2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid – First Look and Review

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DRIVING THE VOLKSWAGEN JETTA HYBRID

While not a sports sedan, the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid is without question the sportiest compact hybrid around.  Unlike other hybrids, where I basically felt that I was being transported, I found the Jetta Hybrid truly engaging to drive.  It out-accelerates the competition, although this came as little surprise as it is the only turbocharged engine and dual-clutch transmission in the segment.

Fuel economy is excellent and will probably be the leader within the Jetta line.  Volkswagen estimates highway fuel economy at 45 mpg (5.23 l/100 km).

The suspension (the front has an antiroll bar while the rear has a multilink setup with gas shocks and separate coil springs) gave the car a firm ride and it was reasonably responsive in tight cornering.  The electronic power steering, which I was a bit wary of, turned out to be responsive and decently weighted.  Braking was excellent and I didn’t notice too much of the uncomfortable brake-regeneration feel that hybrids typically exhibit.

I tested the car’s electric range (1.2 miles or 1.9 km) which can be accessed by pushing the car’s E-Mode button near the gear shift knob.   This action locks out the petrol engine and the driver can continue in electric mode as long as he doesn’t exceed 44 mph (71 km/h).  (Going faster will terminate E-Mode.) Switching between the electric motor and gasoline engine was smooth and barely discernible.

With the exception of high-end hybrids such as the BMW X6 and Hybrid 7 that I’ve driven in the past few years, the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid was hands down the sportiest and fastest.  Thanks to the electric motor’s 114 pound-feet of torque, which is available from a dead stop, and the engine’s turbo, acceleration is fast and sure.

BOTTOM LINE

I spent a day in the Jetta Hybrid at an elevation of 7,000 feet (2,133 meters) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and drove the car on a combination of winding roads, urban streets, and some of the best highways I’ve seen in the United States.  In the course of a single day, we averaged 43.2 mpg (5.38 l/100 km) in 220 miles (354 km) of driving on the somewhat hilly terrain in and around Santa Fe.   My back didn’t hurt (car manufacturers could use my back for seat testing, it can identify any and all flaws) and I felt like I had gotten a nice dose of Fahrvergnügen (a made-up word coined by Volkswagen for use in several past U.S. advertising campaigns, joining “Fahr,” from fahren, “to drive,” with Vergnügen, “pleasure,” to convey “driving pleasure.”).

At the end of the day, I was just sorry that I had to give the keys back.

CORRECTION

An earlier version of this article included a sentence that stated that auto stop/start, a feature which turns the engine off (and on), when the vehicle is stopped, was missing, and that Volkswagen stated that American buyers were not ready for this feature.  While a Volkswagen spokesperson did provide us with this information, a follow-up enquiry by The Diesel Driver resulted in a clarification from Volkswagen that the feature is indeed included and that the statement by the spokesperson had been in error.

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