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2011 Volkswagen Jetta
At long last, a German car at a domestic price
By Malcolm Gunn
Is there a German car in your future? If your answer depends on the price of that German car, then you might be in luck.
Indeed the outgoing Volkswagen Jetta was an attractive proposition for anyone inclined toward German-engineered products, however it was out of reach for price-sensitive shoppers who instead headed to the more affordable Honda Civic, Chevrolet Cobalt and Toyota Corolla, to name just a few.
The 2011 Jetta no longer plays second fiddle to those volume leaders. With a $17,250 base price, including destination charges, VW's new base four-door sedan pares the cost of ownership by a significant $6,300, making it the least expensive model in Volkswagen's fleet . . . even less money than a Golf.
What's more, the Jetta is now dimensionally similar to its major competitors since it's about 7.5 centimetres longer than the outgoing version. Most of that stretch occurs between the front and rear wheels for increased passenger comfort.
The Jetta's sheetmetal is a bit anonymous looking from the front, but the view from the sides and rear (shades of the coupe-ish CC model) are good enough to rank the overall design high on the attractiveness scale.
There's a thoroughly modern dashboard and control-panel layout, along with a pistol-grip-style shift lever and bright metal accents. Up-level models receive the more attractive two-tone dash treatment plus an extra-thick steering wheel that's slightly flat-spotted at the bottom to allow easier entry and exit for the driver. Keyless access with push-button start is also on the menu.
So, what exactly did VW do to lower the price? Just click the hood latch to find an oldie but apparently a goodie. Yes, the company resurrected the previously retired 115-horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder. VW claims a sub-10-second zero-to-100-km-h time, which is on par with others in class. It's not amazing acceleration, but it would have been much worse had VW not lopped off a whopping 200-plus kilograms of base curb weight.
Last year's standard 170-horsepower 2.5-litre five-cylinder gas engine returns as an option as does the popular 140-horsepower 2.0-litre turbo-diesel that's rated at 6.8 l/100 km in the city and just 4.8 on the highway.
Arriving later in the model year will be the Jetta GLI with its 200-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder, followed by a gas- , or possibly a diesel-electric hybrid powertrain that's planned for 2012.
In the meantime, the gasoline engines are mated to five-speed manual transmissions, or optional six-speed automatics. The turbo-diesel offers a six-speed manual or optional six-speed automated manual transmission called the DSG (short for Direct Shift Gearbox). The DSG does away with the pesky torque converter, which means improved fuel economy and much quicker shifts to aid acceleration. The diesel is about a second quicker to 100 km-h than the base gas engine. It's no slouch and it gets about 25 per cent better fuel economy, too. The equipment level on the price-leader Comfortline model pretty much mirrors what you'll find within the rest of the entry-level compact-sedan pack. You'll get a basic audio system, 15-inch steel wheels and some power-operated accessories.
Along with the 2.5-litre engine, the Sportline adds 16-inch steel rims, faux leather seat covers and cruise control, while the Highline tosses in 17-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, fog lamps and a premium sound system.
The TDI comes loaded with much of the up-level content and, at about $26,000, is the priciest Jetta you can buy . . . at least until the sporty GLI arrives.
Items such as a power sunroof, navigation system and sport package (suspension, seats and pedals) are optional, but for some reason VW is averse to offering leather-covered seats.
Still, the big news for 2011 is at the other end of the price spectrum where Volkswagen intends to provide buyers with a financial incentive to go German while at the tame time taking a serious run at Honda and Toyota for the crown.
What you should know: 2011 Volkswagen Jetta
Type: Four-door, front-wheel-drive compact sedan
Engines (hp): 2.0-litre SOHC I4 (115); 2.5-litre DOHC I5 (170); 2.0-litre DOHC I4 turbo-diesel(140)
Transmissions: Five-speed manual, six-speed automatic; six-speed manual (std. on turbo-diesel); six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (opt. on turbo-diesel).
Market position: The Jetta's larger size and sharper price point should provide VW with the necessary leverage for serious consideration by compact car shoppers who tend to rank Japanese products atop their most-coveted lists.
Points: Attractive, sophisticated design; Wide selection of powerplants, includes much-loved turbo-diesel; Despite growth spurt, 1,270 Jetta undercuts outgoing model's curb weight by 200 kilograms; Sales of now-pricier Golf hatchback could fall off a cliff and might not be offset by increase in Jetta popularity; A Golf price cut makes sense.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
L/100 km (city/hwy): 9.1/6.0 (2.0, MT)
Base price (incl. destination): $17,250
Base price: $16,850
Peppy, Camry-looking compact stresses both style and reliability.
Base price: $17,400
Popular compact standard-bearer due for makeover in 2011.
Base price: $17,000 (est)
All-new feature-laden 2011 model replaces aging Cobalt.
Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!
Posted January 7, 2011. © CarTest.ca TM