2011 Volkswagen Jetta SEL

This new Jetta has caught a lot of flack from journalists, including our own Jamie Kitman and Jason Cammisa. I can't say that I disagree very much: the Jetta went from being a solid, fun-to-drive choice for savvy enthusiasts to a solid alternative to a Chevrolet Cruze. In other words, the Jetta is now mediocre at best. In what ways? Let’s see: the steering is overboosted and offers little feel; handling is acceptable but uninspiring (thanks in part to the downgraded rear axle); and interior materials feel inferior to those in Volkswagen's own entry-level Golf (which happens to be a class leader in that department), let alone the previous-generation Jetta.

The Jetta's base engine is now an old, normally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder, but I was actually pretty pleased with the performance of the 2.5-liter five-cylinder in our test car. It sounds tough and meaty, and it was paired with a fine-feeling, five-speed manual (where be the six-speed, though?). Exterior styling is anodyne but is starting to grow on me, although I agree that the car’s cabin is fairly grim.

In conclusion, the GLI edition can't come soon enough.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

As a VW enthusiast I find this new direction completely appaling. Maybe it will work out for them but I suspect not. "Come see the new VW's! Not as awful as you think!"
I drove both the MK5 and MK6 Jettas as loaner cars from my VW dealership. Both were equipped with the auto-trans and 2.5l engine and were similarly equipped. While the MK6 seemed quieter, and didn't have the occasional creaks, groans and odd mechanical noises of the MK5, the MK5 seemed to be the better vehicle overall. But, if you have your heart set on purchasing a new Jetta, go with the manual trans. While the automatic set-up on the MK5 seemed to be something a person could live with, the auto on the MK6 was a total joke. The "manual" and sport shift modes were no different performance-wise than if you left it in "D". I would suggest looking at other vehicles in this class before purchasing a Jetta, especially with the auto-trans. Performance is noisy (grainy) and lack-luster. There are better cars out there in this class. It will be interesting to see if the upcoming GLI version will be improved with the interior, DSG and performance bits borrowed from the GTI.
I still think it is funny that VW decided to make the Jetta more "American" at exactly the same time that everyone else decided to make their small cars more like the old Jetta. In styling, creature comforts, fuel economy, and price, the new Elantra crushes the new Jetta.

New Car Research

our instagram

get Automobile Magazine

Subscribe to the magazine and save up to 84% off the newsstand price


new cars

Read Related Articles