If you get past the fact that the interior materials are not nearly as high quality as they used to be, the Jetta a good little car to drive. It has direct, precise steering with a decent amount of feel. The engine is smooth and powerful. The clutch and brake pedal actions are smooth and linear. The gear shifter is fine, with relatively short throws. The ergonomics of the center stack are completely transparent. The seat heaters are typical German kickass butt-torching devices. The touch screen for the radio is intuitive and works well. The car corners flatly and rides very nicely. There’s plenty to like here. The interior of our test car, black on black with leatherette seats, is somber, even a little grim. The problem for the Jetta is the all-new Hyundai Elantra that I drove the day before: it cost $1000 less than this $23K Jetta, gets 40 mpg rather than 33 mpg on the highway, and was overflowing with luxury equipment and had a much more attractive cabin.
All that said, I heard so much over the past eight months about how Volkswagen de-contented the Jetta compared with previous generations that I had low expectations for the car. The truth is, it drives very well, even if its interior materials are nowhere near as rich in texture and quality as they used to be.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor