2011 Volkswagen Jetta – First Review

By Jonathan Spira on 25 July 2010
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For decades, American car makers have been trying – with varying degrees of success – to design and build cars that are European.  Now a German car maker, Volkswagen, has designed a German car, the 2011 Jetta, with a U.S. audience in mind.

In this case, the U.S. audience is one that might be considering a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, but let’s not get caught up in details.

If recent sales figures are any indication, 27% of the 2011 Jettas sold will be diesels.  Indeed, Volkswagen announced plans to quadruple its overall sales in the U.S. over the next eight years to 800,000.  Currently 37% of Volkswagens sold in the U.S. are diesel and, if this figure holds, that would translate to ca. 296,000 diesel-powered VWs for 2018.  (See Diesel Economics 200 for a complete discussion of diesel sales in the U.S.)




We spent several days driving the new Jetta (both in diesel and petrol variants) in the Bay Area and we’ll report on that shortly. (The Diesel Driver was the only U.S.-based publication invited to drive the Jetta TDI at the launch.)  Suffice it to say for now that Volkswagen has done an excellent job in engineering in more than sufficient Fahrvergnügen and typical Teutonic driving dynamics into the Jetta.

(Fahrvergnügen is a word coined by Volkswagen for use in several past U.S. advertising campaigns.  It joins “Fahr” (from fahren, “to drive,” with Vergnügen, “pleasure,” to convey “driving pleasure.”)

For 2011, the Jetta has a new, sleek, elegant 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 an upscale look (think Audi) and one that should resonate with VW purists and German car fans alike.

It’s the price, however, not the design, that’s intended to attract Civic and Corolla buyers. 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.

The Jetta S goes from 0-60 mph in 9.8 seconds (the automatic needs 11 seconds to get there) and uses 9.8 l/100 km (24 mpg) in the city and 6.9 l/100 km (34 mpg) on the highway.

The Jetta SE gets the current Golf and Jetta’s 170-hp, 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine.  Fuel economy isn’t really impacted despite an improved 0-60 time of 8.2 seconds (8.5 for the automatic) and 177 pound-feet of torque: the Jetta SE 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 SE also gets 16-inch wheels, cruise control, Volkswagen’s V-Tex leatherette upholstery, floor mats, body-colored outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, cruise control, illuminated vanity mirrors, a front center console with cupholders, a rear center armrest (also with two cupholders), interior lighting (glove box, vanity mirrors, reading lights), and chrome interior trim.

The SE will be priced at $18,955.  The $1350 convenience package adds 16-inch aluminum wheels, Bluetooth, Sirius satellite radio, two more speakers for the stereo, iPod connectivity, heated seats and windshield washer nozzles, and a leather multi-function steering wheel.  You can also add a sunroof and a touch-screen stereo with an SD card reader and built-in six-disc CD changer.

The SEL, starting at $21,395, gets all of the features of the SE plus 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.  There’s a sport package with a stiffer suspension and sport seats for $23,755.  You can also add a sunroof.

We’ve saved the best for last – as has Volkswagen, apparently: the Jetta TDI won’t be arriving until the end of the year.   Click here to continue to page 2.

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