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2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn Review By John Heilig

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2012 Volkswagen Jetta

MORE INFORMATION: Volkswagen Buyers Guide 1997-2012


SPECIFICATIONS: 2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

Model: 2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4
Horsepower/Torque: 200 hp @ 5,100 rpm/207 lb.-ft. @ 1,700 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 104.4 in.
Length/Width/Height: 182.2 x 70.0 x 57.2 in.
Tires: P225/40R18
Cargo volume: 15.5 cu. ft.
Fuel economy: 24 mpg city/32 mpg highway/23.7 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 14.5 gal.
Curb weight: 3,210 lbs.
Sticker: $26,445 (base)

Top 5 Reasons to Buy This Car
1. Nice package
2. Good power
3. Good handling
4. Excellent audio
5. Excellent HVAC

The Bottom Line: The Volkswagen Jetta has been a hit ever since its over-top-introduction in Times Square. After all, it's hard to top Katie Perry and Mario Battaglio performing on a stage at the world's most famous intersection. New this year is the TDI, with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that adds performance to an already nice-looking package.

Volkswagen has always bragged about its German engineering. And while the standard VW models aren't in the same class as the Mercedes-Benz or BMW, they are fine compact-to-mid size cars with a lot going for them. One thing I don't appreciate is the emphasis on different German controls and labeling that is sometimes confusing. However, a week or two behind the wheel educates the driver.

Our tester is a new model for 2012, the Jetta GLI. It's equipped with a nice turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four that puts out a decent 200 horsepower. Two hundred ponies is enough for a car that weighs only 3,210 pounds.

This is the type of car that you should spend some time learning about before you drive it.

The Jetta GLI is rated as a compact, but it feels slightly larger, although not in the mid-size class yet.

I though the power was very good. The engine was somewhat noisy with a constant buzz. It wasn't bad or annoying, but you knew it was working under the hood. The 6-speed automatic transmission was seamless and almost invisible.

The suspension was firm, but not harsh. this led to very good handling. When you want you can drive the Jetta hard over most grades of road windiness without fear that the car will get away from you. And still, you have a comfortable ride on most road surfaces.

I'm a believer in cruise control because it keeps me at or near the speed limit when I'd much prefer to be exceeding it. To operate the cruise, there's a rocker switch at the end of the turn signal stalk. The set speed is indicated on the instrument panel, in larger numbers when it's on and in smaller numbers when it's disengaged.

For your riding pleasure is a good Fender audio system with a full assortment of media. there's a large information screen with about 2/3 of it devoted to presets rather than music information. In my mind, I'd prefer to have more music information displayed. In fact, I have noticed that when I'm listening to AM or FM and the title of the music isn't displayed, as it is with the iPod or XM/Sirius, I miss it.

The HVAC system is also good, with a caveat. We had heated seats that worked well, but they took a while to get going. When they did, we often had to turn them back a notch.

The driver holds on to a thick, flat-bottomed leather-and-suede steering wheel. I felt as if I was a race driver holding the wheel.

Constant readers will note that the Heilig family makes good use of the trunks in cars. The Jetta's is good at a listed 15.5 cubic feet. In addition, the rear seats fold almost flat to increase cargo capacity when needed.

The front seats have good side support. There's an average center console and glove box. Inside the glove box is the USB connection for an iPod. There are also good-sized pockets in the doors.

Rear seats are flat, but the doors provide some side support, and you can fold down the arm rest to get additional support in the center. There's good knee and leg room in the rear as well.

The interior styling is basic black with brushed aluminum trim accents.

The Jetta is the type of car that will grow on you. In a sense, it's like some American cars that won't excite you when you're driving it, but you'll almost forget about the car and just drive it. There's nothing overly exciting about it, but there's also nothing dull about it. It's a great middle-of-the-road car, but don't drive it there.

2011 The Auto Page