2017 Volkswagen Jetta: Brand’s top-seller offers basic and hot turbo versions

By Mike Blake - Carlisle Events
Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Volkswagen’s best-selling car had been offered in sedan and hatchback configurations, but is now only presented as a sedan. That design downsize doesn’t compromise Jetta’s range that starts as a stylish econo-car and tops off as a sporty and quick performance compact.

Volkswagen’s Jetta was originally a Golf hatchback with specifically different styling and a conventional trunk. Launched in 1979 as a small family car, it was latched onto by trend-setting college-age buyers, and as Jetta has evolved into a larger, more powerful and more electronically advance vehicle, it has remained trendy and has been VW’s top-selling model for years.

This sixth-generation Jetta began production in 2010 for the 2011 model year, and for 2017, VW has simplified the Jetta line-up to four trims -- S, SE, SEL, and GLI. The base S trim includes a 1.4-liter, 150-horsepower TSI® engine, 16-inch steel wheels, LED DRLs and two-tone cloth seats as standard, along with a rearview camera that is now standard for all Jetta trim levels. The midline SE adds Volkswagen Car-Net® App-Connect connectivity and connected services, a sunroof, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert, 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, KESSY® Keyless access and push-button start, and V-Tex leatherette seats with rear pass-through functionality. The top SEL trim gains a 1.8-liter, 170-hp TSI engine, power driver’s seat; exterior chrome accents; Climatronic® automatic dual-zone climate control; a navigation system, rain-sensing wipers, front foglights; Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist); and Adaptive Cruise Control. The Jetta GLI is now available in only one trim, with a 2.0-liter, 210-hp TSI engine, standard 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, a navigation system, power driver’s seat, LED taillights, Park Distance Control (Park Pilot), the Fender® Premium Audio System, and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert.

The Jetta design continues its architecture of clear, precise lines and muscular surfaces in a Euro-elegant demeanor. At the front, the coupe-like incline of the windshield and the consistent use of horizontal lines present Jetta’s identity as wide and energetic. The visual band formed by the radiator grille that features three crossfins, combines with headlight clusters and large lower air intake to give the Jetta a signature appearance. This look is finished off on the SEL and GLI trims with foglights mounted in the outer areas of the bumper.

Jetta is a compact at 183.3 inches long (182.2 for the GLI trim), 70 inches wide and 57.2 inches high (56.5 for the GLI) on a 104.4-inch wheelbase, with a ground clearance of 5.2 inches. Jetta seats five and weighs in at a light 3194 lbs. for the automatic transmission version.

The Jetta interior features well-equipped style and substance Even the entry-level Jetta models have standard air conditioning, a multifunction steering wheel, cruise control, one-touch auto up/down power windows, power locks with remote keyless entry, Bluetooth® technology for compatible devices, a rearview camera, and power heatable exterior mirrors. And premium features abound on higher-level trims.

The cabin is accommodating with an un-compactlike at 38.2 inches of front headroom with 37.1 inches in row two; shoulder room is 55.2 inches in front and 53.6 inches in the rear, and legroom is a comfortable 41.2 inches for row one and 38.1 inches for the second-seat passengers.

Jetta offers three engine choices. The base 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder turbocharged/intercooled engine provides 150hp and 184 lbs.-ft. of torque; the 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder turbocharged/intercooled engine delivers 170hp and 184 lbs.-ft. and the 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder turbocharged/intercooled engine that powered my GLI test ride, hummed out 210hp and 207 lbs.-ft.

The automatic version of the three are EPA rated at 28/city, 38/highway and 32/combined for the 1.4; 25/city, 35/highway and 29/combined for the 1.8; and 24/city, 33/highway and 27/combined for the 2.0-liter. My week of tests with the 2.0 averaged 25.9mpg.

My automatic GLI accelerated and turbo’d-in seamlessly, and was predictable and reliable when needed. Track tests showed a 6.6-second zero-to-60mph sprint and a 15.4-second quarter-mile.

My Jetta handled admirably. The rack-and-pinion, electric steering with power assist was responsive with some driver-friendly understeer and torque steer. The suspension held the pavement well and sway was minimal.

Building on its rep as a top safety vehicle, the 2017 Jetta, when equipped with optional Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist) and Bi-Xenon headlights, has earned a TOP SAFETY PICK+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and was awarded the top rating -- 5 stars -- in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tests.

The base 2017 Jetta S 1.4T starts at $17,895, followed by the 1.4T SE at $20,895 and the 1.8T SEL at $24,995. The sporty 2.0T GLI starts at $27,895. Destination and handling charges of $820 brings the base GLI to $28,715.

My test Jetta GLI was bathed in Platinum Gray Metallic exterior paint, mated to a Titan Black V-Tex Sport Leatherette interior. I prefer a manual transmission in sports cars, but my test ride was outfitted with a 6-speed automatic with Tiptronic® and Sport mode for an additional $1100. Side window deflectors added $188; sunroof wind deflector added $110; and body side molding added $214 for a sticker-as-tested of $30,327.

Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.

Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.

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