2011 Volkswagen Jetta SEL

My colleagues have listed several of the Jetta’s shortcomings, but I find it a fairly pleasant car to drive. The 2.5-liter engine is sufficiently powerful, the handling is acceptable, the fuel efficiency is okay. It’s nothing to write home about, but a decent little car. On the plus side, it is now a little roomier, with more space in the back seat and a pretty good size trunk. The black interior on this test model didn’t show itself at its best, but the layout of the controls is all very clean and clear, and the materials, while not Audi-level, are not bad. I’d definitely avoid the base-level engine, but the 2.5-liter unit in the SEL can also be found in the $18,000 SE, which makes it seem like a much better deal. Styling-wise, the Jetta is pretty anonymous -- VW can talk about its “dynamic and muscular” styling all they want, but really, to me it looks like just another sedan.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing 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.

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