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#21

in Affordable Small Cars

MSRP: $15,695 - $30,875
Invoice: $15,067 - $29,641
MPG: 23 City / 29 Hwy
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Volkswagen Jetta Performance

The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta has a veritable smorgasbord of powertrain lineups. Reviewers dislike the base engine and say it’s weak, but they are excited about the addition of a new turbocharged engine on the SE trim, saying it offers ample power and better fuel economy. Higher trims offer a more powerful turbocharged and turbodiesel engines, which both get high marks from reviewers. Test drivers say the diesel is especially notable for its impressive fuel economy ratings. Regardless of the trim, the Jetta impresses reviewers with its refined transmissions, responsive steering and composed ride.

  • "And for many shoppers, the diesel TDI engine continues to be a draw as well. It's perhaps less appealing than it once was -- it's expensive, and the new 1.8-liter gas engine is nearly as efficient -- but it still does provide some of the best fuel economy and cruising range you'll find outside of a dedicated hybrid." -- Edmunds
  • "Though not swift, even base Jettas are comfortable and reasonably composed, while … diesel models offer more competence and driving pleasure." -- Kelley Blue Book (2013)
  • "Clearly the DSG is the faster alternative, but driving enthusiasts will likely choose the manual. Both operate flawlessly with the DSG firing off shifts either in full automatic or from the steering wheel-mounted paddles." -- Motor Trend (2012)

Acceleration and Power

The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta is available with four engines and four transmissions. The base Jetta comes with a 115-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which is paired with a five-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic. A new turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 170 horsepower is available in the SE and SEL trims. TDI trims offer a 140-horsepower, turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel engine, which is paired with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automated manual transmission. The top-of-the-line GLI comes with a 210-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and the same transmission choices as the Jetta TDI. With the base engine and automatic transmission, the Jetta averages an EPA-estimated 23/29 mpg city/highway, which is quite low for the class. Equipped with the new turbocharged 1.8-liter engine, the Jetta gets up to 26/36 mpg, and the diesel-equipped Jetta TDI has excellent fuel economy ratings of 30/42 mpg.

Reviewers have few positive comments about the base Jetta, which they say is underpowered and gets poor gas mileage. However, they are quite pleased with the newly-available turbocharged 1.8-liter engine, saying it offers a winning combination of power and good fuel economy. The turbocharged GLI is especially fun to drive and offers brisk acceleration, reviewers say. Jettas with the manual transmission earn praise for offering a precise shifter, while the automatic transmission available on SE and SEL models impresses test drivers with its quick, refined shifts.  

See the full 2014 Volkswagen Jetta specs »

  • "It's hard to think of a less appealing engine than the Jetta's base 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, but we don't have to dwell on that for 2014 because what's on our mind is the new 1.8-liter turbo. Pairing delightful passing power with excellent fuel economy, the 1.8T is a highly recommended upgrade for Jetta shoppers." -- AutoTrader
  • "When it comes time to pick an engine for the 2014 VW Jetta, the base 2.0-liter should be avoided, as it's seriously underpowered and returns subpar fuel economy. The new 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder is the one to get, as this genuinely engaging mill is blessed with power, refinement and everyday docility. The automatic transmission executes smooth, well-timed shifts, too." -- Edmunds
  • "Nevertheless, the six-speed auto shifts smoothly and has a lever-actuated manual mode, and the five-speed rows through its gears without a hiccup, though clutch action is very light, as typical for the brand. If you can't decide between the two, the manual is more fun to drive and gives better acceleration and slightly better fuel economy by virtue of its 26 mpg city EPA rating, versus 25 mpg for the auto." -- Motor Trend
  • "The GLI's 2.0-liter 4-cylinder suffers some turbo lag at low engine speeds, but it comes alive as soon as boost arrives to provide very satisfying acceleration. As with the 5-speed manual, the GLI's 6-speed has terrific clutch and shifter action." -- Consumer Guide (2013)
  • "The 2013 Jetta's plethora of powertrains translates to a correspondingly wide range of driving experiences, from underwhelming for base models equipped with the entry-level 115-horsepower 4-cylinder engine to invigorating for GLI versions with VW's turbocharged 4-cylinder powerhouse." -- Kelley Blue Book (2013)

Handling and Braking

Test drivers are impressed with the Jetta’s crisp steering and responsive brakes. They also say it delivers a smooth, steady ride and hugs the road. While some reviewers note that cars like the Ford Focus and Mazda3 may be sportier, others write that the Jetta holds its own, especially in the GLI trim, which is particularly agile.

  • "In corners, any Jetta will impress with its responsive steering and solid handling, while the ride is improved for 2014 thanks to the newly standard independent rear suspension." -- AutoTrader
  • "One thing that hasn't changed about the Jetta over the years is its solid, substantial feel on the road. The smooth ride quality is ideal for both rough city streets and long trips on the highway. Around turns, the Volkswagen Jetta is not especially sporty, but it's steady and its steering is precise. Small sedans like the Focus and Mazda 3 are significantly more fun to drive, though." -- Edmunds
  • "We quickly leapt into fast-moving traffic on switchback-laden back roads, where the higher-tech rear suspension increased the sedan's agility while improving its already planted feel." -- Left Lane News
  • "The GLI shines in this area and comes off as a true sports sedan, with responsive moves and little body lean in fast turns. Other Jettas, however, are not particularly sporty, which is disappointing for a Volkswagen. Jetta is more than competent, however. It's composed in fast turns with good steering feel and strong brakes." -- Consumer Guide (2013)
Review Last Updated: 5/14/14

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