The Jetta is Volkswagen's best-selling vehicle, and it's easy to see why. Available with a variety of powertrains that include gasoline, diesel and hybrid, a wagon body style in addition to the popular sedan, and prices that range from under $18,000 to over $32,000, there is a Jetta for just about everybody. The best news for the 2014 Jetta is a heart transplant that replaces the aging 5-cylinder engine with a peppy and more fuel-efficient turbocharged 4-cylinder, a swap that gives the VW a new lease on life. The mainstream compact-sedan segment teems with popular rivals that include the Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, Ford Focus, Mazda3, Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Cruze and Hyundai Elantra, but the VW Jetta stands out with its Euro sophistication, and the sedan earned itself a spot on our list of the 10 Best Sedans Under $25,000 for 2014.
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In addition to the intangible nature of its European roots, the Jetta offers impressive features for the money and a roomy interior. If efficiency is a priority, diesel versions of the sedan and SportWagen deliver eye-popping fuel economy, and like the also-recommendable gas-electric hybrid, is fun to drive.
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The sub-$18,000 price of the base Jetta S sedan is tempting, but that model still uses an anemic engine and lacks the features found in comparably priced versions of the Kia Forte, Hyundai Elantra or Mazda3. If all-wheel drive is a must, look to the Subaru Impreza.
In addition to swapping the 5-cylinder engine for a turbocharged-4 in most sedan models, Volkswagen has installed multilink rear suspension in all 2014 Jettas and introduced its smartphone-enabled Car-Net communications service. Jetta SportWagen models again carry over unchanged except for new LED license-place lighting, and diesel (TDI) models gain a rearview camera as standard.
Driving the Jetta SportWagen
The Jetta you experience on the road will depend on what's under the hood. On the base end is the underwhelming Jetta S with its 115-horsepower 4-cylinder, while on the...
... other is the invigorating Jetta GLI. With its 210-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder and sport-tuned suspension, the GLI might give its upscale cousin, the Audi A4, a run for its money. Combining the best value, efficiency and fun-to-drive dynamics are models equipped with the new 1.8-liter turbocharged-4 and TDI clean-diesel models. The former feels like a baby GLI, especially with a manual transmission, while the diesel models have loads of torque for quick off-the-line acceleration. Like other Jetta models, the Hybrid version is surprisingly agile. Its combination of a small turbocharged engine and electric motor deliver peppy acceleration while returning up to 48 mpg. Our main gripe with the Hybrid is its brake feel, which "grabs" too abruptly when pressing the pedal as part of its energy-regeneration system.
TDI DIESEL MODELS Volkswagen is among the German automakers continuing to prove that today's diesel engines are nothing like the sooty, sputtering versions of the past. The 2.0-liter turbodiesel available in the Jetta sedan and SportWagen – mated to an automatic or manual transmission – has power to spare and fuel economy of up to 42 mpg.
NEW TURBOCHARGED GASOLINE ENGINE No doubt we love the Jetta GLI, but its $25,000 starting price isn't for every budget. With the introduction of VW's new 1.8-liter 4-cylinder, Jetta buyers can now have similar turbocharged fun in models starting under $20,000. On top of that, the new powerplant delivers up to 36 mpg.
2014 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen Details
For a compact car, the 5-passenger 2014 Jetta has ample interior space. Especially notable is the amount of legroom in the rear seats and the trunk space. At 15.5 cubic feet, the sedan's trunk is in a higher league, and when you need even more room the rear seats fold. Space is a big attribute of the SportWagen, too, which boasts an SUV-like 66.9 cubic feet with the seats folded. Design-wise, the Jetta's interior could be called "minimalist-chic." You won't find the latest technology, but you also won't be confused by a thousand buttons. Tuning the radio is easy, as is setting the temperature.
The latest Jetta is stylishly conservative compared to such design-focused competitors as the Mazda3, Hyundai Elantra and even the 2014 Corolla. Indeed, compared to the many entrants in this segment, it's the Jetta and Chevrolet Cruze dressed as the adults at the dinner party. Is that appealing? Depends whether you're more Josh Groban or Bruno Mars. If you're in the camp of the former, you'll like the Jetta's clean lines that we expect to age well. GLI versions increase the excitement level with a honeycomb grille, 17-inch alloy wheels, smoked taillights and dual exhaust tips. SportWagen models continue with their rounded look.
Spend the very least on a 2014 VW Jetta S, and you'll get basics like air conditioning, power windows/doors/mirrors, keyless entry, 15-inch steel wheels, and an AM/FM/CD audio unit with auxiliary input. Spend roughly $2,000 more for an SE model and you'll not only get a great engine, but cruise control, Leatherette interior with heated front seats and 6-speaker sound system with iPod adapter. SportWagen models come with Bluetooth, cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel and 8-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with auxiliary input. Complimentary maintenance still comes with the Jetta, but it has been reduced by a year and 12,000 miles to two years/24,000 miles.
Aside from a 6-speed automatic transmission, most extras in the 2014 Jetta are had by climbing trims. Among them are sunroof, navigation system, VW's new Car-Net connectivity service, push-button start, touch-screen radio, power driver's seat and rearview camera. At around $30,000, top-line GLI and Hybrid models bring sparkling bi-xenon headlights, automatic climate control and Fender premium audio system. SportWagen models can be had with a panoramic sunroof.
Under the Hood
Five engines are offered among the 2014 Jetta sedan and SportWagen. Used only on base sedans is an underwhelming 4-cylinder connected to a 5-speed manual transmission or 6-speed automatic with sport mode. You can move up a trim to obtain VW's zesty new 1.8-liter turbocharged-4, also connected to a 5-speed manual or 6-speed auto. GLI models use the most powerful engine in the lineup, a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 210 horsepower, 10 more than last year. Its transmission choices are 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto. Hybrids employ a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder and electric motor, and 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Like the GLI, hybrid models require premium fuel. The efficient TDI models use a 2.0-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder connected to a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. The SportWagen continues with the 2.5-liter 5-cylinder or the 2.0-liter turbodiesel.
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) range can turn a Jetta into a sub-$18,000 economy car or a $30,000-plus sedan with features and performance nearing that of an entry-level luxury car. The Hybrid models range from about $28,000 to over $32,000. Those seeking a fuel-sipper can opt for a TDI diesel model, starting around $24,000. The roomier Jetta SportWagen starts around $21,600 and runs to nearly $30,000. In lower trims, the Jetta is in good company with the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Chevrolet Cruze and Subaru Impreza, but can't quite reach the lower starting prices of the Nissan Sentra, Dodge Dart and Kia Forte. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Jetta. In terms of predicted resale value, the VW Jetta's is expected to be marginal to good, with diesels faring the best and hybrid models the worst.
"Drives, corners well and responds quickly. If you like to feel the road this car is for you. It will deliver every bump in the road to to the seat of your pants. The climate control needs lot of attention to get the temperature you like. The rearview camera helps keep the scratches off my rear bumper. All in all it's a servicable auto."