Since last year’s introduction of the new Jetta, Volkswagen has been touting the fact that it is less expensive than the previous generation. That’s because it has fewer standard features and older technology. Not only does it revert to a twist-beam rear suspension like the car from two generations prior, but the old 2.0-liter four-cylinder from that car reappears, too. Most buyers will opt for the 2.5-liter five-cylinder, which is a far better match for the rather sizable Jetta. The back seat is enormous, and visibility is great. The navigation system, however, isn’t as good as the unit it replaces. VW has dialed back the Jetta’s materials quality, but the interior is still competitive with the best cars in the class. All the decontenting doesn’t apply to the Jetta Sportwagen, which is still based on the previous car, or the performance-minded GLI sedan. Both of those models retain the multilink rear suspension, the sharper steering, and the higher-quality interior that the Jetta’s reputation was built on. Both the sedan and the wagon are available with a frugal, spirited, and quiet diesel engine that can be mated to a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. The diesel returns hybridlike fuel economy. The Jetta looks more expensive than it is, and its build quality is impressive. It doesn’t drive as well as the previous car, but it is still a comfortable cruiser.
Trim levels: 2.0, 2.5, TDI, GLI
Body styles: Sedan, wagon, 5-passenger
Engines: 2.0L I-4, 115 hp, 125 lb-ft
2.0L turbo-diesel, 140 hp, 236 lb-ft
2.0L turbo I-4, 200 hp, 207 lb-ft
2.5L I-5, 170 hp, 177 lb-ft
Transmissions: 5- or 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic, 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
Passenger volume: 94.1 cu ft
Cargo volume: 15.5 cu ft
For 2012, the Jetta regains some credibility in the form of more accurate steering, a more composed suspension, and the same turbocharged 2.0-liter as in the GTI. Unfortunately, those qualities are only available in the new Jetta GLI. Since it shares a host of core parts with the Golf GTI hatchback, it’s no surprise that the GLI is a competent, balanced, and sporty compact.
Standard safety features include ABS; front, side, and side curtain air bags; tire-pressure monitoring; and traction and stability control.
All: 22-30 mpg city/ 32-42 mpg highway
- Smooth ride
- Roomy rear seat
- GLI is fun and spirited
- Anemic base engine
- Cost-cut interior
- Imprecise steering
No longer the German it once was.
- Chevrolet Cruze
- Ford Focus
- Honda Civic
- Subaru Impreza