- Fuel-sipping economy in the mid-40s
- Strong low-end torque good for off-the-line and passing moves
- Euro-styling and even better road manners
- Fender audio system that rawks
- Rear seats that fold down and allow extension of trunk space
- Sensitive brakes makes it almost impossible to brake smoothly
- Raspy-sounding engine and un-linear torque curve
Statistics from 2005 estimate that nearly 7 million Jettas have been sold worldwide, with one-third sold in the United States alone. Since its inception, each subsequent Jetta has become larger and more powerful. Under pressure to meet stringent CAFE regulations, Volkswagen offers many powertrain choices that are both fun to drive and require fewer trips to the gas station.
Under the hood of the Jetta you’ll find one of four powertrains. The base model is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with just 115 horsepower. Moving up one model you’ll find a 2.5-liter five-cylinder with 170 horsepower. The clear winner is the 2.0-liter turbodiesel with 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. With excellent low- and mid-range power, and fuel economy that rivals hybrids, it delivers most of the classic VW attributes.
Introduced late 2012, a hybrid model became the fifth powertrain option and is what we test drove today. It’s powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder combined with an electric motor.
For the gearheads, the 2013 Jetta Hybrid system is built on direct injection, a turbocharger, and a dual-clutch gearbox for the internal combustion part of its hybrid drivetrain. With only 1.4 liters of displacement for its four-cylinder engine, this drivetrain looks like a miniature version of those found in Volkswagen’s performance vehicles.
On the electric side, Volkswagen adds in a 20-kilowatt electric motor and 1.1 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack, capable of driving the car under electric power. With regenerative braking and idle-stop, the Jetta Hybrid rates at 42 mpg city and 48 mpg highway, or a combined 45 mpg, according to EPA testing.
By itself, the engine’s 150 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque is enough to motivate the Jetta adequately, but the electric drive system assists with the Jetta’s get-up-and-go and improves fuel economy, especially in city driving conditions. The combined system output rates at 170 horsepower.
With maximum torque at 1600 rpm, the hybrid sprints from 0-60 mph in 8.6 seconds according to VW. Numbers aside, the copious amount of torque enables the Jetta Hybrid to launch with zest and assist with quick passing moves. Unfortunately, maximum torque does not feel like it is being applied evenly causing our aggressive pedal dance to falter at times when we needed continuous power.
Similar to Honda’s integrated motor-assist system, the Jetta’s powertrain integrates the electric motor and transaxle in a tidy engine/transmission package that mounts transversely in the engine bay. When the car is coasting, the system decouples the engine to reduce drag, enhancing replenishment of the lithium-ion battery pack.
We like the style of the 2013 Jetta over the wedge-shaped Prius. The Jetta’s Euro-styling makes a much better statement than the “look at me, I’m saving the planet” shape of the Toyota Prius. Plus, the U.S. market has always leaned more heavily towards sedans over hatchbacks.
Small styling features distinguish the Jetta Hybrid from its internal combustion-only counterparts. A blue-tinted badge sits on the hood and hybrid logos adorn the fenders. An aerodynamic treatment modifies the front intake, wheel skirts, and rear spoiler reducing the coefficient of drag from 0.3 to 0.28.
The cabin looks very much like other Jettas in most respects, such as the Fender audio system, business-like styling of the dashboard and panels, and . However, Volkswagen trades in the tachometer for a power gauge and adds a button labeled “E-mode.” The trunk loses some space to the battery pack, which rides over the rear axle.
The trunk is big, though our hybrid tester loses some space to the battery pack, but the rear seats do still fold down, and the levers to fold down the rear seat are easy to access when loading large items.
The base Jetta starts from $17,000 and features standard power locks, windows, and mirrors, along with air conditioning. The mainstream SE model is less $20,000 and features synthetic V-Tex leather, heated front seats, a USB port, and Bluetooth. The SEL model starts from just under $23,000. The sporty GLI will cost nearly $24,000, and go green with the Hybrid for nearly $25,000. Our Hybrid model is very well optioned with navigation, heated front seats, and 8-way power driver’s seat. The price? $30,000.
The Jetta draws drivers looking for a taut European driving feel and delivers superior interior space. We’d pass on the low-cost base models and aim for the TDI, GLI, or Hybrid model.
What others are saying about the Jetta Hybrid
Popular Mechanics recognizes the Jetta Hybrid has the same suspension as the sporty GLI. Weighing only 154 pounds more than the GLI, the Jetta Hybrid “delivers the same willing-to-play persona, sharp steering, and supple ride quality.”
Our friends at The Truth About Cars give an in-depth review of the Jetta Hybrid
2013 VW Jetta Hybrid
- Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, 150 hp, 184 lb-ft torque
- Electric motor: 27 hp, 114 lb-ft torque
- Combined system output: 170 hp, 184 lb-ft torque
- Transmission: 7-speed DSG (Direct-Shift Gearbox)
- EPA Fuel Economy: 42 city/ 48 hwy mpg
- Base price: $24,995