SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.—You know that old saying about not judging a book by its cover? Well, it kind of applies to the all-new 2011 Volkswagen Jetta.
The exterior sheet metal gets a complete overhaul, and gone is the almost whimsical wide-mouthed grille in favor of a much more sedate and conservative facade. The lines are long, harsh and lean, and the new Jetta looks more like a BMW than its Audi brethren.
I loved the wheel covers and the taillights. But, to me, everything else seemed like it’s been done before somewhere else. And, according to a comment on my blog: “It’s like a German re-incarnation of the 1993 Corolla.”
Ouch. I’m not sure I’d go that far.
But slip inside, and the exterior becomes less important. The interior is clean and functional, and my absolute favorite was the optional navigation system with large clear 4-color images and (the coolest of the cool) correct speed limits for each road you drive displayed in the upper left hand corner of the screen.
Due to a 2.9 increase in overall length, the 2011 Jetta gains 2.7 inches in the rear legroom department, which gets it “class-leading” status at 38.1 inches. Other dimensional changes are minimal (a half inch or less), but in case you’re interested, front and rear shoulder room get an increase while cargo volume and headroom decrease.
During the first look at the Jetta, I had the opportunity to drive the mid-level SE model ($18,195), in both manual and automatic transmissions, and the TDI ($22,995) with a manual transmission. I loved them all in terms of ride and comfort, but I have to admit the TDI was my all-out favorite in terms of power and performance.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel injection (TDI) engine delivers 140 horsepower and a stellar 236 pound-feet of torque. Even better, EPA estimates city/highway fuel economy at 30/42 mpg, with a combined estimate of 34 mpg. These numbers were pretty spot on during our wending trek, and we averaged 33 mpg during a 4-hour drive period.
Mated to a 6-speed manual transmission, I did a lot of driving in 3rd and 4th gears on city streets and curvy California back-country roads. These gears were perfectly powered for the 30 to 50 mph speeds, and I thoroughly enjoyed the easy shifter. Whether I was pushing it through the corners or passing on the highway, the TDI had exactly the right amount of power exactly when I wanted it.
VW estimates that the TDI will be 25 percent of models sold for 2011.
The SE with the 170-horsepower engine was no slouch either, and I liked both the 5-speed manual and 6-speed automatic. It lacked some of the oomph of the TDI, but it was still well powered and had that great fun-to-drive aura.
The new Jetta will have two additional gasoline engine options: a base 2.0-liter at the S trim level ($15,995) that delivers 115 horsepower and a top-of-the-line 2.0-liter TSI at the SEL trim level ($21,395) that delivers 200 horsepower.
The gasoline version of the Jetta will show up in dealers this October, and the TDI will be available by the end of the year. A GLI model with a 2.0-liter TSI engine that delivers 200 horsepower will be available in early 2011. And for 2012, look for a Jetta Hybrid.
The Jetta takes direct aim at the Honda Civic, and with a base price at $16K, class-leading rear legroom and bevy of included features for a price that’s less than a comparable Civic, it just might be a direct hit.
– Jill Ciminillo
Drive She Said
(Photo Credits: Jill Ciminillo)