The 2018 Volkswagen Jetta is a competent, comfortable sedan, but it’s light on personality and feels a little old against fresh-faced rivals.
The 2018 Volkswagen Jetta is a sensible, roomy compact sedan, although a new model is on the horizon for the 2019 model year. While its basic design is beginning to show its age, the 2018 Jetta has plenty of assets like a roomy interior, a quiet demeanor, and strong turbocharged engines.
We’ve rated the Jetta lineup 6.5 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
This year, the Jetta is available in S, Wolfsburg Edition, SE, SE Sport, SEL, and zippy GLI trim, but all build on a design that debuted for the 2011 model year. The Wolfsburg Edition, named after VW’s hometown in Germany, is a new addition to the lineup, as is the SE Sport with its 170-horsepower engine. All variants see some minor equipment shuffling and modestly revised styling. You’ll have to squint to see the grille changes, but the new wheels on most trim levels stand out more. Also, VW has dropped the HID headlights that were included on last year’s Jetta SEL and the GLI loses its formerly standard manual transmission.
Additionally, the Jetta lineup now includes a 6-year, 72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty that doubles last year’s coverage. That’s a big selling point for us, especially since the warranty can be transferred to subsequent owners.
The Jettas you’ll most commonly find on dealer lots use a turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-4 rated at 150 hp and 184 pound-feet of torque. A 5-speed manual is standard and a 6-speed automatic is on the options list. SE Sport and SEL trim levels use a larger and thirstier 1.8-liter turbo-4 that adds 20 hp but can only be paired with the automatic. Jetta GLIs have their own suspension settings, a sportier look inside and out, and a 210-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4. Despite their sporty positioning, Jetta GLIs are only available with a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic with paddle shifters.
Most models have a demure demeanor with a softly sprung suspension, although the GLI’s beefed up underpinnings make it a hoot to push through a curvy canyon road.
Though the Jetta’s conservative styling isn’t its biggest selling point, VW has managed to give its compact sedan rear-seat room more akin to a mid-size four-door. There’s plenty of stretch-out space for four adults and the 15.7 cubic foot cargo capacity is on the high side for this class. No Jetta feels particularly upscale inside and what feels like leather upholstery on SE and higher trim levels is actually hard-wearing leatherette—a fancy word for vinyl. Higher trim levels have a 6.3-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that’s easy to use.
The Jetta has performed well in crash-testing, but VW reserves high-tech safety features like automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control for only the pricey SEL trim level.
Jettas with the 1.4-liter engine and the automatic—in other words, the vast majority—earn up to 38 mpg on the highway. That’s a commendable figure given how strong this engine feels in everyday driving.