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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Quick Drive: 2017 Volkswagen Jetta SE

    There are some good points to the Jetta, but they are overshadowed by a number of other issues.

    The Volkswagen Jetta is an outlier in the compact class. Whereas other automakers have been stepping up with sharper designs, more tech, and improved driving dynamics, Volkswagen went in a completely different direction by offering the biggest amount of interior space for not that much money. But to accomplish this, Volkswagen made a number of sacrifices in terms of design, materials, and mechanical bits. This put the Jetta way behind the pack of the fresh competition. 

    But Volkswagen has been working to try and right some of the wrongs of the Jetta. A couple of years ago, Volkswagen updated the model with a new front end, new dashboard, and a turbocharged 1.4L four-cylinder to take place of the decrepit 2.0L. It salvages the Jetta’s reputation somewhat.

    • The current Jetta is slightly better in terms of looks. A new front end with a larger grille and headlights with LED daytime running lights help make the model look more interesting to look at. Sadly, the rest of vehicle is as nondescript as before with nothing that jumps out at you. If you were to ask a small kid to draw a car, it would most likely look like the Jetta.
    • If you ever wanted a master class of in how not to do an interior, the Jetta is a perfect candidate. Whereas most compact sedans show marked improvements in design and materials, the Jetta is like stepping back a decade or so. Our mid-level SE came with a large amount of cheap and hard plastics that you don’t see most compacts now - aside from the base models. The mostly black interior makes for a dreary experience.
    • On the upside, Volkswagen has improved the dash by taking some ideas from the Golf. A new instrument cluster and revised center stack layout helps make the Jetta not feel as cheap as the previous model. It also makes for an easier time to find various controls and reading things at a quick glance.
    • All Jettas get Volkswagen’s Car-Net infotainment system. The base S makes do with a 5-inch touchscreen, while the SE and higher trims use a 6.3-inch screen. Car-Net is one of the best infotainment systems on sale today thanks to a sharp interface, simple layout of the various functions, and the ability to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
    • Space is the Jetta’s key selling point. The back seat alone dwarfs most compacts and even gives some midsize sedans a run for their money. Sitting back here, I could stretch out with no issue. The trunk is also huge, offering up 15.7 cubic feet.
    • I do wish the front seats were a bit more comfortable. Most of the week found me constantly adjusting the seat to try and find a position that wouldn’t cause me to ache after a drive.
    • The SE comes with a turbocharged 1.4L four-cylinder offering 150 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Our test vehicle came with the standard five-speed manual, but a six-speed automatic is available. 
    • On paper, the 1.4T should be a strong engine as it offers the same torque figure as the larger 1.8T at a lower rpm (1,400 rpm vs. 1,500 rpm). In the real world, this doesn’t happen. You’ll need to get the engine above 2,000 rpm to wake it up. At first, I thought we were dealing with a bad case of turbo lag. But further investigation revealed the five-speed manual is at fault. Volkswagen used taller gearing to make up for a missing sixth gear and improve fuel economy. I can’t help but wonder if the six-speed automatic alleviates this issue.
    • Once you figure this out, the 1.4T is a surprising performer. Speed comes on at a rapid rate once your above 2,000 rpm. The engine is also very smooth and makes a pleasant noise when accelerating.
    • The manual is somewhat difficult to work as the gear linkage feels somewhat stiff when moving through the gears. The clutch is light and it’s easy to find the take-off point.
    • EPA fuel economy figures for the 1.4T manual stand at 28 City/40 Highway/33 Combined. I saw an average of 35 mpg that was a mix of 70 percent city driving and 30 percent highway driving. The automatic sees a slight drop in fuel economy to 28/38/32.
    • One item we’re glad to see the lesser Jetta models get is a multilink rear suspension - replacing the rear beam axle of previous models. This makes a huge difference in ride and handling. On rough roads, the Jetta provides a compliant and comfortable ride. Handling is almost similar to the Golf Wolfsburg I drove earlier in the year - little body roll and excellent steering response.
    • The SE seen here came with an as-tested price of $21,795 with destination. That includes 16-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, blind spot monitoring, keyless entry, push-button start, cruise control, and a power sunroof.
    • The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta is much better than the model that was launched only five years ago. But that isn’t saying a lot considering how much the compact class has moved up in this time frame. Price may be the Jetta’s ultimate strength as it offers a lot of features for the money with the 1.4T engine and interior space running slightly behind. Everywhere else, the Jetta is outmatched.

    Disclaimer: Volkswagen Provided the Jetta, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2017
    Make: Volkswagen
    Model: Jetta
    Trim: SE
    Engine: Turbocharged 1.4L 16V TSI Four-Cylinder 
    Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, Front-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 150 @ 5,000 
    Torque @ RPM: 184 @ 1,400
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/40/33
    Curb Weight: 2,939 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Puebla, Mexico
    Base Price: $20,895
    As Tested Price: $21,715 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge)

    Options: N/A


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    So the lead in says, "Great engine and infotainment. Everything else is a bit meh."

    But then you go on to talk about how much room it has- which is best in segment, btw. You talk about the crisp handling and sharp steering, that even on this aging platform gives the front runners of this class a run for the money. You mention the excellent fuel economy. You mention the top-rate ergonomics and intuitiveness that VW interiors are known for. 

    Sounds a bit contradictory to me. Also, although the materials themselves aren't exactly paragons of luxury, the fit and finish is of a high level. The car is on the tail end of a long life cycle, and one that was created wholly on account of American car buyers' tastes. It's no coincidence that it's the best-selling Jetta generation by a large margin. That said, the next car is right around the corner and being on MQB, to rectify this car's biggest problems and align it more closely with VW's larger philosophy and be a better blend of mainstream and Euro feel and character.

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    14 minutes ago, Frisky Dingo said:

    So the lead in says, "Great engine and infotainment. Everything else is a bit meh."

    But then you go on to talk about how much room it has- which is best in segment, btw. You talk about the crisp handling and sharp steering, that even on this aging platform gives the front runners of this class a run for the money. You mention the excellent fuel economy. You mention the top-rate ergonomics and intuitiveness that VW interiors are known for. 

    Sounds a bit contradictory to me. Also, although the materials themselves aren't exactly paragons of luxury, the fit and finish is of a high level. The car is on the tail end of a long life cycle, and one that was created wholly on account of American car buyers' tastes. It's no coincidence that it's the best-selling Jetta generation by a large margin. That said, the next car is right around the corner and being on MQB, to rectify this car's biggest problems and align it more closely with VW's larger philosophy and be a better blend of mainstream and Euro feel and character.

    Ok, I made a slight alteration to the teaser here. I could have worded it better.

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    five speed manual? lol cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaap

    a corolla CE comes with a six speed, as does a honda civic DX, both of which are less expensive and overall better vehicles. 

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    Over all, unless you are a die hard VW fan, this is a big pass.  Just a blah of an update of a very old dinosaur. 

    Meh :glare:

    4 minutes ago, Cubical-aka-Moltar said:

    A 5-spd manual?  In 2017?  Does it also come with a cassette deck?  Trying to party like it's 1985?  

    Sure and the optional upgrade is a very cool 8 track! :P 

    • Haha 1

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    1 hour ago, FAPTurbo said:

    five speed manual? lol cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaap

    a corolla CE comes with a six speed, as does a honda civic DX, both of which are less expensive and overall better vehicles. 

     

    I'll give you the Civic, but the Jetta dumps on the Corolla. There is literally nothing outside of statistic reliability the Corolla can hold over the Jetta's head.

    20 minutes ago, dfelt said:

    Over all, unless you are a die hard VW fan, this is a big pass.  Just a blah of an update of a very old dinosaur. 

    Meh :glare:

    Sure and the optional upgrade is a very cool 8 track! :P 

    Yet still a more entertaining drive, better value quotient, as quick and fuel efficient as the leaders, and more space than any other in the segment. What does say about the other cars?

    Not to mention you probably haven't ever even driven one of these.

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    14 minutes ago, Frisky Dingo said:

     

    I'll give you the Civic, but the Jetta dumps on the Corolla. There is literally nothing outside of statistic reliability the Corolla can hold over the Jetta's head.

    Yet still a more entertaining drive, better value quotient, as quick and fuel efficient as the leaders, and more space than any other in the segment. What does say about the other cars?

    Not to mention you probably haven't ever even driven one of these.

    Your right I have not driven one yet, neighbor has one and I have ridden in them. Not bad for a commuter car, but still blah. Would not want to be in it for a long drive. Very uninspiring. Cheap and some people love it. Meh for me.

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    2 hours ago, dfelt said:

    Your right I have not driven one yet, neighbor has one and I have ridden in them. Not bad for a commuter car, but still blah. Would not want to be in it for a long drive. Very uninspiring. Cheap and some people love it. Meh for me.

     

    I would argue long drives are one of the Jetta's strong suits. Lots of room, great mileage, good passing power, comfortable and smooth ride. But hey, what do I know?

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    1 hour ago, Frisky Dingo said:

    I would argue long drives are one of the Jetta's strong suits. Lots of room, great mileage, good passing power, comfortable and smooth ride. But hey, what do I know?

    Ya know lots and as one that drives one I can respect your thoughts on it. As mostly everyone knows, I am a big person so I drive full size SUV's, so I am a bit colored by the room of an SUV compared to a car when I ride with someone else. Course I also like a high seating position again compared to a car. Appreciate your thoughts on this. :) 

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    On 8/11/2017 at 10:43 AM, Frisky Dingo said:

     

    I'll give you the Civic, but the Jetta dumps on the Corolla. There is literally nothing outside of statistic reliability the Corolla can hold over the Jetta's head.

    Yet still a more entertaining drive, better value quotient, as quick and fuel efficient as the leaders, and more space than any other in the segment. What does say about the other cars?

    Not to mention you probably haven't ever even driven one of these.

    In that market, reliability is all most folks need which why they choose Corollas over Jettas. 

     

    For the record, I drove my buddies 2014 Jetta recently and it was "meh" to me but in fairness, I am just not a VW fan at all. 

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