2014 Volkswagen Jetta

2.0L FWD 4-Dr Sedan I4 man trans

2.0L FWD 4-Dr Sedan I4 man trans

2014 volkswagen jetta Reviews and News

2014 Mazda 3 And 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Front View In Motion 2
Welcome to Day 5 of the Automobile Magazine Compact Sedan Comparison Review.
When you look at the cars that Americans drive, you see an awful lot of compact sedans. There is always talk about large, snappy sedans, but simple, small sedans deliver the real-world utility that real people need. That’s why the list of the top-ten bestselling cars in the United States includes the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla every year, not the Bentley Flying Spur. Sales of compact sedans are especially strong these days because they are more spacious, more luxuriously trimmed, dramatically safer, and far more fuel-efficient than ever before, even while pricing has hardly increased.
Over the past week, we’ve compared eight of the best compact sedans plying U.S. highways today. We’ve driven all of them at the same time on the same roads, we’ve made our notes and organized our facts, and we’ve argued about the results. And now we’ve sorted them out and separated the best from the rest.
These compact sedans are the Chevrolet Cruze, Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Kia Forte, Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla, and Volkswagen Jetta.
You can read about the mission we set for ourselves on Day 1, then a driving report for each on either Day 2 or Day 3, in which we selected our semi-finalists. The tournament got tougher on Day 4 as we argued about the merits of the four cars that made it that far. And now at last, on Day 5, we present the final match between the 2014 Mazda 3 and the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta.
Today the process involves less driving and a more arguing. It’s not just about which compact sedans excel in this category -- because they all do. Instead, it’s about finding the right car with the right combination of features and driving enjoyment -- the car that meets our personal expectations. After all, this is Automobile Magazine.

Mazda 3 vs. Volkswagen Jetta

8 Compact Sedan   Day Five   Mazda 3 Vs Volkswagen Jetta   Front 1

2014 Mazda 3i Touring

PRICE AS TESTED: $23,235 The Mazda 3 presents a lively, sporting personality that sets it apart from its competition, and this all-new version also now offers a more spacious cabin, a calm, supple ride on the highway, and impressive fuel economy. Just as important, it is available with a range of active safety features that you might expect only from more expensive sedans.

The Building Blocks

Completely redesigned for 2014, the Mazda 3 features conventional technology employed in an unconventional way. A package with lots of high-strength steel has been stretched over a wheelbase of 106.3 inches, and the sedan measures 180.3 inches in overall length, is 70.7 inches wide, and stands 57.3 inches high. The car incorporates an independent rear suspension, an important contributor to a calm and comfortable ride on the highway.
There’s 96.3 cubic feet of passenger volume within, including 42.2 inches of front seat legroom and 35.8 inches of rear-seat legroom. You can pack 12.4 cubic feet of cargo into the trunk, and all trim levels except for the base model feature a 60/40-split folding rear seat to expand cargo capacity.
This front-wheel-drive Mazda 3i is powered by a 2.0-liter inline-four engine that makes 155 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission helps the 2848-pound Mazda 3i Touring get 30 mpg city/41 mpg highway/34 mpg combined.

What We Said

The 2014 Mazda 3 lives up to the “zoom zoom” corporate brand identity in the way it delivers the opportunity for thrills on the long way to lunch across the back roads of Michigan. We had some reservations about the 2.0-liter engine because it has to work harder to deliver its power than the 2.5-liter engine available in higher trim levels of the car. However, the 2.0-liter four is pretty delightful, perhaps because the quick-shifting automatic transmission helped energize it. Plus, its 41 mpg rating is very impressive. Great steering -- a consequence of clever steering geometry to compensate for the relatively uncommunicative electric-assist steering linkage -- is another of the Mazda 3’s positive attributes.
On top of all this, the Mazda 3 delivers a surprisingly comfortable ride. A new, more supple suspension calibration plays a factor here, and the cabin is surprisingly quiet thanks to improved acoustic insulation and a very quiet engine. The Mazda 3 also feels more spacious than its dimensions might suggest. The rear-seat legroom seems unimpressive when you look at it on paper, yet no one complained about it.
When you look the 2014 Mazda 3’s list of convenience features, you realize that compact sedans now can be equipped with the same things as mid-size sedans. The small, dash-mounted display screen with a rotary knob on the center console is a nice feature (even though we complained about the software logic), and the system has the ability to adapt to the evolution of apps, much like the connectivity systems in a few the other cars in this test. We were even more impressed by the range of active-safety features with which this car can be equipped, including blind-spot monitoring, forward obstruction warning with city-speed brake intervention, lane-departure warning, radar-operated cruise control, and even automatic high-beam control.
8 Compact Sedan   Day Five   Mazda 3 Vs Volkswagen Jetta   Front 2

2014 Volkswagen Jetta SE (with connectivity and sunroof)

PRICE AS TESTED: $23,985 Although the entry-level model was emphasized when the current-generation Jetta was introduced as a 2011 model, the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta SE reminds us that the refinement of the mid-size VW Passat sedan can be had in a smaller size at a more affordable price. Moreover, the turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivers excellent power without sacrificing much fuel efficiency.

The Building Blocks

The 2014 Jetta might have been designed to be an affordable American-style car, but it seems very European in the company of these other compact sedans. It sits on a wheelbase of 104.4 inches, and it is 182.2 inches in overall length, 70.0 inches wide, and 57.2 inches high. For 2014, every Jetta model now features independent rear suspension, which improves the ride quality on the highway. Much like all the sedans in this comparison, the Jetta is surprisingly spacious, affording 94.1 cubic feet of passenger volume with 41.2 inches of front legroom and 38.1 inches of rear legroom. The large trunk has 15.5 cubic feet of capacity, and a 60/40-split folding rear seat increases utility.
This front-wheel-drive Jetta SE is powered by a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. With its automatic transmission, the SE achieves 25 mpg city/36 mpg highway/29 mpg combined.

What We Said

We’ve been driving this generation of the Volkswagen Jetta for some time now, so we were surprised that the slightly revised 2014 car seems so much improved. Along with the Chevrolet Cruze and, to some extent, the Dodge Dart, the Jetta delivers a large-car experience. It’s as if this Jetta has captured the spirit of the mid-size Volkswagen Passat in a slightly smaller bottle. It surges along the road effortlessly, whether driving on back roads or the freeway. And the highway ride always proves supple, although the body rolls and pitches slightly because the suspension calibration is soft.
It’s possible that we were seduced by the power of VW’s E888 turbocharged engine, as it delivers 180 lb-ft of torque -- more than enough to keep this 3071-pound car sailing along pretty effortlessly. It kind of sounds like a diesel as it rasps for a second when you accelerate, and it performs a bit like a diesel as well because the smooth but slow-shifting transmission keeps the rpms low to enhance fuel economy. The EPA mileage doesn’t come close to that achieved by other powertrains in this comparison, but we told ourselves that it isn’t much worse, either.
The refinement of the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta SE appeals to us. There is something about the action of the switches on the dash, the poise of the car as it responds to steering inputs, and the unique flexibility of the engine’s power band that strikes us. We also like sitting a little more upright, and the seats themselves are first rate. We might joke about this car’s resemblance to a taxi, but sometimes a mix of comfort and utility is just what you want in a compact sedan.

Winner: 2014 Mazda 3

More car, fewer compromises

Whether we’re driving a $200,000 luxury sedan or a $20,000 compact car, we can’t help but hope to magically find ourselves behind the wheel of a BMW 3 Series. We’re totally in the Goldilocks mode, looking for something that drives sporty but not too much so. It has to be compact but not small. It has to be affordable but not cheap. It’s not only a miracle that the 2014 Mazda 3 delivers the BMW-style personality that we prefer but also a revelation that any compact sedan meets this lofty standard at all.
We’ve always enjoyed the lively personality of the Mazda 3, and apparently a lot of other people do as well, since it is Mazda’s best-selling car. The big surprise comes in the grown-up way that the Mazda 3 now goes about its business. The car feels poised on its supple suspension, and while there’s still some road noise, the cabin is quiet. More important, the seats are comfortable and the there are lots of entertainment and connectivity options. A cabin surrounded with high-strength steel and a package equipped with the latest developments in active safety made us feel safe. In fact, each of the cars in this comparison seemed far more like a mid-size sedan than the crummy compact sedans of the past that we can’t help but remember.

What we’ve learned

Times are still tough these days, and while more people are in the market for a new car, no one wants to spend more than they have to. As a result, a car that has a price tag in the neighborhood of $20,000 has special appeal. Like most of you, we’re accustomed to thinking about the compromises we’ll have to make at this price point. You know, breathless little engines, interior designs seemingly meant for being hosed out on the driveway, and the general style and comfort of a Cozy Coupe from Little Tikes.
The big news here is the way in which all of these cars offer spaciousness and sophistication, along with powertrains that make 40-mpg fuel economy a likely experience. We have simple, practical, everyday cars like the Honda Civic, Kia Forte, and Toyota Corolla that deliver friction-free daily utility. We have comfortable cars like the Chevrolet Cruze, Dodge Dart, and Volkswagen Jetta that deliver quiet composure on the freeway like a large car. And we have spirited cars like the Ford Focus and Mazda 3 that help you enjoy the drive wherever you go.
There was a time when “compact sedan” was just a politically correct way to say “cheap sedan.” Such cars were thought to be only slightly better than something from the rental car counter. Today, the 2014 Mazda 3 proves that modern compact sedans incorporate nearly all the performance and features of mid-size cars, and it makes you wonder if larger sedans are really necessary for most people, especially as sport-utilities take over their role in everyday life.
It’s much harder to build a great car for $20,000 that it is to build a great one for $200,000. The funny thing is, you might actually get a better car for real life when you spend $20,000 instead of $200,000.
8 Compact Sedan   Day Four   4 Car Group Image 1
We’ve reached the fourth day of Automobile Magazine’s 2014 Compact Sedan Comparison, and it hasn’t been easy.
As we explained on Day 1, if you can’t build a great car for $200,000, probably you should just quit trying. It’s actually much harder to build a good $20,000 car with a spacious cabin, everyday comfort and convenience, and thrifty performance without forcing people to turn their wallets inside out to find the last dollar.
These days, the average compact sedan must be as roomy as a Honda Accord from the last decade, deliver an array of features that any high-style Bentley would be happy to offer, and let you sail past the gas pumps besides. We’ve gathered eight of the best compact sedans on the market, and we’re sorting them out by driving all of them at the same time on the same roads. We’ve made our notes, organized our facts, and argued about the results. We hope to find the best compact sedan in America as a result.
On Day 4, we give you some of the arguing, as we present here the notes from the discussion that ensued as we went about choosing the finalists for Day 5.
On Day 2, we started the tournament with these match-ups:
  • Mazda 3 prevailed over the Dodge Dart
  • Kia Forte edged out the Ford Focus
On Day 3, the tournament continued with these results:
  • Volkswagen Jetta moved past the Chevrolet Cruze
  • Honda Civic left behind the Toyota Corolla
As the tournament continues, the competition involves less driving and a lot more arguing, as the comments below indicate. It’s not just about whether these compact sedans excel -- because they all do -- but instead it’s about finding the right combination of virtues that meets our expectations.
As the tournament continues, here are the Final Four match-ups:
  • Kia Forte vs. Mazda 3
  • Honda Civic vs. Volkswagen Jetta
2014 Mazda 3 And 2014 Kia Rio Front Three Quarters View

2014 Kia Forte Vs. 2014 Mazda 3

2014 Kia Forte EX

  • “I want to mention something that is not this car’s ‘forte,’ ” jokes associate editor David Zenlea, “but I can’t think of one off of the top of my head. Maybe this is a good mark for the Kia.”
  • “How about its steering?” responds another editor. “Three modes that adjust steering effort? Basically Kia is admitting that it has no idea what’s best for the buyer.”
  • The Forte, the cheapest car of the bunch, has standard power-folding mirrors, automatic headlights, LED running lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, satellite radio, and a rearview camera. Oh, and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. And it needs all of those things to keep buyers from being scared off by the Korean badge on the hood.
  • Drive the Kia Forte if you eat protein bars for two of your three square meals, wear Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses wherever you go, and listen to one of those EDM songs (or is it just one long song?).
  • “The previous Forte was abysmal to drive, uncomfortable, and felt like it might fall apart at any given moment,” says associate web editor Jake Holmes. “This one, I never noticed the ride, and that’s a really good thing.”
  • The infotainment system is simple to operate and looks modern.
  • You get the feeling that Kia is really trying. Some of the Forte works, some of it doesn’t, but you can see the effort behind it. Note the sliding covers over the USB ports in center console. We’ve seen that only in a small batch of other cars. It’s a sign that the Koreans are minding the details.

2014 Mazda 3i Touring

  • “I’m not sure the Mazda 3 has a better interior than the Kia Forte, but it feels more expensive,” says West Coast editor Michael Jordan. “You’d only expect to see climate control knobs this nice in a $40,000 car.”
  • The styling is striking—the front end’s big, wide, gaping mouth is very dramatic, which is novel for this segment—but the Mazda needs to focus a bit more on better forward and rearward visibility.
  • Associate editor Greg Migliore notes that the Mazda 3 weighs less than 2900 pounds, which is a reminder that Mazda “does it their way.” Deputy editor Joe DeMatio responds, “Can you sing that?”
  • The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is quiet and smooth yet spins up quickly, and what’s best is that it gets more than 40 mpg on the highway.
  • Drive the Mazda 3 if you eat at Chipotle every week, wear shirts from Blipshift, and already listen to all of the bands scheduled for the music festivals this summer.
  • Why is there a touchscreen when there’s also a command knob for the infotainment system on the on the center console? Because the software for the control knob sucks: it’s not possible to perform simple tasks like spinning the knob to change the song selection. We hope Mazda sorts this system faster than BMW did with iDrive.
  • This is a compact car you get into and feel like you’ve been there before. It’s a balanced and sensible package for an enthusiast.

Winner: 2014 Mazda 3i Touring.

The Kia Forte is much improved, but it still can’t beat the formidable Mazda 3. The Mazda 3 moves into the final round.
2014 Honda Civic And 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Front Three Quarters View

2013 Honda Civic vs. 2014 Volkswagen Jetta

2013 Honda Civic

  • Zenlea says, “If a non-car person asked me what to buy, I’d say the Civic. I’d always say the Civic. It would never give them any problems. It’s easy to drive, it’s efficient, and it’s easy to see out of. That’s what most people want.”
  • Holmes chimes in: “Driving the Civic is like having oatmeal every day for breakfast. You’re not really happy you’re having oatmeal every day, but you’re not really upset about it, either.”
  • The split dashboard is still the weakest point of this car. It absolutely needs to change, and we can’t imagine why it hasn’t already.
  • It seems that Honda is using the same cloth for its seats that it used in the early 1990s. “But the seat under that cloth is fantastic,” says DeMatio.
  • Drive the Honda Civic if you eat kale, wear gently used Toms, and listen to that new artist that no one’s heard of yet (and probably never will).
  • If you post a Civic for sale on Craigslist, you will sell it in eight minutes. People will be banging on your front door, cash in hand. Even if it’s based on twenty-year-old logic, it shows that people still perceive the Civic to be king of the compact segment.
  • The Civic shows that once you get it right, stick with it and people will keep coming back.

2014 Volkswagen Jetta

  • “I’m blown away by how good this car is,” says DeMatio.
  • “This turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder is much better than the five-cylinder engine,” adds Zenlea.
  • That said, the Jetta’s lingering reputation for indifferent reliability makes us a bit worried that the new engine is being made in Mexico at an assembly plant that was just a dirt field a year ago.
  • Drive the Volkswagen Jetta if you eat granola, wear jeans that are snug but don’t reveal too much, and listen to NPR (rock is alright sometimes, but never too loud).
  • The Jetta requires a buyer who recognizes that there are decades of German automotive engineering behind the badge. This sounds like a cliché, but the German-engineered refinement of the Jetta puts it in a different class of sophistication than all of the other cars in this comparison.
  • Volkswagen’s leatherette is better than some leather.
  • “For me, this whole exercise comes down to the Volkswagen Jetta and the Mazda 3,” says deputy editor DeMatio.

Winner: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta SE

The Honda Civic doesn’t feel as modern as the Volkswagen Jetta, and the Jetta moves into the final round.
Check back tomorrow for Day 5 of Automobile Magazine’s 2014 Compact Sedan Comparison Review as the 2014 Mazda 3 faces the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta to determine the best compact sedan in America.
8 Compact Sedan   Day Three   4 Car Group Image 1
This is Day 3 of Automobile Magazine’s 2014 Compact Sedan Comparison Review, a comparison test that is meant to help you find an affordable, compact, multipurpose sedan that you’d be happy to drive to work, to the pick-up zone at school, or to the big-box store for a weekend errand.
As we noted in our Day 1 introduction, we put together eight of the best compact sedans and drove them at the same time on the same roads. We made our notes and organized our facts. Then we argued about the results.
The way we see it, these are the best compact sedans in America right now. We’ve tried to ensure that our test vehicles represent a useful level of features – nicely equipped, as they say — yet don’t cost too much. Given the practical realities of acquiring so many test vehicles at the same time, they aren’t all priced exactly the same, but we did our best.
The cars we’re testing are the Chevrolet Cruze, Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Kia Forte, Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla, and Volkswagen Jetta. To make our comparisons as direct as possible, we organized a scheme wherein we matched the vehicles in brackets, just as you would see in an athletic tournament (think March Madness). The losers will be knocked out one by one until the winner presents itself.
As we did yesterday on Day 2 of this comparison, we will present an accounting of four vehicles, and two contenders will be eliminated. Tomorrow, on Day 4, we’ll present excerpts from our test notebook on the final four and will select our two finalists. On Friday, for Day 5, the two finalists will go head to head, and we will declare a winner.
Today’s match-ups:
  • 2014 Chevrolet Cruze vs. 2014 Volkswagen Jetta
  • 2013 Honda Civic vs. 2014 Toyota Corolla

2014 Chevrolet Cruze vs. 2014 Volkswagen Jetta

2014 Volkswagen Jetta And 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Front View

2014 Chevrolet Cruze 1LT

2014 Chevrolet Cruze 1LT Front Three Quarters View
When the Chevrolet Cruze first appeared as a 2009 model, it knocked us out. Compared with the small, coarse sedans that Chevrolet had produced dating back to the Cavalier (and even the Vega of the 1970s before that), this car seemed like a miracle of international breeding, combining the best of a European chassis, a Korean drivetrain, and American styling, not to mention American development and manufacture. But, tough luck, the Ford Focus stole the spotlight.
Nevertheless, the Cruze has turned things around for Chevrolet in the compact sedan segment, and the appearance of the 2014 Cruze diesel shows how serious General Motors is about this small car. We have liked the Cruze in general because it handles so well (really), delivers such good fuel economy (really), and makes so many features available for so little money (really).
Compared with the other sedans in our comparison, the 2014 Cruze 1LT aspires to be a large car, not a small one. It wants to be refined and sophisticated, a Chevy that has been to charm school.

More than you expect

When you put the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze next to the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta, there’s more to it than you might expect. There’s more to the styling, that’s for sure, although we’d argue that Chevy’s corporate twin-grille look makes it seem as if there are about three grilles too many. More surprising is the sheer size of the Cruze. It measures 181.0 inches in overall length on a wheelbase of 105.7 inches and has a total passenger volume is 95 cubic feet. Front-seat passengers get most of the benefit, with 42.3 inches of legroom; rear-seat passengers get 35.4. (Probably this is the right proportion, since kids will be the ones to occupy the back seat most often.)
The interior presentation is pretty stylish in terms of architecture, but the execution depends on the model that you pick. This particular test car didn’t make us feel particularly charmed, and we picked it apart as a result. The short bottom cushions of the front seats made us feel as if we were in a small car, not a large one. The array of electronic features and connectivity options was pretty good, but most of us couldn’t get along with the Chevrolet MyLink interface, as the lack of haptic feedback made the system feel unresponsive and clumsy, no matter how quickly the electrons raced around.

Less than the big car we were promised

As compact sedans go, the Cruze actually feels sporty rather than big, and its lively responses and balance in the corners set it apart from most of the competition. If you set the Focus as a standard, the Cruze’s suspension calibration helps it feel better isolated from cracked pavement even as it delivers a reassuring balance of grip from the front and rear tires in the corners.
For all this, however, we didn’t get the big car benefits that we hoped for from this $23,540 Cruze 1LT. We could hear the road too well even through the flaccid tires, and the ride never delivered the gracefulness that we to find in any car, large or small. The 138-hp, turbocharged 1.4-liter engine felt coarse at anything other than cruising speed, perhaps because the slow-shifting, six-speed automatic transmission seemed to conspire against performance. The powertrain seems meant for freeway cruising, where the engine’s 148 lb-ft of torque proves adequate. This powertrain is EPA rated at 26 mpg city/38 mpg highway.
The 2014 Chevrolet Cruze didn’t make any enemies during our drive to Kalamazoo and home again, but neither did it make any friends.
–Michael Jordan

2014 Volkswagen Jetta SE

2014 Volkswagen Jetta SE Rear Three Quarters View
When the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta came ashore from Germany, it promised both more and less. Its stretched exterior dimensions promised more interior passenger space than the Jetta of the previous generation, and a stripped-down complement of features and trim (plus the promise of U.S.-based manufacture in Tennessee), meant a lower price. Sadly, we felt that lowering the bottom line resulted in less car, as the Jetta no longer drove with the European spirit that had formerly made it stand out from its competitors.
But three years along, the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta seems like a different proposition. The new 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder makes this car feel far more powerful than you might expect from 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. It is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and delivers an EPA-rated 25 mpg city/36 mpg highway. (Oddly enough, this is better fuel economy than you can get from the 115-hp, normally aspirated, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.)

Ach, it looks so German

Compared with some of the smaller, snappy-looking sedans in our test group, the 2014 Jetta comes across as big and square-rigged, more like the mid-size VW Passat than an affordable compact sedan. When the bodywork is stripped of its adornment, this is not such a good thing, as the Jetta looks like something that you might find at a taxi stand in Frankfurt. Fortunately, Volkswagen of America has backed off some of visual austerity (or maybe we’re just getting used to it) in this $23,985 Volkswagen Jetta SE (with connectivity and sunroof).
On the other hand, there are some advantages to looking like a taxi, because the VW Jetta feels very spacious when you’re behind the wheel. Partly this is because the passengers are packaged fairly upright, as the car’s overall height of 57.2 inches suggests. Partly this is because rear-seat passengers have 38.1 inches of legroom. And partly this is because the car is pretty big, offering 94.1 cubic feet of interior passenger volume.
But then when you look at the largely unadorned dashboard, you’re right back there in taxi-land. That said, VW has made some strides in its array of features for electronic connectivity, and indeed the connector for the MDI cable has at long last made its way from the glovebox to the center console.

And it drives German, too

Now that the former five-cylinder engine has been replaced by the turbocharged four-cylinder, the drivetrain feels smoother than before, and the Jetta cruises effortlessly on the highway. Strangely, the engine feels like a diesel, because the six-speed automatic has been programmed to shift smoothly (although slowly) to ride the wave of torque at low rpm. It even sounds a bit like a diesel, thanks to a resonator box behind the dash that enhances engine sounds from this otherwise very quiet car.
The Jetta rides and handles like a big car. A wheelbase of 104.4 inches delivers reassuring straightline stability, and the long-travel suspension smoothly strokes up and down over the bumps in the road. There’s plenty of body roll in the corners, yet there’s never a loss in composure. Oddly enough, the multi-link independent suspension helps the car respond to steering inputs with more liveliness, and you don’t mind the new electric-assist steering system at all.
When it comes to compact sedans, there are small, sporty ones and big, comfortable ones, even though this is frequently a matter of tuning rather than simply the car’s physical dimensions. The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta is a big, comfortable one, and we prefer the way it goes about its business compared with the Chevrolet Cruze LT1, which has similar aspirations.
– Michael Jordan

Winner: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta

2013 Honda Civic vs. 2014 Toyota Corolla

2014 Honda Civic And 2014 Toyota Corolla Front View

2013 Honda Civic EX

2014 Honda Civic EX Front Three Quarters View
Everyone knows about the Honda Civic. When you’re behind the wheel, the view seems familiar, since Honda has carefully formatted the driving position to make the car as easy and natural to drive as possible. You know that you’ll get where you’re going with great fuel economy along the way. This is what makes the Civic the segment’s bestselling car year after year, including 2013. Recommend a Civic to someone and there’s never a question about it; they just give you a thumbs-up and set off for the nearest Honda dealer.
Such trustworthiness has its downside, though. When Honda tries to change the Civic, people resist. After the introduction of the current-generation Civic for 2012, a kind of scandal brewed when Honda enthusiasts worried that the car’s presentation had been compromised in the name of a cheaper price. Honda responded quickly, and the 2013 Civic sedan incorporated not only nicer interior trim but also acoustically insulated glass for the windshield and front windows, higher quality dampers, and a chassis reinforced to withstand new federal standards for crashworthiness. Enthusiasts were satisfied.

Déjà vu all over again

For better or worse, climbing into the Civic is like traveling back in time. Honda’s design maxim has long been “Man Maximum, Machine Minimum.” So it’s no surprise that the Civic sedan feels roomier than any other car in this comparison, even though its interior passenger volume of 94.6 cubic feet is much the same as its rivals. It’s remarkably easy to see the road from the driver’s seat, which is quite an accomplishment in an era of demanding crash standards that create thick roof pillars and thick doors. Thanks to a perfectly flat floor, even an adult who forgets to call shotgun and is exiled to the back seat can ride in relative comfort.
All this good design comes with hardly a lick of style, though. Even after the 2013 interior makeover, the plastic surfaces still look a lot like, well, plastic. The driver’s seat is one of the most comfortable in the test but wears cheap-looking fabric that, according to one of us “screams 1993.” Most important, the era of the Apple iPhone seems to have passed by the Civic, whose digital instrument panel appears to have been inspired by an Atari video-game console of the 1980s. None of us could get comfortable with the two-tier display, which always seems to obscure the speedometer readout behind the rim of the steering wheel, no matter how tall or short you might be.

Transcendental meditation at 65 mph

The Civic remains one of the easiest cars to drive in the compact class, but it has lost much of the zippiness that import tuners loved in the 1980s and ’90s. The 143-hp 1.8-liter four-cylinder sings smoothly at any rpm. The 2013 Civic we drove still had a five-speed automatic, but it doesn’t matter—the Civic cruises quietly on the highway and achieves 32 mpg, combined. (The 2014 Civic now uses a CVT, which improves to 33 mpg combined).
The steering is sharp and quick for effortless around-town maneuvering, but it doesn’t offer much feedback. The ride from the Civic with its 105.1-inch wheelbase is surprisingly supple for a Honda, yet this isn’t a lively car -- we sometimes found ourselves zoning out behind the wheel. Still, we’re mature enough to realize most of the people who buy compact cars are not enthusiasts. The $21,605 Honda Civic EX is perfect for most of them, as it has been for decades. As West Coast editor Michael Jordan says, “This car still expresses all the Honda values – simplicity, reliability, fuel economy.” He’s so old that he remembers when the Civic was invented, so probably he should know.
– David Zenlea
2014 Toyota Corolla S Plus Rear Three Quarters View

2014 Toyota Corolla S Plus

Akio Toyoda, the CEO of Toyota Motor Company, has talked a lot about making mainstream cars more exciting and youthful. Sounds great to us, since we’re the crowd that believes in “No Boring Cars.”
The 2014 Corolla promises newness, including a new look inside and out, a roomier passenger package, a more fuel-efficient powertrain, and a livelier personality with some fizz. At the same time, the Corolla is also a car with traditional values – QDR, or quality, durability and reliability. This is the eleventh generation of this nameplate, and it celebrates more than 40 million Corollas sold since 1966. Some 1.1 million versions of the Corolla are built around the world every year, including in a new U.S. assembly plant in Tupelo, Mississippi.
Altogether, this business of making compact sedans reminds us of the cola wars; the repackaging of a familiar formula for a new generation. But whereas Honda has distilled the Civic to its essence, like Coca-Cola in a classic glass bottle, the 2014 Toyota Corolla tastes a bit like a can of New Coke.

Déjà vu all over again, but not in a good way

The first word that comes to mind in describing the new 2014 Corolla is “confused.” The exterior design has lots of overdone details, but the basics are bland. Meanwhile, the interior design architecture is a mess of randomly intersecting, cheap-looking plastics. “The door panels have, like, fifty different lines,” observed associate web editor Jake Holmes.
Still, there are some nice elements in the interior, notably in Corolla models with the more expensive trim, such as our test car. One of us raved about the flat, horizontal instrument panel, and a few editors liked the yellow stitching on the seats. Nevertheless, these elements don’t coalesce into an attractive whole, and the Corolla looks conspicuously old, not new. “How did all this get past the final design committee?” wondered deputy editor Joe DeMatio.

Really, they meant well

Fortunately, somewhere under all of this is a pretty good small car, now with a wheelbase stretched to 106.3 inches to afford an impressive 97.5 cubic feet of passenger volume, including 41.4 inches of rear-seat legroom. The backseat is roomy and easy to climb into. Slim A-pillars provide excellent forward visibility.
The engineers probably intended excitement. The CVT has been electronically calibrated to do a good impression of a seven-speed automatic, and this Corolla S Plus even has shift paddles on the steering wheel. But there’s only so much the transmission can do with the 1.8-liter four-cylinder’s anemic 132 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque. As the noisy protests from the CVT make clear every time you get serious about acceleration, the mission here is fuel efficiency, not fizz. At least the Corolla S Plus delivers efficiency with 29 mpg city/39 mpg highway.
Entry-level versions of the Corolla don’t aspire to much, but this $22,870 Corolla S Plus adds rear disc brakes and 17-inch wheels, so it’s trying. Sadly, the combination of a torsion-beam rear suspension and 45-series tires noticeably compromises comfort, the suspension calibration feels floppy, and the electric-assist steering requires lots of attention to keep the car from wandering. Asking the engine to work hard just seems wrong, even with just 2865 pounds to pull. “I don't get the sense that I'm in control of the car,” said Jake Holmes. “It’s all over the road,” added road test editor Christopher Nelson.
Time has caught up with the Toyota Corolla. The others cars in this comparison are no longer pushovers that can offer only tasteless generic-brand flavor. These days, everyone has got fizz. The Toyota Corolla takes a half-hearted stab at repackaging its familiar formula and fails to deliver.
—David Zenlea

Winner: 2013 Honda Civic

2014 Honda Civic And 2014 Toyota Corolla Front View
2014 Automobile Magazine Compact Sedan Comparison   Day One   8 Car Group Image 1
If you can’t build a good car for $200,000, probably you should just quit trying. It’s actually much harder to build a great $20,000 car, one with a spacious cabin, everyday comfort and convenience, plus thrifty performance, all without forcing people to turn their wallets inside out to find the last dollar. Really, it’s much easier to build a Bentley than a simple compact sedan.
These days, the average compact sedan must be as roomy as a Honda Accord from the last decade, deliver an array of features that any high-style Bentley would be happy to offer, and let you sail past the gas pumps. You can get a stripped-down compact sedan with a washable interior and funky steel wheels if you want, but you can also slide into a compact sedan equipped with voice-activated features, an array of active safety measures, and a chassis agile enough to make the drive to the store feel like a trip to France.
In fact, compact sedans are getting so uniformly good that it’s harder than ever to pick out the best. Nevertheless, Automobile Magazine’s comparison review of the best compact sedans in America will lead you to the final answer. Although some blood was spilled in the process, we have begun our compact sedan comparison by selecting eight cars that are making news in the marketplace right now: Chevrolet Cruze, Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Kia Forte, Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla, and Volkswagen Jetta.
Over the next five days, we’ll compare and contrast these cars in our own, unique bracket-style format and then present the winner.

Compact sedans, Automobile Magazine-style

Our comparison begins with a broad selection of compact sedans, which we define as five-passenger, four-door vehicles priced within hailing distance of $20,000. Such cars are meant to be driven to work, pick up kids from school, run errands, and occasionally make cross-country trips on the open road. They are multipurpose vehicles in a convenient size and are affordably priced. For some households, it is a second vehicle, but for many it is the only car at the curb.
These eight finalists represent the best aspects of the category, whether that means packaging efficiency, simple drivability, or electronic connectivity. By choosing one winner, we hope not only to define the current state of the compact sedan in America but also the character that people who read Automobile Magazine want in a practical, everyday compact car.
Just as you’d expect, we’ve picked models with thrifty engines, a useful array of convenience and safety features, and a spark of personality.

Compact sedans, bracket-style

We can’t pretend to be the average buyer, because, well, that would be impossible. Just like you, we are who we are. If you want complete objectivity unconfused by education, enthusiasm, experience, and just plain good taste, well, good luck to you.
We’ve again based our comparisons on bracket-style, head-to-head matchups, just as we did with our comparison of mid-size sedans. We’re not going to dumb down the process into some kind of SAT test, where like geeks we carefully add up the points scored in a thousand little categories of performance. When you do that, you reward broad-based mediocrity, not excellence. And at Automobile Magazine, we’re all about excellence.
We think the question of choice is personal and powerful, and a one-to-one confrontation between vehicles reveals character in a way that giant test groups do not.

Driving around pointlessly

Every car usually has a place to go, but when it comes to compact sedans, the destinations vary from the big old superstore to the nearest freeway on-ramp. So we didn’t overthink our route selection and simply headed to Kalamazoo, Michigan, from our editorial office in Ann Arbor. We took the back way there, running through fallow cornfields on the two-lane roads of America and then hammered home on the concrete slabs of Interstate 94.
As we’ve done in the past, we made our lunch stop at one of the local brew pubs for which Kalamazoo is known these days, and once again we picked Bell’s Brewery Eccentric Café. Naturally, no actual brew for us (rats!), but we did enjoy a selection of the usual organic stuff that you find in a college town, much of which involved bread, cheese, and potatoes. Ah, well, Kalamazoo is not exactly the Paris of western Michigan.

The map of the road ahead

Just like any road trip, it will take a while before this comparison test reaches its destination.
We begin the trip today by selecting the vehicles for our comparison: Chevrolet Cruze, Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Kia Forte, Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla, and Volkswagen Jetta.
For Day 2 and Day 3 of Automobile Magazine’s compact sedan comparison, there will be head-to-head matchups, with four vehicles involved each day. On Day 4, we’ll sum up some of what we’ve learned in our testing with excerpts from our big book of notes. On Day 5, we’ll stage the final head-to-head comparison and determine the winner.
If you want to compare our winner to a $205,825 Bentley Flying Spur, well, that’s up to you.
2014 Volkswagen Jetta Front Three Quarters
The current generation of the Volkswagen Jetta has undergone numerous tweaks and upgrades since its debut in 2010, and an updated 2015 Volkswagen Jetta sedan will be arriving at the 2014 New York auto show in April according to a report from Automotive News. New Volkswagen CEO Michael Horn told AN that this revised Jetta will be the start of a product expansion for the brand that will attempt to regain the company’s momentum that helped it double its U.S. sales between 2009 and 2012.

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2014 Volkswagen Jetta
2014 Volkswagen Jetta
2.0L FWD 4-Dr Sedan I4
24 MPG City | 34 MPG Hwy
Top Ranking Vehicles - MPG
2014 Dodge Dart
Aero FWD 4-Dr Sedan I4
28 MPG City | 41 MPG Hwy
2014 Volkswagen Jetta
2014 Volkswagen Jetta
2.0L FWD 4-Dr Sedan I4
Top Ranking Vehicles - Price
2014 Volkswagen Jetta
2014 Volkswagen Jetta
2.0L FWD 4-Dr Sedan I4
Top Ranking Vehicles - Horsepower

2014 Volkswagen Jetta Specifications

Quick Glance:
2.0L I4Engine
Fuel economy City:
24 MPG
Fuel economy Highway:
34 MPG
115 hp @ 5200rpm
125 ft lb of torque @ 4000rpm
  • Air Conditioning (optional)
  • Power Windows
  • Power Locks
  • Power Seats (optional)
  • Steering Wheel Tilt
  • Cruise Control (optional)
  • Sunroof (optional)
  • ABS
  • Stabilizer Front
  • Stabilizer RearABS
  • Electronic Traction Control
  • Electronic Stability Control
  • Locking Differential (optional)
  • Limited Slip Differential (optional)
  • Airbag Driver
  • Airbag Passenger
  • Airbag Side Front
  • Airbag Side Rear (optional)
  • CD Player (optional)
  • CD Changer (optional)
  • DVD (optional)
  • Navigation (optional)
36,000 miles / 36 months
60,000 miles / 60 months
Unlimited miles / 144 months
36,000 miles / 36 months
24,000 miles / 24 months
Recall Date
Volkswagen of America, Inc. (Volkswagen) is recalling certain model year 2014 Jetta, Beetle, Beetle Convertible, and Passat vehicles equipped with a 1.8T engine and torque converter automatic transmission. In the affected vehicles, the O-ring seals between the oil cooler and the transmission may leak fluid.
The leaking transmission fluid could contact a hot surface and result in a vehicle fire.
Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will replace the O-ring seals in the transmission oil cooler, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin on April 16, 2014. Owners may contact Volkswagen at 1-800-822-8987. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 38B9/9V.
Potential Units Affected
Volkswagen of America, Inc.

Recall Date
Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (Volkswagen) is recalling certain model year 2010-2014 Volkswagen CC, and Passat, 2010-2013 Eos, 2011-2014 Golf, GTI, Jetta, and Tiguan, and 2012-2014 Jetta Sportwagen vehicles. In the affected vehicles, debris may contaminate the air bag clock spring, a spiral wound, flat cable that keeps the air bag powered while the steering wheel is being turned. This contamination may tear the cable and result in a loss of electrical connection to the driver's frontal air bag.
A loss of electrical connection to the driver's frontal air bag will prevent the air bag from deploying in the event of a vehicle crash, increasing the risk of injury.
Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will install a protective cover over the steering wheel clock spring if the air bag light is off. If the airbag light is on and the steering wheel clock spring requires replacement, dealers will install a new steering wheel clock spring. These repairs will be performed free of charge. Interim notices were mailed to owners on September 25, 2015. Owners will receive a second notice when parts become available in early 2016. Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-822-8987.
Potential Units Affected
Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.

Recall Date
Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (Volkswagen) is recalling certain model year 2014-2015 Jetta vehicles manufactured March 28, 2014, to November 24, 2014, 2014-2015 Passat vehicles manufactured April 7, 2014, to November 18, 2014, 2015 Golf and GTI vehicles manufactured July 1, 2014, to November 20, 2014, and 2014-2015 Beetle and Beetle Convertible vehicles manufactured March 31, 2014, to November 27, 2014. A sealing cap at the fuel rail may fail, allowing fuel to leak into the engine compartment.
A fuel leak, in the presence of an ignition source, can result in a vehicle fire.
Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will replace the fuel rails with new parts, free of charge. The recall began February 6, 2015. Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-822-8987. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 24BL. Note: This recall expands and supersedes recall 14V-809 (Volkswagen recall number 24Bi) and only affects vehicles not previously repaired under that campaign.
Potential Units Affected
Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.

IIHS Front Small Overlap
NHTSA Rating Front Driver
NHTSA Rating Front Passenger
NHTSA Rating Front Side
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Rear Side
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Overall
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Rollover
IIHS Front Moderate Overlap
IIHS Overall Side Crash
IIHS Rear Crash
IIHS Roof Strength

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5-Year Total Cost to Own For The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta

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Five Year Cost of Ownership: $23,632 What's This?
Value Rating: Above Average