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#16

in 2011 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $9,675 - $15,860
Original MSRP: $15,365 - $25,295
MPG: 24 City / 34 Hwy
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2011 Volkswagen Jetta Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Despite mechanical changes in service of a reduced price, most reviewers say the 2011 Jetta’s performance hasn’t suffered much. For the 2011 Jetta's reduced price, reviewers say the performance is fair.

To see how the Jetta handles rear-world driving, take a look at our Jetta video.

  • "Although the cost cutting is readily apparent in the simplified mechanicals and interior appointments, the driving experience is nearly identical to that of the outgoing model." -- Car and Driver
  • "Driving feel appeared not to have suffered from the rear-suspension change. In fact, the Jetta testers steered, stopped and cornered with the convincing aplomb of higher-price machines." -- USA Today
  • "We were pleased with the driving experience of the 2011 Jetta. The driving dynamics are solid for a car with a base price of $15,995." -- CNET

Acceleration and Power                    

The new 2011 Jetta offers four engine options, including a direct injection turbodiesel that has outstanding fuel economy. As part of the redesign, Volkswagen reintroduces its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 115 horsepower. This engine is only available in the base S trim. The SE and SEL trims come with a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that carries over from the 2010 model. Manual transmissions are standard, but buyers can choose an automatic.

In addition to the 2.0-liter TDI diesel trim that produces 138 horse power, there’s a 2.0-liter 200-horsepower TSI engine that Volkswagen last released in the 2009 Volkswagen GLI, which is a performance trim. The GLI trim is back for 2011. The TSI engine offers a six-speed DSG automated manual that reviewers really like. The GLI drives smoother than the other trims and has good power. 

According to the EPA, the Jetta gets up to 24/34 mpg city/highway with the gasoline engine and up to 30/42 mpg with the diesel engine. 

Overall, the 2011 Jetta doesn’t perform exactly like the old one, but most reviewers say the car has enough power and pep to satisfy American drivers.

  • "VW didn't have a base car available at the press launch, and we took that to mean the company wasn't particularly proud of having a 17-year-old engine in its new car." -- Car and Driver
  • "We were calling this 115-horsepower mill a boat anchor a decade ago and it hasn't aged well. Its output is well below the base motors of the major Japanese competitors from Honda, Mazda and Toyota. In fact, in terms of output-per-liter, VW's 2.0-liter engine isn't much better than the 4.0-liter V6 with which Ford used to soil the Mustang." -- Edmunds
  • "The German press car's automated manual had to be rowed with the gearshift, as there were no paddle shifters, but that's okay. VW's six-speed DSG feels better than ever, with crisp, super-quick upshifts and throttle-blip downshifts." -- Motor Trend
  • "The test cars drove great. Smooth, nimble, quick, comfortable, assured, refined. Everything you want in a vehicle with sporting pedigree and premium image." -- USA Today

Handling and Braking

Reviewers say that overall, the 2011 Jetta handles and brakes well despite Volkswagen’s economical changes.

What’s changed mechanically? First, VW offers different brakes with different trims. The S and SE trims have disk brakes in the front and drum brakes in the rear. The SEL and TDI trims have disc brakes in the front and rear. Second, Volkswagen has used a semi-independent torsion beam instead of an independent rear suspension, which is only available on the GLI. VW opted for the semi-independent beam because it’s cheaper, but reviewers say the independent rear suspension is the best choice. It improves the Jetta's ride, handling and steering. Third, VW swapped the 2010’s electronic power steering for hydraulic power steering in non-GLI models. Even though VW made this switch because it’s economical, it ended up being a good choice, according to reviewers. This system directs the car easily and provides more feedback than the other system.

Overall, reviewers don’t have big complaints. The new Jetta isn’t as precise on the road and is fitted with cheaper materials, but it still knows how to handle itself.

  • "Even without the sportier suspension, the chassis is tautly damped and responsive to driver inputs. Although the switch from electrically boosted steering to a hydraulic system didn't improve the slightly numb on-center feel, the steering effort of the hydraulic unit builds in a more linear manner in response to cornering loads." -- Car and Driver
  • "We also noted a little play in the steering wheel, not something we expect to find in a European car. It seems that Volkswagen tuned the steering for us American's and our big, wide roads." -- CNET

Next Steps: 2011 Volkswagen Jetta

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