2011 Volkswagen Jetta SEL

If Volkswagen wants to ransack the interior and strip the European character out of its cars to sell them for a lower price, I’m fine with that; I’ve long thought that Volkswagens were overpriced. What I’m not cool with is Volkswagen building a lesser car and then selling it for the same price. Unfortunately, it looks like that’s exactly what’s happening here.

Case in point: In 2009, Automobile Magazine took delivery of a Four Seasons Jetta TDI Loyal Edition, an entry-level, no-options diesel. Price: $23,090. Order the same car in 2011 -- a Jetta TDI with no options -- and the price comes to $23,765. From the equipment and spec list, you’d guess the two cars are identical: heated, leatherette seats; a sunroof; power windows, locks, and mirrors; and the same powertrain. But sit inside either vehicle, and it’s clear that the 2011 should be a substantially cheaper car. Inside, it’s like the difference between shopping at Wal-Mart and Macy’s. The old Jetta was by no means a luxury car, but it was tasteful and upscale and was typically how you justified the extra cost of a VW. Volkswagen hasn’t quite dropped to the back of the pack in terms of interior finish -- the graining and fit is decent -- but the Jetta has abandoned every claim to having an exceptional cabin, and this black interior is bland and dour. You’ll also notice more wind noise, road noise, and engine noise with this new cost-cut Jetta. Sadly, the pricing proposition isn’t much different with this gas-fueled Jetta SEL, as you can surely find a much nicer car for $23,065.

It’s true that you won’t notice much of a difference in ride suppleness with the new torsion-beam rear suspension and the Jetta soaks up bumps with an impressive indifference. Unfortunately, the driving joy has been sapped by the poorly tuned electric power steering. It’s light, uncommunicative, and slow to respond on-center. It’s a letdown that’s unexpected since Volkswagen did so well with the electric power steering in the Golf and GTI. (And what’s with the dweeby, large-diameter steering wheel?) The one piece of good news I have for Jetta owners is that there is a cure for your heartache. If you miss Volkswagen’s near-luxury feel, go check out a new Hyundai Elantra. If you miss the Jetta’s driving dynamics, take a look at the new Ford Focus.

Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor

doctrsnoop
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!"
dubfun
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.
Daye
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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