2011 VW Jetta 2.5 SEL Test Drive

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I already drove the base model of the new Jetta a little while ago, so my thoughts are the same about the SEL.
I think it looks very good in person.
Sure, there is nothing new. But there is an upscale feel to it. Especially with the SEL larger wheels and brushed aluminum trim at the base of the side windows.
It looks a million times better than the Corolla. But really not as modern as the new Hyundai Elantra, or 2012 Focus sedan.

So I guess, it is for a different crowd.
German cars are anyway.


Same story inside. A conservative, kind of upscale look is what you get.
It is actually very nice, and again, won’t appeal to the ones who seek a super modern/futuristic interior.
But it does have a simple and elegant feel to it.

Again, the new plastics are still hard on the dash and top of the doors. But really, pretty much everything else is now.
Including offering from Toyota and Honda. So although it’s not as good as the previous Jetta or current Golf, it’s not worse than most of the competition. Except the Mazda3. Which now has the best quality interior in the class.

The back seat is still super roomy. More than many mid sized cars.
Some quick notes about the interior:

  • My loaded SEL came with navigation, but somehow, no rear camera.
  • The stereo was fine but not great.
  • The vinyl seats do look as good as many leather seats I’ve seen. So why not.
  • The armrest does not adjust.
  • Bluetooth was hard to figure out without the manual
  • The menu on the touch screen is not intuitive
  • GPS lacked a few features, and got frustrating at times.

And you cannot scroll the map with your fingers. I guess the touchscreen doesn’t work on Navigation mode. Or something…



The new Jetta has an excellent ride. No matter what model.
It does drive like a much more expensive car. It feels very solid and smooth, yet never too soft.


Just like in the Golf, the steering is surprisingly light at first. But you do get used to it.
It is accurate but still felt a bit numb at the center.
They should give it a bit more feel.


I knew the 2.5 was going to be better than the rather lame old 2.0 Liter engine.
But I was still surprised by how super quiet and smooth it is.
Much more so than in the previous Jetta. And it also sounded different than in the New Beetle. Again, much quieter and smoother.
Not sure what they did to it, but whatever it is it works great.
There is always enough power, and it sounds great when you push it too.I was surprised to only get a 5 speed manual, not 6.
But the manual is a joy to use. Smooth, and a perfect match for the engine.
And it is actually refreshing to see a manual offered on the top of the line model. It is only available on the base 2012 Focus for example.
Most manufacturers are making automatic standard equipment on everything but the base versions.I think it’s is nice to still have a choice.

The car is rated at 23 City and 33 Hwy.
I got 25 in the city (without even trying hard) and about 35 on the HWY. So I didn’t really miss a 6th gear.


At $23000, the VW Jetta SEL is a really good choice. It is now priced like its competition.
Has a more upscale look than most, a roomier back seat than all.

For the price, it is a really compelling choice in a crowded segment of the market.

Conversation 16 comments

  1. I would like to point out the importance of dependability when selecting a new car. This Jetta may seem like a good choice, but remember that Volkswagen is 3rd from the bottom in JD Powers reliability survery. I made the mistake of thinking that the Passat I bought was a bargain priced Audi, but what I got was four years of paying very high maintaince costs ($85 oil changes)premium gas, and never taking in for service without 5 repair items on the list, some of which never were addressed or fixed. VW customer service sucks, and you will have to deal with that if you buy one. Also the resale value on them is not great, so I would suggest leasing if you really feel the need to drive one. Yes the Corolla might be dull (although the Jetta might be even duller) but you will not suffer through a lot of aggravation with a Toyota. And there is always Hyundai if you want some excitement and still have reliability. I just want to warn the readers to put some thought into it before making the same mistake I did.

  2. I'd still take the upcoming Focus, new Mazda3, or a Elantra over the new Jetta.

    All three of those have the reliability, and a MUCH higher level of dealer service. Don't forget the Mazda is actually fun to drive as well.

  3. "Definitely a re-badged Audi A4, the resemblance is unmistakable…."

    It most definitely is not related to the A4. Different platform completely.

  4. "Anonymous said…

    Definitely a re-badged Audi A4, the resemblance is unmistakable….

    December 26, 2010 7:50 AM"

    The two vehicles aren't even related in the least.

    Please do some research.

  5. "It looks a million times better than the Corolla."

    Seriously? I'd like to know how you came to that subjective conclusion. This to me looks MORE bland than a Corolla, which is quite hard to achieve, but VW managed to do it.

    This makes the Corolla look daring.

  6. To everyone who talks so much about how bad VW reliability is. I bought a 2010 VW Jetta about a year and a half ago while my uncle bought a 2010 Corolla. I told him when he bought it was a big mistake buying the awful new Corolla and that he should have bought a Jetta. He told me he would have the last laugh when my unplanned maitinence bills began piling up. Well over a year later his Corolla has basically been living at the dealership having had three unscheduled visits to the dealer 2 for electrical issues involving the dash and one for when the whole stereo system stopped working. While my Jetta has only seen the dealer once for an oil change. Guess who's having the last laugh?

  7. To Omar, every car company can produce a lemon, even Toyota. But if you look at JD Powers, or True Delta, VW produces a lot more lemons than Toyota. I am glad that you are having good luck with yours though. And I hope that you have changed your oil more than once in a year and a half. VW won't honor your warranty.

  8. Hi, Vince,

    Like you, I have an automotive blog, and I need cars to review. I was wondering, how do you contact your local dealers so that they don't think you're trying scamming them?

    My website is not a scam; I usually get more than a 1000 visitors a day.

  9. Vince, your review really put the new Jetta in great perspective. I currently have an 02 Jetta and will be in the market next year. Since I'm only considering another VW, this new Jetta is a bit disappointing compared to the 2006-10 Jetta and Golf/GTI. However, it stacks up very well to the current competition. I really like that you can get it fully loaded for $23k and with a manual.

  10. To Omar:

    I guess you don't read.

    TrueDelta, JD Power, and Consumer Reports all rank VW at the very bottom or close to the bottom as far as reliability and dependability go.

    The Corolla was a fluke.

  11. I know 5 people who bought a new vw in the last 2 years and honestly, not a single one has had a problem, they are all very satisfied with their cars and would never consider anything but a VW, because of how well they drive compared to the civics and other Asian cars they used to own. I dont own one btw but have owned many in the past and will surely own many more in the future. People who pick a corolla over the new Jetta are completely clueless and have no idea about cars. And you say it looks bland? It looks better than most average cars on the road, and many people seem to agree, new Jetta's are in extremely high demand. As for reliability ratings, the most recent survey shows that vw would be above industry average if they didn't sell the Chrysler Routan..So stop being a bunch of whiners, you people take little things too seriously and just can't get over the past. It seems American consumers just can't see the bigger picture and don't realise that buying a vw has a very positive effect in the industry…oh and another thing..my friends mom bought a corolla in september and just last month the gas pedal actually got stuck when he floored it! I tried to convince her to get a Jetta but of course, people just dont know any better…and after seeing the new jetta weeks later, they completely regret buying the corolla. If you compare interiors with both cars you wouldn't believe the Jetta costs the same price…it just doesn't make sense.

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