2011 VW Jetta S Test Drive

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Well, it is quite conservative. Many expected something more original from VW for the all new Jetta.
But in real life, it does look pretty upscale. Almost Audi like.
And the front end in particular, has a sort of very modern simplicity to it that looks really good.

The plastic wheel covers do look cheap, but this is a base $16 000 model. Most other cars in the size/price range offer the same.

The interior of the new Jetta has been the subject of many criticisms.
The new model is cheaper than the previous version, and VW did cut costs in many areas. And interior materials is one of them.

So plastics do not feel as soft and upscale as in the previous Jetta, or the current Golf/Jetta wagon.
But to be fair, it is not as bad as many reviewers have said.

The dashboard and doors are now covered in hard plastics, but it is the case in many other cars costing about $16 000, or even more.
Doors feel very solid when you close them, and everything inside feels solid and well put together.

The non leather steering wheel does feel a bit cheap and grainy to the touch. But again, no more than others.
The main thing I missed in the Jetta S is an armrest. Especially in the Automatic version.
There isn’t any covered storage area in the console.

The seats are firm and very comfortable.
The standard stereo was just adequate. But it did have an iPod plug.

The car is longer than before and it shows in the back seat.
It is about as roomy as a mid sized car back there. Which makes the “cheaper” Jetta a good alternative to more expensive models.
The trunk is also huge.


The ride is one of the best I’ve experienced in a car under $20 000.
It really rides like a much more expensive car. It feels solid, slightly firm and very smooth at the same time.
A very German feel. Which is great.

The steering is also a bit firmer than most of the competition. A bit firmer than the Golf too.
But always smooth and accurate.
In combination with the solid ride, it gives the new Jetta an expensive car feel.

The base S model is the most controversial of the new Jettas. Because it uses the old 2.0 Liter engine, which was not offered in the previous model.
It was the base engine 2 generations ago. And I had no idea it was still in production.
It is a bit of a let down. And it still only produces 115hp. Less than anything that size.

I am not sure how much VW is saving by not using the vastly superior 2.5 liter (standard in other models) in the base version. I guess they wanted that $16 000 base price at any cost.

The engine is actually pretty smooth. As long as you don’t push it.
But there is really no power, or almost, until about 3000rpm. So you do have to push it to just take off.
Once up to speed, it does cruise very quietly.

So if you plan on driving slowly pretty much all the time, the 2.0 L might be OK. Otherwise, it will be a constant source of frustration. Especially since the 6 speed automatic refuses to downshift unless you really put your foot down.
A manual might be a much better experience.


I really liked driving the new Jetta for a week. But the car really deserves the better 2.5 Liter engine, and a few more things inside.
Like an armrest, leather steering wheel etc…
All of this, and much more, is available in other versions.

For this price you can get a Kia Forte EX, which is not a base model.
It has a better stereo, a much better and powerful engine and is better equipped than the Jetta S.

I do like the German feel of the Jetta over the Forte, but most people might not notice.

I do like the new Jetta quite a bit. But the old 2.0 Liter will a tough sell for most.

I will be driving an SEL version in a few weeks and will be reporting on what should be a much better car.

Conversation 17 comments

  1. Okay. A few new cars have me excited. My dream cars to replace my aging and deteriorating 2006 Chevy Cobalt is:

    1.) The new VW Jetta,
    2.) The new Chevy Cruze, and
    3.) The Ford C-Max (The smaller one w/o sliding doors)

    If only I had a comparo between these vehicles.

    Anyways, I have always been drawn to this new VW's front end. It looks very sexy and sophisticated in a not so "in your face" sort of way. These subtle cues and minimalistic approach is the very essence of great design. Nothing unnecessary, and everything is perfect that you can't imagine it being any other way.

    The only thing about this car that I felt was sort of a letdown was the side profile. Other then that… great price point, size is a plus, and we're only one refreshment away from a perfect car (better engine option, updated interior, etc.)

  2. well, imagine you are a volkswagen dealer that is anxiously anticipating the arrival of this car. We all know of the great job they did with the passat cc, it's beautiful. Then this arrives, wtf? It's like a competitor of VW paid off the designers to screw it up. There is no other answer.

  3. I can see VW dropping the base S a year or two after launch once the Jetta gains traction (and traffic) into VW showrooms with the low price..

  4. I saw my first Cruze today…actually a decent looking car in real life.

    On the dash they had a wierd cloth to mimic the seats?

  5. According to my nearby VW dealer, here in Canada, they can't keep up with demand for the base 2.0L model and 2.5L versions are languishing on the lot. Many people can only afford so much.

  6. I have a Touareg, and my #1 complaint is the plastic buttons and switches. VW molds them out of white plastic and coats them in a black vinyl-like substance. After a while, that black vinyl bubbles up and rubs off, and it's impossible to fix. Anything you touch repeatedly, like the window switch, fan speed, or radio button looks like crap in just a few years.

  7. This car is better looking in person. Very conservative, but a solid design. And, in all fairness, the previous Jetta interior was borderline Audi/Lexus quality. It's not reasonable to expect this in a car under $20k. Plus, it is certainly no slouch with regard to the interior quality and design. It still blows away anything from Toyota, Scion or Honda.

  8. I'm very disappointed to see this is the new Jetta. The wait was hardly worth it.

    Plain, anonymous, design that fits in nicely with the traffic herd.

    The Interior
    Cheaper looking than a Corolla and so '90s in design and style

    If you're looking for last gen engine/tranny and you don't mind being part a bumper stop in traffic. Sure, go for it.

    There's little to love here unless you're a die hard VDub fan.

  9. Why isn't there any vr6??? They should build a 3.0L with at least 250 hp! The 2.0T is a nice engine but just sounds like any other 4 cylinders….

  10. I'm not sure how distinctive the new Jetta is. Without seeing the nose, I've mistaken two of them for prev-gen Kia Optimas from the back/side.

    I've got to agree with slab99 on VW build quality. I was looking at a few used Touraegs and noticed rather significant peeling of trim in all of them which is really unacceptable in a car stickering around $50K. Raises the question if VW can't make a $50K car stay together why should I expect better from their $16K car?

  11. very very chinese in looks. The Spyking is right on, it's like someone paid vw to eff it up???????

  12. The spikes are for when Douchebag Jones hits a possum…It will be killed instantly so he won't have to track it down for dinner.

    I think Douchebag is really Jethro Clampett.

  13. Could VW have made the new Jetta blander? This car looks like clip art, and that ancient 2.0 4-cylinder is an oil-guzzling relic with no power. FAIL

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