When it comes to freedom of choice, the Jetta has it, from a turbocharged four cylinder, to an inline-five cylinder, to a hybrid. But which Jetta's right for you? And does it live up to the premium German hype while beating competitors such as the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, and Hyundai Elantra?
Behind the wheel of our Jetta Hybrid tester it actually doesn't feel like a hybrid. Volkswagen's done a terrific job of blending the two power sources together seamlessly without the typical lurching associated with some hybrid systems, though there's a lot of brake regeneration here, and that can make the brakes a bit touchy.
Under the hood of the Jetta you'll find one of four powertrains. The base model is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with just 115 horsepower. Don't get it. Moving up one model you'll find a 2.5-liter five-cylinder with 170 horsepower. This is a much better choice than the base 2.0-liter in every way. It's quicker, sounds better, and is more fuel efficient. The clear winner is the 2.0-liter turbodiesel with 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. With excellent low- and mid-range power, and fuel economy that rivals hybrids, it delivers most of the classic VW attributes. There's also a hybrid model which is what we had. It's powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder combined with an electric motor.
Simply put, the Jetta is one of the most spacious compact sedans on the market. Up front there's plenty of room, but in back you'll notice exactly how much this Jetta has changed from previous generations. The rear doors open wide, and there's plenty of legroom. In fact, there's nearly three-inches more legroom back here than in the Chevy Cruze, which itself isn't small. The trunk is big, though our hybrid tester loses some space to the battery pack, but the rear seats do still fold down, and the levers to fold down the rear seat are easy to access when loading large items. If you need even more room, there's a SportWagon model.
NHTSA gave the Jetta four stars overall while the IIHS named it a Top Safety pick, though it earned an unimpressive marginal rating in the new small overlap frontal test. Six airbags are standard as is stability control, anti-lock brakes, and active headrests. A rearview camera is available on top trim models with navigation, but safety systems such as blind-spot monitoring or parking sensors aren't even offered as options.
The base Jetta starts from $17,000 and features standard power locks, windows, and mirrors, along with air conditioning. The mainstream SE model is less $20,000 and features synthetic V-Tex leather, heated front seats, a USB port, and Bluetooth. The SEL model starts from just under $23,000. The sporty GLI will cost nearly $24,000, and go green with the Hybrid for nearly $25,000. Our Hybrid model is very well optioned with navigation, heated front seats, and 8-way power driver's seat. The price? $30,000.
If you are going for the utility factor with the Jetta SportWagen, you're looking at a base price of about $20,500, and fully loaded you'll be looking at just over $28,000.
At the end of the day, the Jetta draws drivers looking for a taut European driving feel and delivers superior interior space. We'd pass on the low-cost base models and aim for the TDI, GLI, or Hybrid model.
For more information be sure to read our full review of the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta here.