The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2011 Volkswagen Jetta Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2011 Volkswagen Jetta

SEE ALSO: Volkswagen Buyers Guide

By John Heilig

Model: 2011 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5SEL
Engine: 2.5-liter inline 5
Horsepower/Torque: 170 hp @ 5,700 rpm/177 lb.-ft. @ 4,250 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 104.4 in.
Length X Width X Height: 182.2 x 70.0 x 57.2 in.
Tires: P225/45R17
Cargo volume: 15.5 cu. ft.
Fuel economy: 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway/20.6 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 14.5 gal.
Curb weight: 3,082 lbs.
Sticker: $23,395 (base) plus $760 destination charge)

Bottom line: The brand new 2011 Volkswagen Jetta is such a great improvement over the previous generation that one would expect that VW might even conjure up a new name. The big improvements are exterior styling, which seems to borrow a bit from the CC, and increased overall length, which is felt in ride quality as well as increased legroom or rear seat passengers.

Volkswagen has introduced the all-new sixth generation 2011 Jetta as the first of 30 new models the company will introduce worldwide over the next year. According to VW of America COO Mark Barnes, the Jetta is VW’s bread-and-butter car, being its best-selling model in the US. The new model is hoped to increase market share in the compact segment.

One way to do this, and that’s VW’s approach, is to make the car less like a compact and more like a mid-size. The new model is 2.9 inches longer, which results in a mid-size ride quality and also offers increased legroom for rear seat passengers. According to Mark Jo, Jetta product manager, rear legroom measures out at 38.1 inches, just 0.3 inches less than a standard wheelbase BMW 7-Series.

Volkswagen’s David Sweet also pointed out that while Jetta has 90 percent brand awareness, 45 percent of customers avoid it due to cost. Hence, prices are lower compared to the previous model. The base Jetta S with a 2.0-liter 115 hp engine, starts at $15,995. We drove the SEL with a 2.5-liter 170 hp engine, 6-speed automatic transmission and a sunroof, which has a base price of $23,395.

For that price we had 17-inch alloy wheels, a state-of-the-art RNS315 navigation system with a touch screen, keyless entry and pushbutton stop/start, leatherette seats, cruise control, etc.

All Jettas benefit from the added length, which results in added ride comfort. Handling doesn’t suffer with the smooth ride; the Jetta handles like a comfortable sports car on some of the most picturesque roads on the coast north of San Francisco.

Our tester had a 6-speed automatic transmission that puts the power of the 2.5-liter five to the ground. A manual is available. You can put the shifter into “S” mode, making for altered shift points that makes the Jetta perform in a more sporty manner. I was impressed with the overall lack of engine noise, although you knew there was something under the hood when you accelerated hard.

Four-wheel disc brakes stop the Jetta easily from some speeds I shouldn’t have reached. Smaller-engined cars will have drum brakes in the rear.

VW introduced a new RNS315 touch screen navigation system that is a dream to use. It shows the route clearly in a wide blue line, while the route covered is a thinner “road” line. As you approach a turn, the image on the screen zeroes in, giving you a better idea of the configuration of the turn. It then widens back out after the turn is completed.

In our top-of-the-line tester we had heated leatherette seats that were as close to real leather as you can get. Front seats are comfortable and offer decent side support, while we’ve mentioned the increased legroom in the back. The rear seat backs fold to increase the standard 15.5 cubic feet of cargo. There’s also a pass-through, so you can carry longer objects with the four passengers if you want.

I liked the instrument panel, while my co-driver disagrees. I prefer simple white-on-black dials while he prefers more colorful displays. He also isn’t a fan of the “orange peel” black dash top and some hard plastic surfaces on the doors.

The new Jetta is also one of the few sedans of any size with four assist handles.

The new Jetta will be available in dealers’ showrooms in October 2010. A TDI clean diesel-powered version will be available later in the year, and a hybrid version is expected to be introduced in 2012. The present Sportwagon will continue.

If you have considered a Jetta and for some reason dropped it off you “let’s look at this” list, may I suggest you reconsider come October. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

2010 The Auto Page