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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.

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 285 Ratings for the 2011 - 2015 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    8.7/10
    Quality
    8.5/10
  • Reliability
    8.9/10
    Performance
    8.7/10
  • Comfort
    8.5/10
    Styling
    8.4/10

Very good value

By on Monday, May 18, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 32

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
8/10
Value
8/10
Reliability
5/10
Quality
7/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
7/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Value to $$ for SEL is very good"

Cons: "Navigation weak"

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

"Trunk is huge so if hauling a bunch of gear or golf club sets, big difference vs. lots of completion."

3 people out of 8 found this review helpful

Can't wait to get rid of it!

By on Thursday, May 07, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 83,000

10 2.0
overall rating 2 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
2/10
Value
5/10
Reliability
5/10
Quality
5/10
Performance
3/10
Styling
1/10
Comfort
1/10

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

"You don't have a clear view out of this car, it makes it dangerous to turn corners and change lanes. It's terribly uncomfortable for any length of time other than a quick trip to the store. It's awkward on wet roads and it attracts rocks so bad I think it throws them at itself. I have replaced the windshield 2 times in 2 years and it needs it again. Also the GPS guidance does not want to guide correctly. I have the keyless start and when the battery in the key gets weak it doesn't give you a warning just stops seeing the key. There is no other way to start the car. Cheapest oil change I've found is $70."

7 people out of 15 found this review helpful

Not as happy as I thought I Would Be

By on Wednesday, May 06, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 68,000

10 6.0
overall rating 6 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
6/10
Value
7/10
Reliability
6/10
Quality
5/10
Performance
7/10
Styling
6/10
Comfort
4/10

Pros: "Rides a little rough"

Cons: "in shop twice in the 1st 8k miles"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 3

"This car is ok. You better make sure you put in TOP tear gas because it will run rough and stall if you don't. They don't tell you this when you buy new. The 40k recommended service is very high priced at the dealer and was a surprise to me. they change the oil and service the car every 10k for the first 30k as part of your purchase but that 40k service is one seems unnecessary two my local service man did it for 25% of the dealer cost. I would not buy one again. Not very happy with it."

5 people out of 7 found this review helpful

Comfortable, reasonable price, and fun to drive!

By on Monday, May 04, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35,200

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Fun to drive, comfortable + spacious, good look"

Cons: "None... So far!"

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

"I traded in my 2009 Honda Civic coupe for a 2012 2.5 SE Jetta and I am very satisfied. So pleased to drive stick shift again and this car is actually pretty fun to drive; it is nice and spacious, but easy to zip around in. Super super comfortable as well, I knew my Civic had unpleasant seating (especially for a tall guy like me, 6'2"). Also thankful for the souped up radio that displays my calls and music from my smart phone; it's actually helpful and prevents me from wanting to mess with my phone to change music or answer/ dial out a call. I was a bit weary because I hear many people criticize and say VWs are foreign, unreliable, and junky in the US market. I think with most cars, the owner will be fortunate to do basic repairs and check ups to ensure longevity. Highly recommend this car, practical, affordable, comfortable, and not dull."

3 people out of 3 found this review helpful

We get higher mileage than the EPA estimates.

By on Sunday, April 19, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 30,400

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: "Great fuel economy."

Cons: "NONE."

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

"We liked the VW Jetta TDI with Navigation, we purchased another one. It is an awesome vehicle. Better fuel economy than a hybrid."

4 people out of 6 found this review helpful

the best sedan for the money in it's class

By on Monday, April 06, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 41,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "european build quality, price, gas mileage"

Cons: "the base 2.0 engine is underpowered"

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

"I choose the Jetta because of build, price and warranty (at the time the warranty was 3years with service), the handling is good and the engine keeps me with all city traffic. My mileage has been better than the epa estimate, and I cruise at 75 with no problem. As a previous VW owner, 65'Beetle and 77' Sirocco, I am just as pleased with the Jetta. In fact, the only other car that has been this balanced and reliable and has great dealer response was my 72' Datsun 510, which set a standard that has been hard to match. I plan to upgrade to the GLI or GTI in another year. I highly recommend the Jetta as a best buy for compact sedans. P.S. the Jetta has the same interior volume as the C class Mercedes-Benz."

23 people out of 43 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?