Monday, November 1, 2010

Volkswagen Jetta. "lower-priced U.S. model less sophisticated than European car"

Few small cars have the following of the Volkswagen Jetta, VW's best-selling model in the U.S. The name, says VW, refers to the Atlantic jetstream, "combined with the luxury and power of a modern jetliner."

Early models were homely and underpowered, but a successful mid-1990s redesign established the Volkswagen Jetta as the compact sedan of choice for up-and-coming buyers in their 20s. This model's subtly upscale cabin accommodations, fun-to-drive demeanor and VW-cool styling set it apart from mainstream economy cars. The availability of a diesel model called the TDI meant that the Jetta could be very fuel-efficient as well. Later, Volkswagen added a Jetta wagon, which proved popular with young families.

Recently, VW noted that the average Jetta buyer was now in his 30s and likely in need of more room. So the company made the fifth-generation model (2005 to present) considerably larger, transforming it from a compact into a midsize car. In the process, styling cues and handling characteristics were softened, giving the Jetta a more conventional look and feel.

Current Volkswagen Jetta

The current Volkswagen Jetta sedan is available in S, SE, Wolfsburg Edition, TDI, TDI Cup "Street" Edition and SEL trim levels, while the wagon (Sportwagen) comes in S, SE and TDI only. All S and SE models, as well as the SEL sedan, are powered by a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder. A five-speed manual is standard with this engine, while a six-speed automatic is optional. Wolfsburg Edition Jettas get a turbocharged 2.0-liter four good for 200 hp; a six-speed manual transmission is standard here, and VW's "DSG" dual-clutch automated manual transmission is available.

The Jetta TDI features a 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine that utilizes VW's new clean diesel technology, making this car compliant with all 50 states' emissions requirements. Also available with either a six-speed manual or DSG, the diesel produces 140 hp and a healthy 236 pound-feet of torque, and yields up to 41 mpg on the highway.

The Volkswagen Jetta sets itself apart from domestic and Japanese economy sedans by offering a distinctly European interior and feel to the driving experience. Features are also plentiful. Even the base S trim comes with such niceties as stability control, heated seats and eight-way-adjustable heated front seats with power recline, while the SE features upgrades like a sunroof, heated front seats and a 10-speaker stereo. Further luxuries can be had with the SEL trim and through stand-alone options such as a hard-drive-based navigation system. The Wolfsburg Edition is essentially a Jetta SE with the turbocharged engine, while the TDI Cup "Street" Edition adds bigger wheels and brakes, sport seats and the suspension from VW's GTI.

In reviews, our editors have praised the current Jetta for its cabin furnishings, which have a premium feel. We've also found fit and finish to be above average. The ride is smooth and quiet, and adults won't mind riding in the backseat, though it's not as spacious back there as in a mainstream family sedan. Overall, this is a practical, well-appointed car that's well worth considering if you're in need of a sedan for under $25K.
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