Reviews Coming in on New Jetta

August 30th, 2010

The reviewers’ consensus seems to be that the 2011 Jetta is a pretty good bet to take on the competition—that is, Corollas and Civics—and maybe beat ’em. Most like its price, design, quality build, spaciousness, and cabin tech stuff.

They are not so hot on the low-end power plant (though most seem to have driven the one-step-up SEL version), bland styling, cheesy interior materials, and too-light steering. Autoblog questioned whether VW could overcome the durability/reliability perception that has plagued it.

But most who reviewed it feel that for the money (base price for the S is $15,995) the Jetta will be a winner. The SEL goes for $21,395 and adds 17-inch wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, a touchscreen navigation system, etc. It also has 170 hp, instead of 115, and 23 mpg city/33 mpg highway fuel economy.

It appears that VW has done not only a smart but necessary thing in redesigning and reworking this car. The old Jetta, after six renditions, was not only tired-looking, but buyers were getting tired of buying. With VW’s big plans to become the world’s leading automaker, the company clearly has pegged Jetta as its entry to corner the mass market.

What’s it like to drive the new car? Car and Driver’s Tony Quiroga reported:

[T]he 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. …The manual gearbox shifts easily, but it has very tall gearing in the top two gears, necessitating the occasional downshift into third to find any meaningful acceleration. The optional six-speed automatic is eager to shift into the upper gears in the interest of fuel economy, but it downshifts without hesitation.

Some reviewers called this car “an appliance,” which is their prerogative, of course, but all of them found it competent, and most found it better than the Japanese competition. American drivers are not, in the main, looking for performance or great handling. They want a quality car that will serve them for five years or more, ride the bumps and potholes, look “nice” but not “cool,” and safely transport their families in some degree of comfort.

The new Jetta appears to fill that bill quite well. You hot shoes will have to wait for the GLI until early next year, when it arrives with its 200-hp turbo, multilink rear suspension, fancy trim—and 0-60 times of 6.7 seconds.

Do you think VW can be the new quality maven with the 2011 Jetta? Or did they cut too many corners?

—jgoods

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