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2011 Volkswagen Jetta Review

2011 Volkswagen Jetta New Car Review
- Now Bigger, Better and a Bargain -

by Sue Mead

It’s bigger and a bargain compared to most of its competitors. But is it better? That’s the real question for the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta, an updated mid-size sedan with outsized hopes to capture an even-wider range of customers.

Almost three inches larger than its predecessor, the 6th-generation Jetta is longer, leaner and sleeker-looking than last year’s model. It rides on an almost entirely new chassis. The wheelbase is a staunch 104.4 inches that, combined with wide-mouthed grille and low-slung spoiler, give the newest version of this 5-passenger the look of a curve-hugging sports sedan. Trapezoidal headlamps and black-grille slats add elegance.

Sweeping back across well-defined wheel wells that can accommodate 16-inch wheels and tires (15-inch wheels/tires are standard), the Jetta’s exterior design  finishes strong in the rear, with bisected taillamps that have integrated turn signals, and are nestled under powerfully-built rear shoulders.

Inside, Volkswagen’s revamped sedan boasts a more comfortable layout and more legroom than any car in its class, says VW – a big improvement for those used to cramped knees in the rear seats of Jetta’s past. Legroom is now 38.1 inches, 2.7 inches more than the last generation model. The rear seat splits and folds 60/40.

Up front, there is a completely-remodeled dash, with attractive controls and displays.  The steering wheel, gear shift and center console have been redesigned to be more comfortable and ergonomic to use, and the console has been moved further up the dash to be easier to access. Surfaces are smooth and sleek, with red backlit accents behind central controls.

Four engines will be available in the U.S. At the entry level, a 115-hp., 2.0-liter motor is standard, and a 2.0 TSI that makes 200 hp. has been added to the lineup for this year. Also available is a 2.0-liter turbo diesel direct injection (TDI) Clean Diesel, with 140 hp., that with common rail injection and 236 lbs-ft. of torque. This engine runs as quietly as a gasoline engine, but yields the torque of a sports car, achieving 0-60 mph in 8.7 seconds. 

All Jetta engines come with a 5-speed manual transmission as standard equipment; automatic is optional. On the new 2.0-liter TDI and 2.0-liter TSI, Volkswagen will offer its efficient 6-speed DSG automatic tranny. The TDI version attains a top fuel economy of 42 mpg highway; all other models come in between 26-28 mpg. (combined city/highway per EPA estimates).

Available trim levels and build combinations include S, SE, SEL, TDI and GLI. S and SE models.  Base versions come with front disc/rear drum brakes, while the higher-end models come with front and rear disc brakes. All have ABS, ESC and brake assist features.

Independent struts, coil springs and a stabilizer bar keep things on the level at the front, while the rear has a semi-independent suspension on all trim levels and drivetrain combinations.

Electronic stability control and tire-pressure monitoring are standard features, as is VW’s “Intelligent Crash Response System” (ICRS), which turns off the fuel pump, activates the hazard lights and unlocks the doors in the case of an airbag deployment. All models have six airbags as standard equipment.

Although it starts under $16,000, in the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic territory, the sticker price on the Jetta lineup stretches close to $25,000, depending on drivetrain combinations, trim levels and options. Notable among those are a nav/sound system with 5-inch touchscreen, CD player and SD slot for MP3 files and navigation information.

Standard S trim level brings power windows, locks and mirrors, AM/FM/CD radio and cloth seating. Cruise control, iPod hookups, heated seats and Sirius Satellite radio, rear center console, faux leather seats and chrome accents are among the add-ons when you upgrade to SE (along with the 2.5-L engine). SEL adds 17-inch wheels and keyless access with push-button start technology. TDI versions get all SE features, including the optional sunroof and 16-inch wheels. Base MSRP: $15,995 (Jetta S)


For more info on VW Jetta, click here.