I have to admit it. I am slightly underwhelmed by the styling on the all-new 2011 Volkswagen Jetta
It is conservative, masculine, strong, bold and, well, a little boring. Not that it's hideous or anything. It's just that there's nothing really exceptional that calls your attention to the car. In fact, during the time that I drove the Jetta
around San Francisco, not a single person gawked or did a second take.
That never happens when a completely new car is out and about-and it's not yet in production. When people see an all-new car, they typically ask questions. So, the only thing I can figure is that no one noticed the 2011 Jetta
And that's a damn shame because this new iteration of the Jetta
is really nice-especially when you consider a base price of $16K.
For 2011, Volkswagen
drops more than $1,000 off the price tag and lines up the Honda Civic in the crosshairs.
During the press preview, Mark Jo, product manager for the new Jetta
, repeatedly compared the 2011 Jetta
and the 2010 Civic (no pricing is currently available for 2011), pointing clearly to the value-added content on the Jetta
in relation to the lower price. Take, for example, the base S model. When compared to the base Civic DX, it costs $410 less and adds features like air conditioning, power locks, VW's Carefree Maintenance, one-touch up-and-down windows and 60/40 rear split seats.
I should point out that the base Civic does offer 25 more horsepower than the Jetta
, but torque is relatively comparable at 128 and 125 pound-feet, respectively.
The price vs. content comparisons continue up the line, and with a few exceptions, the Jetta
beats the Civic.
And when you take into account the fun-to-drive factor, Jetta
absolutely beats the Civic.
During the press preview, I had the opportunity to drive the mid-level SE ($18,195) with both automatic and manual transmissions as well as the TDI ($22,995) with the manual transmission. I thought they were all comfortable and well-powered, but I have to admit that the TDI was my favorite in terms of performance and fuel economy.
Not to mention the fact that it actually seemed quieter than the gasoline model. I know. Shocking.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel injection (TDI) engine delivers 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. And the torque more than the horsepower is what makes this model downright peppy. It was quick off the start and had plenty of grunt for passing maneuvers.
The 2.5-liter gasoline engine in the SE model compensates for lack of torque with more horsepower (170), and though well-powered, it just wasn't as much fun as the TDI.
Fuel economy with the 2.5-liter gasoline engine is good with city/highway estimates of 23/33 mpg, but the TDI's fuel economy is excellent with city/highway mileage estimates at 30/42 mpg. During 4-hour tests in combined driving, I averaged around 33 mpg in the TDI and 28 mpg in the gasoline model.
The roads on the drive route surrounding San Francisco had several elevation changes and a lot of twists and turns. The Jetta
was able to roll with the punches and hug the curves beautifully. It's hard to believe that this is a compact vehicle that comes well equipped under $20K.
The interior of the new Jetta
is clean, intuitive and simple, which isn't a radical change from the previous generation. The base S model will come with a cloth interior, but starting at the SE model, standard interior is a leatherette, which is what we had on our testers in California. I liked them just fine in terms of comfort and appearance and don't see the point of spending extra money to upgrade to leather.
I fell in love with the optional navigation system. The map and graphics were clear, and I was particularly fond of the feature that displayed the correct speed limit in the upper left hand corner. It adjusted within seconds as the speed limit changed.
The new Jetta
gains 2.9 inches in length, and almost all of that goes into rear-seat legroom, with class-leading measurements of 38.1 inches. Other key measurements stay pretty close to the previous generation plus or minus a half inch.
For 2011, Volkswagen
maintains the S, SE, SEL, TDI and GLI trim levels, but the automaker reduces the build complexity. In 2010, there were 148 ways to configure your Jetta
. Now there will only be 18 build combinations.
The S, SE and SEL models will hit dealerships in October with the TDI models arriving by the end of the year. The sporty GLI model with the 2.0-liter TSI engine will hit dealers in early 2011. And, get this, the Jetta
will have a hybrid model making a splash on the scene in 2012.
So, I guess what it boils down to is that this volume seller for Volkswagen
is growing up. It's conservative and somewhat non-descript, but it means business, which is perfect for a young professional trying to make a good impression. But, underneath it all, it's still sporty and fun to drive. And one of my absolutely favorite things about a Jetta
: You can get a manual transmission all the way up the lineup and with all the upgrades you want. Not a lot of manufacturers do that any more.