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The best-selling model offered by VW in the United States, the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta has gotten a number of upgrades over the past two years to keep it viable in the face of tougher competition from new and revised compact four-door sedans. Now in its fifth model year, the Mexican-built Jetta gets two new and more fuel-efficient engines--one gasoline, one diesel--along with a slightly refreshed interior, a handful of very minor updates to the exterior styling, and various new active-safety features.
The Jetta offers a multitude of powertrains, not only gasoline and diesel, but also a low-volume hybrid version. Their range lets the VW sedan be many things to many different buyers, though it has a lot of ground to cover. It must squeeze in what might be the most usable amount of interior space in the compact class; deliver an impressive sweet spot of performance, refinement, and fuel economy; and pack in plenty of features, all while keeping the price point in the mid-$20,000 range. Somehow, the Jetta seems to accomplish all of that, and its sales reflect that success.
From the outside, however, the Jetta remains one of the more conservatively styled options in the segment. If you want style and flair in a compact sedan, you'd probably be better served going for a model like the Mazda 3, Ford Focus, or Dodge Dart. The Jetta's latest refresh brings a few subtle changes to the front and rear fascia, which VW claims should improve the Jetta's aerodynamics. At the rear, there's a new trunk lid with an integrated aerodynamic trailing edge, and GLI and Hybrid models get newly optional LED taillights. The rear-end changes give the car a conspicuous premium look, as it resembles very closely the current Audi A4. The car's interior has also been updated with a new steering wheel and revised infotainment and climate controls.
The 2015 Jetta is still so spacious, it barely squeezes into the compact class. A great driving position, the back-seat space of a mid-size sedan, and obvious German heritage throughout, from the first turn of the steering wheel: It's all part of the experience in the Jetta, which is one of the most livable and refined of its kind.
Most Jetta models will be powered either by a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine (1.8T) or a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder diesel (TDI). Both models now receive an active radiator shutter that closes to shorten engine warm-up times and also reduce aerodynamic drag when extra cooling isn't needed. The diesel engine in the TDI models is a new unit, and delivers 36 mpg combined with either the manual or automatic transmissions. Real-world fuel economy could reach 40 mpg or more, however, as diesels often achieve on their ratings--especially in high-speed use, where the EPA highway ratings are 45 or 46 mpg. The anemic naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four returns to the lineup in base models.
The Jetta Hybrid also carries over, with its 1.4-liter turbocharged four, hybrid system, and additional battery pack—all adding up to a car that's more fun to drive than a Prius, albeit not quite as efficient. And the GLI, with its 2.0-liter turbocharged four and sportier demeanor, will continue as the Jetta that packs the most fun. The Hybrid and GLI models are expected to go on sale early in 2015.
The other important news for 2015 is that VW has decided to bring some of its advanced-tech features and active-safety equipment to the U.S.; previously, these expensive items were only available in Europe and other overseas markets. Blind-spot detection, frontal collision warning, and rear cross-traffic alert are all newly available this year. It also has a beefed-up front crash structure (though you'll never know it--the changes are all under the surface), which lets the 2015 Jetta ace the new and tougher IIHS small-overlap front crash test. It gets not only the top "Good" ratings on every IIHS test, but also the coveted Top Safety Pick+ designation.
Shoppers interested in well-equipped models will have the option of adding bi-xenon headlamps with adaptive lighting and LED daytime running lights, which were previously exclusive to GLI and Hybrid Jetta trims. We're glad to see the inclusion of these technologies, seen in many luxury cars, because when this Jetta generation was launched in 2011 it fell victim to U.S.-centric cost-cutting that denied our market of many of the premium-feeling materials and features available on Jettas elsewhere.
One other Jetta program note: For 2015, the SportWagen gives up its Jetta name, with an all-new SportWagen now becoming part of the Golf lineup. It had always been based on the Golf platform, so Golf SportWagen is a more honest name, even if the change might throw some consumers.
- Sweet handling
- Diesel, hybrid, 1.8 turbo all have great fuel economy
- Spacious back seat
- Excellent safety ratings
- Trunk is very large
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- Looks conservative in its class
- Prices escalate quickly
- Nav system is subpar
- Base four-cylinder's a skipper