2011 Volkswagen Jetta Review

By Paul Riegler on 11 October 2010
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While U.S. carmakers have been busy trying – with varying degrees of success – to design and build cars that are European, Volkswagen recently introduced a German car, the 2011 Jetta, that is intended to be more American.   No, it doesn’t have bench seats or a column stick shift, but it does have more room in the passenger compartment and a lower price.

For 2011, the Jetta has a sleek, new look that further differentiates it from the pack. It’s 2.9 inches longer and that translates to more room for the rear occupants as well as a more substantial appearance.  It’s definitely an upscale look (think Audi) and it is one that should resonate with VW purists and German car fans alike.

The Jetta’s new – and lower – price, however, will attract Civic and Corolla buyers, Volkswagen hopes. For 2011, the base Jetta S starts at $15,995 (the 2010 Jetta S started at $17,605) and comes with a 115-hp, 2.0-liter petrol engine that once powered the third-generation Jetta back in 1993.  It’s nicely equipped for that price, with a five-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, power windows and mirrors, anti-lock brakes, cloth upholstery, stability control, split folding rear seat, remote keyless entry, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input, and free maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles.

We recently spent several days driving the new Jetta in the Bay Area, first driving the petrol-powered SEL version and then the diesel-powered TDI.  For both drives I started in San Francisco and headed north on the Shoreline Highway, a winding two-lane road north of the Golden Gate Bridge.  It passes through the Marin Hills and then intersects with Muir Beach, continuing past the Point Reyes National Seashore and Tomales Bay.  This was the perfect route to drive the new Jetta on.

On the first drive, with the SEL, I found the five-cylinder,2.5-liter engine smooth and happy to provide sufficient power on demand.  The five-speed transmission shifted precisely. The SEL comes with lots of standard equipment including 17-inch aluminum wheels, a touch-screen navigation system, chrome exterior trim, all-wheel disc brakes (the S and SE have drum brakes in the rear), and keyless access and push-button start.  Options include a sunroof and a touch-screen stereo with an SD card reader and built-in six-disc CD changer.  It can go from 0-60 in 8.2 seconds (8.5 for the automatic) and the 177 pound-feet of torque under the hood comes in quite handy.  The base Jetta S goes from 0-60 mph in 9.8 seconds (the automatic needs 11 seconds to get there).

In terms of fuel economy, the SEL uses 10.2 l/100 km (23 mpg) in the city and 7.1 l/100 km (33 mpg) on the highway (all figures cited thus far are for the manual gearbox).  The S uses 9.8 l/100 km (24 mpg) in the city and 6.9 l/100 km (34 mpg) on the highway.

Click here for page two – Driving the Jetta Diesel

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