The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta is a decent compact car—one in a crowded field, without a "killer app."
The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta is a compact car in a cutthroat segment that carves costs—not canyon corners. It's VW's best-selling car and is sedan-only these days—anything with a hatch is called a Golf now.
The Jetta competes with heavy hitters such as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, and Chevy Cruze, but also the Mazda 3 and Hyundai Elantra. Yeah, it's a dense segment.
It earns a 6.5 out of 10 on our overall scale thanks to good safety and fuel economy. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Styling and performance
After seven years on the market, the Jetta's plain take on a three-box compact still looks a little old-fashioned to us, and a recent light refresh didn't help. It's nondescript, and exactly what we picture when we think of some car with some doors and some people.
Inside, the same approach keeps us from getting jazzed about the interior, but the conservative approach has its perks: the Jetta has good outward visibility.
The Jetta Hybrid is gone this year and the troubled turbodiesel is getting a deserved timeout, but what's left is promising.
A base 1.4-liter turbo-4 is available in S and SE trims and makes 150 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. It's mated to a 6-speed automatic in most trims; a 5-speed manual is available in the base model. It shuffles up to 60 mph from a stop in just over seven seconds, but it's plenty for around-town commutes and returns decent fuel economy.
In SEL trims, the mid-range 1.8-liter turbo-4 that makes 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque is available. It's not any quicker, rather its just a little more confident and sweeter sounding. It's mated to a 6-speed automatic only.
A 2.0-liter turbo-4 is available in the hot-rod GLI and returns 210 hp and 207 lb-ft of twist. It comes with its own dual-clutch automatic or a 6-speed manual, both of which are fun to drive.
Quality, safety and features
The Jetta is one of the larger compact sedans on the market with room for four adults and plenty of cargo. Its upright style makes it easy to get in and out, rear passengers get plenty of leg room once they're in. The trunk's 15.7 cubic feet of available space is capacious, but with a caveat: big elbow hinges swing into the cargo area and somewhat ruin the space.
Both major safety rating organizations have given the Jetta good scores, including a Top Safety Pick+ nod from the IIHS. All Jettas come with a rearview camera this year, and SE-equipped models add blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert.
Top-of-the-line SEL models add a bigger engine and advanced safety tech such as forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.
VW packs every Jetta with a 5.0-inch touchscreen radio, although higher trims get a bigger display. As base, many Jettas are equipped with good features such as Bluetooth connectivity and a multifunction steering wheel. Higher trims are budget Audis, we say, although there's no way to pick and choose a la carte items to get there: VW walls off many features in trim levels to keep dealers happy.
The SE is our pick for value and adds a sunroof, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts, heated front seats, heated washer nozzles, electric power steering, keyless ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, faux-leather seats, and a satellite radio with a 6.3-inch touchscreen with VW Car-Net App-Connect.
Most Jettas will return about 30 mpg combined, which is in line with the rest of the segment.