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2012 Volkswagen Jetta

Overview
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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.

You'll Like This Car If...

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.
Favorite Features

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
8.5
Out of 10

Based on 196 Ratings for the 2011 - 2014 models.

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

Excellent car for the value. Fuel economy good

By on Sunday, April 20, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 59,500

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
8/10
Performance
7/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "like the 6 speed manual"

Cons: "interior a little small"

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

"Owned the car for three years, very pleased. No mechanical issues the car has preformed well. I'm averaging about 45 mpg on trips. I plan to drive for many years to come."

1 person out of 1 found this review helpful

Best Car Ever!

By on Monday, April 14, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 700

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Sporty, Comfortable, Great MPG"

Cons: "None"

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

"This car is Wonderfully Amazing... I got 41 MPG coming home. Seats are amazing and extremely comfortable and the handling of the car is stunning and provides inspiration. Have you closed the door? Well it sounds just like all other high quality cars. Close the doors on a Benz 350 ( My family has one) and the doors sound the same. No problems so far yet engine wise, though it is extremely powerful considering the class of car (Compact. I will buy another Volkswagen!"

3 people out of 4 found this review helpful

Best Car Ever!

By on Monday, April 14, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 700

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Sporty, Comfortable, Great MPG"

Cons: "None"

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

"This car is Wonderfully Amazing... I got 41 MPG coming home. Seats are amazing and extremely comfortable and the handling of the car is stunning and provides inspiration. Have you closed the door? Well it sounds just like all other high quality cars. Close the doors on a Benz 350 ( My family has one) and the doors sound the same. No problems so far yet engine wise, though it is extremely powerful considering the class of car (Compact. I will buy another Volkswagen!"

A beautiful car!/ very good mileage/Warm & cozy!!

By on Saturday, April 05, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 4,500

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
10/10

Pros: "Beautiful car! ...see review"

Cons: "no back seat warmers"

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

"I'm thrilled with it! I do have to say it has not met the quoted gas mileage, at least not for us, however we are in remote area, mountainess,& so we cannot follow all the perfect conditions to get the maximum mileage. We are averaging 39 mpg. Despite the real mpg for us, this is overall a great vehicle. We've had no problems. We've received many compliments on this vehicle. It sure kept us warm this extra cold winter! (too bad back seat passengers don't get the warmed seats) Pickup is fantastic Fendall stereo is really nice. The regenerating hybrid is a marvel...we don't have to plug this one in to any electrical charger! Everyone loves the premium tire rims w/ fan-like design. We currently lease this vehicle, however we currently believe we will buy this one out & keep this one!"

8 people out of 14 found this review helpful

Great car -poor build quality

By on Thursday, April 03, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 8,000

10 7.0
overall rating 7 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
7/10
Value
7/10
Reliability
7/10
Quality
5/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Beautiful, fast, great mileage"

Cons: "Poor build quality, lame sound system"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2

"Love my SportWagen. Disappointed in the build quality - rattles, vibrations, loose components (heat shield, defective sunroof, the list goes on. Have owned the vehicle seven months and have been to the dealer ten times to fix stupid and annoying problems. My last VW, a 1996 Jetta GL was perfect right out of the box, was mine for eight years, never a rattle, squeak - just regular maintenance. I have spoken with other SportWagen owners, and they echo my disappointment in the quality. On the plus side, the SportWagen is a real head turner (Toffee Brown), comfortable, great diesel mileage. Only wish the Fender sound system had been available. Hoping Volkswagen addresses their quality issues. Love this car, but it will be my last VW product."

3 people out of 5 found this review helpful

Perfect car, with a few minor caveats

By on Monday, March 31, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 43,500

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "fuel economy, handling, comfort, fun to drive"

Cons: "HWY road noise, Nav system, needs better lumbar"

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

"Love this car's design, economy, torque, and comfort. We have TDI model with all possible options. Only downsides to this car, in my opinion: Navigation system is non-user friendly, and HORRIBLE. Less intuitive than my 7 year old Garmin portable GPS. I would rate Nav system a 3 out of 10. I will replace the Nav with an aftermarket double DIN GPS in the future. Pano sunroof is awesome, but contributes to road noise. 17 inch VW premium wheels/OEM Continental tires contribute to road noise too. Even with our new aftermarket thicker side walled tires, still pretty noisy on most highways. Less highway road noise would be appreciated. Wish front seats had adjustable lumbar support."

7 people out of 12 found this review helpful

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Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

Buying this car?