shifter for a car that's at a very modest price. The bigger theme on this vehicle, aside from its simplicity, is that it's got a nice clean design in here. Everything is very direct. That may be surprising to you because normally, when I get a VW head unit that has navigation, I'm going the other way. It's not direct. It's poorly-designed. It's just plain ugly. This is actually the way VW head units do best. Now, where this car gets its "with Connectivity" label is largely these buttons up here. I, wrench, and SOS. This is kind of an on-star rig, to be honest-- not much more than that. It's not like a Lexus Enform or something where you get this whole concierge thing where they're gonna, you know, find your theater tickets or a movie recommendation. Instead, this is relatively sort of survivalist type stuff. They can tell you where your car is, unlock the doors, send emergency road side assistance, or you can push the red button if you're in a real panic situation. -Connecting to the information center. -Volkswagen Car Net, this is Margie. How can I dismiss you today? -The other part of Connectivity is over here, that you have Bluetooth streaming audio. So, put those all together, and that's what makes this an SE with Connectivity. Now, believe it or not, under the hood of our new Jetta is actually a new engine. And this is an interesting story. A VW, typically on this car than the garden variety, would have a 2.5-liter inline-5. A kind of a bizarre motor that really only Volvo shares an architecture with. I mean, who does a 5-cylinder inline these days or any time? But they've gotten away from that now, which is kinda good. Most reviewers thought it was kind of an agricultural motor. Here is a downsized version of their 2.0 turbo, which a lot of folks think it's a great engine. 1.8 liter in this case, sitting side saddle, turbocharge as I mentioned, and has direct injection, what they call FSI. Add the turbo, you get TSI. That's their nomenclature. 170 horse, 184 foot pounds of torque. Pretty good numbers. Gets this roughly 3,000-pound car to 60 in 7.3 seconds while delivering 26/36 mpg. Also nice numbers all around. Not stunning on the 0-60, but the rest is pretty good. Now, we're talking about the manual transmission for those 0-60 numbers and mpg. You take a bit of a haircut on both if you get the automatic. So, I don't recommend it unless you don't know how to drive something with a clutch. Okay. Now, underway, this car has got an interesting power curve. And when I get started, I'm gonna feel it like I do with every gear change. You start off with an initial dead spot, the initial tip end is there because the turbo's got to spool up. They have not ironed that out like you might find on a much pricier car. But once you get past the initial spool up-- and like I say, it's in almost every gear or transition. You gotta bring it up. But then, you get this nice, long fat band of power that I really enjoy driving. So, it's a trade off, and certainly part of the low displacement and high fuel economy of this engine. The transmission and clutch engagement is quite good. It's a little bit vague on the gate. The gears are very close together, sort of left to right. I'd like a little better spacing there, but that makes for a nice short throw, at least laterally. Overall, it's a nice gearbox combination and nice clutch feel. The ride quality is really good in this car. It is not harsh, but it's also not sloppy. It's biased a little bit more toward comfort than the other Jettas higher up that have a sport suspension. But I can live with this suspension all day long. This is a really nice bias for everyday driving. And the engine note is very smooth. It's-- what you're not hearing in this video right now is any kind of a coffee grinder with nuts and bolts thrown in its sound that I hear on a lot of cheap cars. This one's really smoothed out-- better than that last 2.5-liter 5 which had some discordant notes to it. All in all, what you're finding in this car is a very nice demi-German driving experience. This is what Volkswagen used to do so well, and is doing well again. Now, if you're looking for the sporty kind of VW that you had when you had your '80s Rabbit, that's not here. Remember, they are chasing the market that is owned by Civic, by Focus, but the Hyundai products and Kias and many others that are-- they're going after a mainstream driver. So, they've-- they sort of de-fang some of the handling in bias of comfort. Okay, let's price our Jetta SE. Not bottom of the line, but close to it. It's gonna run you about $19,700 out the door with destination. If you wanna have an automatic, the 6-speed Tiptronic is available for $1,100-- I wouldn't do it. Then, you've got another $1,500 or so that adds the Connectivity trim level here and incongruously, alloy wheels. So, about $21,200 all in for this guy. And that's CNET style but not really because you can't load up more tech options on an SE. You've got to go by a higher trim-level car.