What it is: The Jetta is Volkswagen’s compact car that they’ve now been manufacturing for nearly 90 years. The current version is the sixth-generation model that was initially released in 2010. My test model was the SE trim, which slots right in the middle of the Jetta lineup. With a base price of $21,245, it offers significant bang for your buck. Turbocharged engines are now standard in the Jetta and the SE features the smaller, 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine. The 1.8-liter is standard on the more expensive SE Sport and SEL trims. While certainly not being a race car, the 1.4 delivers plenty of oomph for most drivers and is a huge improvement over the previous non-turbo engine. The 1.4 in the SE delivers stellar gas mileage at 40 MPG highway. I’ve found that if you have a lead foot, don’t expect numbers anywhere close to there.
The SE comes with some great equipment, including a sunroof, keyless access with push-button start, and a 6.3-inch, touch-screen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. 16-inch alloy wheels, blind spot monitoring, backup camera, LED daytime running lights, and heated seats add plenty of style and comfort. It’s really a very complete car considering it has no additional options (and no available options unless you go to a higher trim level).
The Jetta is a good-sized vehicle. I didn’t feel small driving on the highway, but it was small and nimble enough to park in tight parking spots. The interior is a leatherette that didn’t feel cheap at all. I wasn’t blown away by the driving experience, but it’s a great solid choice for someone that wants a good car.
MPG: 28 city/32 combined/40 highway
Price: $22,815 as-tested with automatic transmission ($1,000).
Upsides: Great price and interior design.
Downsides: Plain exterior design. Unattainable gas mileage unless you drive like a granny.
Wrap-up: I think the Jetta is definitely worth purchasing, but if I were going to buy one, I would pay the few extra thousand dollars and get the bigger 1.8-liter turbo engine. Volkswagen has been using it for over a decade, and it’s solid as a rock while providing extra power. It does cut your gas mileage down by 15 percent, though. With such radical designs coming to most compact cars (looking at you, Honda Civic) plenty of buyers still want to blend into the crowd, and the Jetta would be a great choice for them to do so.