The Volkswagen Jetta is a premium small car that drives much like high-dollar German cars costing twice its price. Officially it’s a compact car, but it compares well to smaller mid-size sedans. It’s offered in sedan and wagon body styles with a choice of three engines.
For 2010, the Jetta line is basically unchanged. A SportWagen joined the sedan in late summer 2008 as a 2009 model, adding flexibility without a larger footprint or any compromise in efficiency. The performance-oriented GLI model has been dropped, and replaced by the TDI Cup Street Edition, a street-legal version of VW’s Jetta TDI Cup race series cars.
The 2010 Jetta lineup includes TDI versions of the sedan or wagon, featuring a turbocharged clean-diesel engine and superior mileage. (The diesel was absent from VW’s lineup in 2007 and 2008, due to stricter emissions controls, but a redesigned edition reappeared in 2009, with more power and certification for all 50 states.) Electronic stability control and a cold weather package with heated front seats and steering wheel are standard on all 2010 models. The standard stability control system comes two years ahead of a federal mandate requiring all vehicles sold in the U.S. to have some sort of standard stability control feature.
The 2010 Volkswagen Jetta lineup offers three engine choices: a 170-hp 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder (the standard base powerplant); a turbocharged 2-liter, 200-hp four-cylinder (employed in a number of different VW and Audi models); and a 2-liter, 140-hp turbocharged diesel four-cylinder, dubbed the TDI (for Turbo Direct Injection). EPA figures run from 21 mpg city on the gas engines to 41 mpg highway for the thrifty TDI.
We found the Jetta responsive around town and comfortable on long trips. It carves through curves precisely, but rides comfortably.
Inside, the Jetta is roomy and nicely finished, benefitting from Volkswagen’s attention to detail. The driver enjoys excellent visibility and ease of operation, with logical controls and instruments. Finish quality is good, inside and out. The trunk is larger than in many sedans costing much more. The basic warranty has been shortened by a year but now includes all scheduled maintenance; the longer roadside assistance and powertrain warranty periods remain.
The Jetta was redesigned and re-engineered from the ground up midway through 2005. It still seems fresh to us, and the wagon model adds an element of flexibility. We find its styling more pleasant than exciting. If you like the idea of a solid four-door and are ready to try some European flavor, the Jetta is the best deal in town, a combination of price and German character that’s made it the bestselling European car in the U.S. market.
Volkswagen interiors are noted for their quality and value, combining expensive-looking materials with simple, attractive styling and excellent ergonomics. The result tends to be inviting cabins that are comfortable, pleasant places to be as the miles roll by.
The contours of the bucket front seats provide a high degree of support. The seats are easy to adjust with manual controls, and the steering column, adjustable for both rake and reach, and height-adjustable safety belt help drivers of all sizes get comfortable. The sporty thick-rimmed, three-spoke steering wheel frames a gauge cluster dominated by separate, large dials for the tachometer and speedometer, well shaded from ambient light by a curved cowl. In daylight the graphics read white on black, at night changing to white on soothing swimming-pool blue, with lighted red pointers. In either case, the data are easy to comprehend at a glance. Within the tachometer and speedometer are warning lights and advisories about secondary functions, including one thoughtful warning that the fuel filler door was left open after refueling.
A large electronic message pad sits dead center, just over the coolant temperature and fuel gauges. In addition to more warning and diagnostic symbols, on upper-trim models this display includes trip computer readouts.
Trip computer data are accessed by one of three levers mounted on the steering column (or with the available multi-function steering wheel buttons). Jutting to the right, this lever also operates the wiper/washer system. To the left are the levers for the turn signals/headlamp flashers and cruise control. Though easy to use, the levers feel flimsy and are one of the few interior elements that have a cheap, plasticky look. The headlight switch is mounted on the dash to the left of the steering wheel.
Stereo control buttons surround the audio display screen in the center stack and are in full view, a setup we prefer over hidden controls. Unfortunately, the display’s graphics are not easily discernible in daylight. At night, though, the display reverts to the trademark VW blue backlighting and is easily read. The steering wheel buttons on high-line models can be used to operate a cell phone, mute the radio, or toggle between the various modes of the sound system.
Just below the stereo, the manual Climatic heating and air conditioning is operated via a rotary dial on the left for temperature, one in the middle for fan speed, and a third on the right for directing the air in the cabin. Dual-zone climate control is used on SEL models.
The adjustment switch for the outside mirrors and the power window switches are on the driver’s door armrest, within easy reach and sight. The windows feature anti-pinch protection and one-touch up or down. As a further convenience, they can also be opened or closed, along with the sunroof, with the master key in the driver’s door lock.
The center console extends between the front seats and includes a covered storage bin, two cupholders, a power outlet and climate system vents for rear seat passengers. A small overhead console, just aft of the rearview mirror, holds a pair of reading lights, sunroof controls, interior light switches, a sunglasses bin and ambient lighting elements that softly illuminate the dash area at night. Other nice touches include sun visors that slide on rods to extend their reach over most of the side window, and well-lighted vanity mirrors.
The rear of the cabin provides seats nicely contoured and raked for comfort. A six-foot-tall driver still leaves room behind for a similarly sized passenger, and there’s enough headroom to accommodate someone much taller, especially on wagons. Still, there’s no way an adult will fit comfortably in the center rear seat if there are adults on each side. A 60/40 split folding rear seat is standard across the line. Rear-seat SportWagen riders prone to claustrophobia will appreciate the panoramic sunroof option, which features glass panels all the way back to the rear headrests and an opaque shade to minimize solar intrusion.
The trunk seems larger than is possible in a compact sedan (at 16 cubic feet). When the trunk lid is opened, it rises to a completely vertical position, out of the way of any loading or unloading. Completely carpeted, the trunk also has a storage cubby wall and four tie hooks.
Cargo space in the SportWagen reaches almost 67 cubic feet with seats dropped; even with the rear seat in place there is a 40-inch square load deck level with a folded rear seatback. To each side behind the wheels is a four-inch deep bin for stowing extra washer fluid or loose items, and under the floor is a three-inch deep, almost one foot by full-width well behind the seats. Aft of that there’s a two-foot long section of similar depth; the cargo floor/compartment cover folds and can be locked into various notches to make a wall for segmenting heavier items. Two conventional cargo loops at the forward end floor are complemented by two much stouter steel loops at the back corners. At cargo cover level are a pair of pop-up D-clips for securing grocery bags.
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