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2012 Volkswagen Jetta

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2012 Volkswagen Jetta Review

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KBB Expert Rating: 7.3

The new-in-2011 Volkswagen Jetta took the automotive media aback, while taking the U.S. consumer (seemingly) by storm. In its second model year, and with Jetta sales up some 70 percent in the first nine months of 2011, VW's strategy of lower prices, less content and more volume would seem to be the right one for a company hell-bent on tripling U.S. sales before the end of this decade. While Corolla intenders may be swayed by base Jettas selling for under $17K, enthusiasts might be reassured by the return of the Jetta GLI to the Volkswagen showroom. The GLI, which is to conventional Jettas what the GTI is to VW's iconic Golf, couldn't have come soon enough, as the only thing of even slight interest (in 2011) to an earlier Jetta enthusiast was the Jetta TDI.

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Despite its overture to the Corolla buyer, our U.S.-specific 2012 VW Jetta still provides a level of build quality and handling dynamic not typically provided by Korea or Japan. In short, it remains a more enthusiast-oriented entry in a rather civilian category. The argument for its consideration is bolstered considerably by the return of the GLI.

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If you've enjoyed the Jetta's historic mix of practicality and personality, then you will be dismayed by the maximizing of the former and minimizing of the latter. The newest Jetta isn't, to be sure, a German Corolla, but base models are lacking both character and content when compared to their predecessors, while those equipped with popular options very quickly lose their pricing competitiveness.

What's New for 2012

Having introduced in 2011 an all-new car with an all-new mantra, the 2012 VW Jetta GLI turbocharges the day with the return of the 2.0 liter DOHC Turbo in combination with a fully independent rear suspension and numerous interior upgrades. Beyond this big news is the addition of a new "S with Sunroof" Jetta, offering (you guessed it) a tilt-and-slide power glass sunroof; front center console with armrest and storage; and cruise control. Also, a new TDI Premium package includes a sunroof and Fender Premium Audio.

Driving the Jetta

Driving Impressions Given the range of price and powertrains, it's should come as no surprise that today's VW Jetta can generate as many impressions as it has derivatives. To its credit, Volkswagen...

tailors the Jetta platform to those powerplants. And to that end, the base Jetta - propelled by 115 horsepower - provides a ride-and-handling combination that sums up "base" pretty succinctly. It is comfortable and reasonably composed, but will win no bonus points for precision or agility. The Jetta with a 2.5-liter or diesel engine under the hood steps up the game with more composure and competence, but would still not fall into anyone's definition of recreational. That, of course, is saved for the 2012 Jetta GLI and its 2.0 liter turbocharged four. Despite sharing little of the Golf/GTI in its current DNA, the addition of the turbocharged 4-cylinder also includes upgraded suspension bits, better braking and improved rubber. It's a transformation. Finally, the grunt of the 2.0-liter TDI turbodiesel makes the Jetta diesel supremely relaxed - and amazingly efficient.

2.0L Diesel Power
With the proliferation of hybrid powertrains among mid-size sedans, we still think there remains a good argument for diesel, especially when offered at a mid-$20s price point. Great drivability, in combination with a 600-plus-mile range, makes the Jetta diesel a popular choice for those people putting real mileage on their personal cars.

DSG Gearbox
For those hoping to combine the engagement of a manual with the convenience of an automatic, stop worrying; VW has done it for you. The DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) employs two clutches and steering-wheel-mounted shifters to provide the perfect blend of git-up-and-go, whether it's on the open road or stop-and-go.

2012 Volkswagen Jetta Details
Interior

The big news for 2011 was, well, the big news; this is a Jetta four adults can sit comfortably in. The Jetta's longer wheelbase translated into considerably more interior volume (rear passengers can actually cross their legs!), while the more substantial roofline allows for more generous rear-seat headroom. In back, the Jetta trunk proffers a class-leading 15.5 cubic feet, which can be increased with the Jetta's split-folding rear seatback. As on the outside, the GLI interior provides key differentiation in the guise of sportier buckets, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and aluminum foot pedals.

Exterior

Enthusiasts of the earlier Jetta will think this newest iteration has been beaten with a bland stick. Given that there isn't much to love, there isn't, by extension, much to dislike. The Jetta's overall profile is clean, although the more expansive sheet metal can easily dwarf the wheels if those wheels are the base 15-inchers. As Volkswagen notes, the GLI boasts a more dynamic look than the standard car, but that would be easy; in the same vein Lady Gaga is more dynamic than Lady Jane. The GLI benefits from a more distinctive honeycomb grille, deeper front spoiler, GTI-style foglights and red-coated brake calipers.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

The entry-level 2012 VW Jetta essentially defines "base" in the model spectrum. At its launch the hook was an under-$16K window sticker plus destination. This year that figure starts $500 higher, but remains a bargain when compared to Jetta pricing just two years ago. That said, the standard spec is well behind what is typically offered on a domestic showroom (Chevy's Cruze) or Korean showroom (Hyundai's Elantra/Kia's Forte). Power is supplied by your father's 4-cylinder, a 2.0-liter, 8-valve lump producing but 115 horsepower. A/C, power windows/locks, basic radio with CD and remote keyless entry sum up the significant equipment. To VW's credit, it also provides a full complement of standard safety features, including electronic stability control and VW's ICRS, which automatically unlocks all doors, disables the fuel pump and turns on all interior lights once airbags have been deployed.

Optional Equipment

With a budget of $25K we'd be torn between the 2.0L TDI Clean Diesel with Premium and Navigation or the reintroduced 2.0T GLI, sporting the very visceral 2.0-liter Turbo, more aggressive suspension and those visual enhancements that tie an owner in with all that's happening automotively. VW's diesel is a sweet spot in the compact/mid-size segment, providing miles and smiles with abundant torque and 40-plus mpg on the highway. With its 2.0-liter turbocharged four, the GLI combines open-road performance with track-biased agility.

Under the Hood

From its entry-level – and antiquated – 4-cylinder to a pedestrian in-line five and responsive turbocharged diesel and gas, the 2012 Jetta has seemingly something for everyone. The base 2.0 is, of course, the price point car, while the 170 horsepower offered by the in-line five makes for a pleasant, and still efficient, commute. As noted, we'll take the 2.0 TDI Jetta or 2.0T offered in the new GLI. Both 2.0-liter powertrains are fun and efficient; the gasoline variant is more fun, the diesel more efficient.

2.0-liter in-line 4
115 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm
125 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/34 (manual), 24/32 (automatic)

2.5-liter in-line 5
170 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
177 lb-ft of torque @ 4,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/33 (manual), 24/31 (automatic)

2.0-liter in-line 4, turbocharged (GLI only)
200 horsepower @ 5,100-6,000 rpm
207 lb-ft of torque @ 1,700-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/33 (manual), 24/32 (automatic)

2.0-liter in-line 4, turbodiesel
140 horsepower @ 4,000 rpm
236 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750-2,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 30/42 (manual), 30/42 (automatic)

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2012 Volkswagen Jetta Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
8.4
Out of 10

Based on 304 Ratings for the 2011 - 2015 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    8.6/10
    Quality
    8.5/10
  • Reliability
    8.8/10
    Performance
    8.7/10
  • Comfort
    8.5/10
    Styling
    8.4/10

Worst car I have ever owned!

By on Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 120,665

10 3.0
overall rating 3 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
3/10
Value
5/10
Reliability
1/10
Quality
1/10
Performance
5/10
Styling
5/10
Comfort
5/10

Pros: "Price."

Cons: "Most unreliable car I have ever owned."

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1

"I had previously owned a 2007 Jetta Wolfsburg edition which I bought used. I loved that car. It saved my life when I had an accident where I was rear ended on the highway and slammed into the car in front of me. Thats why I decided to buy another one. I bought the 2012 new and it has been a headache from day one. The check engine light has been on more often than its been off. Its always something with the emission system too that's never covered by the warranty. Last year I needed an alternator and the part to replace it came in to the dealership broken. When I inquired how a brand new part could be broken the woman in service told me it happened all the time. I believe the parts used by VW are inferior and cheap. I think that's how they were able to get the price point down when they redesigned the Jetta in 2011. I will never buy a VW again. I'm going back to a Japanese make."

A "Midsize" Car For the Price of a Compact

By on Friday, August 14, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 3,800

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
8/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Audi acceleration and handling for the poor man."

Cons: "Long term reliability is yet to be determined."

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"After driving a larger car with a V6 for a while, I decided to give VW a spin again (I had a 1985 Golf just out of college). The 1.8 TSI engine does not disappoint. The handling is best appreciated at higher speeds. At lower speeds, it is pretty standard handling for a compact. I am hoping that the reliability holds up. So far no problems whatsoever. The 2015 Passat with the same 1.8 TSI engine is rated as the most reliable mid-sized car available right now, so things should be decent. Here's hoping. I love driving this car on the Arizona highways. It does what I tell it to do, and I can easily blow by other compact cars, and a good number of six cylinder models. Merging into traffic is never a problem. The engine is fast AND quiet, and is content with 87 (recommended) octane gas. By the way, I owned the 2.0 8 valve engine (known as the 2.slow) for six months. I HATED it. The exhaust system was LOUD, and it basically required me to turn off the A/C every time I was getting onto the freeway because it had no kick. I'm getting around 30 mpg all around with the A/C going all the time. I suspect the mileage may jump up a bit once winter rolls around."

Best handling SUV and trailers well

By on Saturday, August 01, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 62,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Definitely more fun than any suv I have driven"

Cons: "It could use a little more clearance"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

Fla camping

"I have had many cars and 3 Toyota 4-runners (great trucks but 16-18 mpg.) The Vw TDI wagen has as much cargo area, carries 2 17 foot kayaks and if set up properly (rear air bags and electric brakes) is an incredible tow vehicle for my 1500 lb pop up. (I get 30 to 33 mpg trailering.) When not trailering I get 42 to 44 consistently on hwy and 37 around town. The car has plenty of power (including trailering) and in the mountains (Ga and N.C). I always had stick shift cars/trucks. The DSG is very close to the control of a stick (without clutch pedal) when you need it (trailering and in the MTS.) The only problem was an A/C compressor (fixed quickly by VW.) I never have trouble finding diesel fuel and I travel all the time. Gas buddy is my friend. I considered and drove the new Outback but the CVT and the lack of power in the MTS was a deal breaker for me. A fun vehicle that I enjoy driving every time I get in the driver's seat."

2 people out of 3 found this review helpful

Fla camping

Love the car, but I miss shifts with the manual

By on Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 22,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
8/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Great mileage, handles well, atteactive"

Cons: "Manual transmission leads to stalling"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8

"Really good car. Handles well, great mileage, feels solidly built, attractive for a wagon. The only downside, and the reason I am selling it is that I bought the manual transmission. It is fun, but despite growing up with stick shifts, I am still missing shifts from time to time, and this can be frightening, like when it happens in an intersection. Switching to a Golf with the automatic."

16 people out of 32 found this review helpful

GLI with triptronic transmission.

By on Monday, July 27, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 500

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
Not Rated
Quality
9/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "Neat car."

Cons: "High test gasoline"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"Having driven many cars & trucks with manual transmissions,I was hesitant about going for an automatic transmission. To my surprise I find the triptronic when in manual mode is a manual without the clutch! Same speed limitations in gears as a manual, really liking this transmission."

5 people out of 11 found this review helpful

4th Volkswagen I have owned. 2nd GLI I have owned

By on Sunday, July 19, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 3,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
7/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "everything"

Cons: "sub-woofer rattles in trunk"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"Love every Volkswagen I have ever owned, always fun yet efficient and has lots of room for whatever I need to take with me. Highly recommend any Volkswagen to everyone, especially the Jetta GLI."

9 people out of 17 found this review helpful

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