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

2017 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T SEL Auto - Heels on Wheels Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

I recall the days when the sight of a Volkswagen Jetta – must have been the early nineties – made me crazy with sedan envy: that sleek European design, the unique sound of the engine, and of course, the emblem. The vehicle was a coveted possession of my youth and felt steps above the competition in terms of refinement.

During this review I drove a 2017 Volkswagen Jetta with the 170-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. Available in the base S, SE, SEL, GLI and Sport, my SEL test drive came with the following standard equipment: V-Tex leatherette upholstery; heated front seats; 6-way power driver’s seat; dual-zone climate control; leather-wrapped steering wheel; push-button start; Car-Net App-Connect; Bluetooth; rearview camera; Discover Media touchscreen navigation; XM Radio; 6-speaker audio system; Blind Spot Monitor; Rear Traffic Alert; 17-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires. Price as described came to $24,995.

For 2017, you get the rearview camera on all trims, more features on offered for the base trims, and in-car technology updates. Competition includes other affordable and stylish sedans like the Hyundai Sonata, Toyota Corolla (it’s gotten way better looking!), and Honda Civic.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: Volkswagen has changed their approach to the Jetta over the years, and appears to have traded their elites status for a more affordable one. An all-black interior gives a sense of glossiness, yet look closer and you’ll spot the cheapness of the plastic materials – the cabin has a modern wash, but simply not a lot of attention to detail (no rear climate vents and 6-way power seating just can’t get you all that comfortable). Technology is a highlight with two available touchscreen sizes and quick smartphone integration – graphics are vivid and touch commands responsive. There is an upgraded Fender audio system. Credit goes to the truck space with a wide enough opening to easily fit awkward-shaped objects like large tricycles. Rear loading for car seats and kids is another high point with sufficient legroom for the front passenger. Two kid seats will fit comfortably in the rear seats.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 2017 VW Jetta “Good” in all areas omitting the small overlap front (passenger side) which earned a score of “Acceptable” – it is still considered a Top Safety Pick. It has an overall rating of 4-Stars with The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. You can view crash test images on their website. Standard safety equipment includes their Intelligent Crash Response System, front and rear disc brakes, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, and anti-slip regulation.

Cost Issues: Affordability is a merit with the Volkswagen Jetta with the base S at $17,895 – be advised the interior highlights are limited to a rearview camera and touchscreen sound system. The top-of-the-line turbocharged GLI is $27,895. A 2017 Honda Civic base LX starts at $19,700 and includes a multi-angle rearview camera with a 5-inch display while the Sport Touring reaches $28,300.

Activity & Performance Ability: The Jetta possess guts under the 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine, proving to be a sporty companion on the highway and on windier roads. Having re-arranged their engines, you can opt for a smaller 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine with a 150 horsepower, the 170-horsepower 1.8-liter; or a turbocharged 2-liter with 210 horsepower (the hybrid engine has been dropped). There is little sway, a lot of grip, and that good-old German engineering feeling.

The Green Concern: Aside of price, the fuel economy is a notable sell point with the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8-liter retaining 25-city and 35-highway for a combined 29 miles-per-gallon. The 1.4-liter can get 28-city and 38-highway for 33 miles-per-gallon combined. The Honda Civic with the 1.5-liter has a fuel economy of 30-city and 39-highway for a combined 33.

The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta in a sense has grown up and gotten sensible, focused on being a sedan of reasonable price and excellent fuel economy. With its European appeal lost it just doesn’t turn heads anymore, and for me, remains a nostalgic memory squeezed somewhere between my Esprit sweatshirts and MTV videos.

©2017 Katrina Ramser

The Most Helpful Volkswagen Research Information; Anywhere!

READY TO SHOP? - Get a Better Deal As A "Free-To-The-Dealer" Unencumbered Car Buyer