Review: Volkswagen Jetta (2011 – 2017)
Bigger than previous Jetta with more rear passenger room. BlueMotion models deliver good economy. Easy to drive and comfortable.
Golf will always hold its value better. Smaller boot than previous Jetta. Soft springing doesn't provide thrilling handling.
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Volkswagen Jetta (2011 – 2017): At A Glance
The Volkswagen Jetta has gone through a few name changes in Europe, from the original 1979 Jetta to the Vento, the Bora and back to the Jetta again. One thing has remained unchanged and that's the fact it's the saloon version of the Golf.
It's a popular model in the US, but as with many booted versions of family hatchbacks (such as the Mazda3 saloon and the Ford Focus saloon) it's never proved a big seller in the UK where we prefer the practicality and style of a hatchback.
So it's surprising that Volkswagen continues to offer the model here. However, with this, essentially the sixth generation of the Jetta, the manufacturer is trying to give the model its own stronger identity so that it sits between the Golf and Passat.
For starters it doesn't share any panels with the Golf and is noticeably bigger than the previous Jetta with a longer wheelbase. Surprisingly the boot is slightly smaller than before, but the trade off is more rear legroom for those in the back.
The styling follows the latest Volkswagen family look with a simple and unfussy look although at first glance it's very easy to mistake it for a Passat from the front. It's a similar story inside where there's the familiar Volkswagen interior with a good quality and longlasting feel. It's far from striking in its design but more importantly is very user-friendly and intuitive.
This is reflected once you're on the move. The Jetta is undemanding to drive with nicely weighted steering and decent front end grip in corners, while it's quiet at higher speeds too with little wind or road noise.
The ride quality is good too, although it can get caught out by particularly uneven roads. Overall it's very competent, if not particularly memorable. The engine line up includes the excellent 1.4 TSI with either 122PS or 160PS while the diesels are the 1.6 TDI with Bluemotion Technology and the 2.0 TDI developing 140PS.
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Volkswagen Jetta (2011 – 2017): What's It Like Inside?
If you've sat in any modern Volkswagen, the interior of the Jetta won't exactly be a shock to you. It's pretty much the same as the latest Golf, although there are some very subtle differences such as the instrument dials which aren't set into cowled recesses, instead they're simply flat on the instrument panel. But that's pretty much it.
Elsewhere it's the standard Volkswagen design which means a well laid out dash, albeit slightly dull, with a good quality finish.
The driving position is well set and there's plenty of adjustment in both the seat and the steering column which moves for both height and reach. Visibility is good too, and the windscreen pillars aren't too thick or obtrusive at junctions, although it can be a little tricky to judge where the boot ends out of the back window, something which isn't as much of a problem in the smaller Golf.
It feels very spacious inside though and all the controls have a pleasing weight to them, adding to the feel that this is a more upmarket Jetta than the last one. It's in the back where the biggest change is though.
There is 67mm of extra legroom which may not sound that much but makes a big difference, plus there's good headroom too. You could quite happily travel in the back, convinced it was a Passat. The seats are good too with those in the front giving decent side support and those in the back well padded for long distance comfort.
This extra legroom has eaten into boot space though, so although this Jetta is 90mm longer than the one it replaces, surprisingly it has a slightly smaller boot with 510 litres of space - 17 litres less. Still, even with that it's not far off the Passat which has 565 litres. The boot opening is usefully wide too and the load lip minimal, so you can easily get large suitcases or a pushchair in. The rear seats also split 60/40 and fold down as standard on all models.
S is the entry-level model and gets Climatic climate control, electric windows all round, six airbags, ESP stability control, Isofix child seat mounts, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels, remote central locking, a CD stereo with an aux-in port, multifunction display and height adjustable driver's seat.
SE adds five-spoke alloy wheels, eight-way adjustment on both front seats, chrome trim on the climate control and light switches, a leather steering wheel, leather parking brake and a leather gear lever.
Sport models get 17-inch alloys, chrome trim under the side windows, headlight washers, front fog lights with static conering lights, heated windscreen washer jets, sports seats, automatic climate control and a high-gloss finish to the centre console.
Child seats that fit a Volkswagen Jetta (2011 – 2017)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Volkswagen Jetta (2011 – 2017) like to drive?
The Jetta is actually built in Mexico but the models that go to the USA and those that come to Europe are different. Ours get a multilink rear suspension set-up as oppose to the torsion beam rear suspension on North American models, plus there's a wider rear track and revised springs and dampers along with electro-mechanical steering.
The result is a car that's easy to drive, yet still very composed when pushed into corners. There's decent grip levels from the front tyres and good body control too, so although it does little to get the pulse racing, it does little wrong either.
The steering doesn't have too much in the way of feel, but it's nicely weighted and gives you plenty of confidence, for instance when tackling tight bends. In fact, it feels very much like a Golf and rides pretty well, although it can struggle to iron out especially bumpy surfaces, but on the whole it's smooth and forgiving enough. It's impressively quiet at motorway speeds too.
The engine line-up includes the highly regarded chain cam 1.4 TSI petrol engine which is available with either 122PS (turbocharged) or a more powerful 160PS version (both turbocharged and supercharged) which gives the Jetta some real zest.
In Europe there will also be a 1.2 TSI model with 105PS (which is fitted in the Golf and Polo) which is a real surprise in the Jetta with plenty of in-gear poke and a smooth manner, however it's not planned to be offered in the UK for now.
But as you'd expect it's the diesels that will be the popular choice with the 1.6-litre TDI model expected to make up about a third of all models sold. It comes with Bluemotion Technology which includes an engine start/stop function and battery regeneration, all helping it to average a claimed 67.3mpg with emissions of 109g/km, meaning low VED and BIK tax.
Performance is far from scintillating with 105PS in tap but the 250Nm of torque means it pulls well and feels sprightly enough when up to motorway speeds. The standard five-speed gearbox has longer ratios which can take a bit of getting used to, especially in town driving and the TDI unit can get noisy when worked hard, but in everyday driving it provides decent enough pace for most.
The other diesel is the familiar common rail 2.0 TDI with 140PS - an engine that's used across the Volkswagen Group. It's quiet enough and delivers its power smoothly (much more so than the older TDI PD engines) plus it comes with a six-speed gearbox as standard like the 1.4 TSI models.
A seven-speed DSG automatic is also available as an option. The 2.0 TDI is actually the quickest model with a 0-62mph time of 9.5 seconds but it's the extra torque (320Nm) that makes the biggest difference, especially when it comes to motorway driving. It's still efficient too and averages a claimed 58.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 126g/km with the manual gearbox.
|1.4 TSI 122||46 mpg||9.8 s||144 g/km|
|1.4 TSI 125||53 mpg||9.6 s||125 g/km|
|1.4 TSI 150||53–54 mpg||8.6 s||123 g/km|
|1.4 TSI 150 DSG||55–57 mpg||8.6 s||117 g/km|
|1.4 TSI 160||45–47 mpg||8.3 s||139–145 g/km|
|1.4 TSI 160 DSG||47 mpg||8.3 s||139 g/km|
|1.6 TDI BlueMotion Technology||67 mpg||11.7 s||109 g/km|
|1.6 TDI DSG BlueMotion Technology||66 mpg||11.7 s||113 g/km|
|2.0 TDI 110||69 mpg||11.0 s||105 g/km|
|2.0 TDI 110 DSG||66–67 mpg||11.0 s||109 g/km|
|2.0 TDI 140 BlueMotion Technology||59 mpg||9.5 s||126 g/km|
|2.0 TDI 140 DSG BlueMotion Technology||53 mpg||9.5 s||138 g/km|
|2.0 TDI 150||66–69 mpg||8.9 s||109 g/km|
|2.0 TDI 150 DSG||61–63 mpg||8.9 s||120 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Volkswagen Jetta (2011 – 2017)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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