As fuel-efficiency rules start to get tighter, Volkswagen has expanded the Jetta's array of engine offerings (five) and transmission options (four) to a range that's unmatched by any other compact sedan. The 2013 Volkswagen Jetta delivers EPA ratings ranging from 25 mpg combined for the TK to a projected 45 mpg combined for the new Jetta Hybrid model.
Of the three gasoline engines, the most economical is the base 2.0-liter four with the five-speed manual transmission, at 28 mpg combined (24 mpg city, 34 mpg highway). That's not particularly laudable; even mid-size sedans like the Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Camry earn highway ratings of about 35 mpg. The least-efficient Jetta in the lineup, actually is the base Jetta S with the six-speed automatic--at 25 mpg (23 mpg city, 29 mpg highway). None of these numbers is particularly competitive with other gasoline-engined compacts, but that's what the diesel and hybrid models are for.
The Jetta TDI diesel models are in a class of their own, at a combined rating of 34 mpg (30 mpg city, 42 mpg highway) with either the six-speed manual or the DSG automatic gearbox. Moreover, Jetta TDI owners almost uniformly report that in real-world use, they exceed the EPA ratings for their diesel cars, so fuel efficiency into the high 30s may be obtainable--especially on long-distance high-speed road trips, where diesels excel.
Then there's the new-for-2013 Jetta Hybrid, which combines the traditional Jetta virtues of sharp handling and comfortable interior with a new hybrid powertrain based around a small 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine paired to an electric motor and the DSG transmission. Volkswagen projects that its EPA combined gas mileage will come in around 45 mpg--a breathtaking number that's only 10 percent lower than that of the ur-hybrid Toyota Prius, which is considerably less fun to drive. We'll wait for the EPA to render its verdict, but our early testing indicates that the Jetta Hybrid can return 40 mpg and more in real-world mixed use.
With the expanded Jetta range, VW has good reason to be optimistic on the fuel efficiency front. Its research indicates that hybrid buyers and diesel buyers are two different animals, and one simply won't consider the other powertrain despite its proven efficiency. Volkswagen says it expects the Jetta Hybrid to bring in new buyers who wouldn't previously have looked at the Jetta, while hanging onto its existing and very loyal TDI diesel buyers. It's the first maker to offer both diesel and hybrid options in a high-volume compact car, and the results should be fascinating to watch.