For 2011, Volkswagen redesigned and repositioned its Jetta compact sedan to make it larger but less costly. And the tactic worked; sales of 2011 Volkswagen Jetta models are substantially higher than those of the previous model.
The 2011 Jetta is still $2,000 or $3,000 pricier than a similarly equipped Ford Focus, Honda Civic, or Hyundai Elantra—three entrants that are new for 2011 or 2012—but it retains its German handling and ride quality, and finally offers rear-seat room for six-foot adults. The trunk is huge, too.
For green buyers, VW offers one option not found in any other compact (except the Jetta’s hatchback sibling, the Golf): a 2.0-liter TDI clean-diesel engine, rated at 30 mpg city, 42 mpg highway, for a combined 34-mpg rating. It’s also fitted with VW’s excellent six-speed DSG dual-clutch “automatic manual” gearbox (a six-speed manual is also available). It’s a very popular model, accounting for almost half the Jettas sold in the States some months. Jetta TDI owners say, by the way, that they routinely exceed the EPA ratings in real-world driving, especially during highway travel.
The EPA rates the base gasoline Jetta, with its old 115-horsepower, 2.0-liter four and five-speed manual transmission, at 24 mpg city and 34 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 28 mpg. Specifying the 2.5-liter five-cylinder and six-speed automatic lowers the numbers to 24 city, 31 highway, and 27 combined.
The Jetta range is surprisingly complex. The four-door sedan is the only all-new model for 2011, with the Sportwagen keeps the older, slightly smaller body style, but in station wagon format. The Jetta GLI turbo sedan also keeps the old look, along with a fully independent rear suspension that was dropped for the new model. And while VW touts the $16,000 base price of the new Jetta with the 115-hp four, don’t expect to find many of them at dealers—most Jettas will still leave the lot with stickers well north of $20,000, and a fully-equipped Jetta TDI can reach $28,000.
The cost-cutting shows up most clearly in the interior, which is a step down from last year’s tasteful restraint and high-quality plastics. The finishes are lackluster, and it’s got the acres of hard plastic that Korean and American compacts have now moved away from. Oddly, there’s no option for leather seats in the new Jetta, and the navigation option also wraps in iPod connectivity and Bluetooth streaming, along with satellite radio—but costs a lot and isn’t as intuitive to use as other contenders.
For more details, see the full review of the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta Sedan, TDI, and GLI range on our sister site, TheCarConnection, which has a separate review of the carryover 2011 VW Jetta SportWagen.