The 2011 Volkswagen Jetta has been Americanized. It's not built in Tennessee like big brother 2012 Passat, but it's close enough to the American border that we no longer consider it a true German vehicle.
The redesigned Jetta is built in Puebla, Mexico and starts out at an affordable price of $16,495. A bargain indeed when you consider it still has the genetics of Deutschland engineers.
Trim levels range from the base S, to upper SE, to luxury SEL and diesel-burning TDI. Our tester was the SEL with a sunroof, ringing in at $24,165. No longer such a bargain.
Yet with that higher price tag comes more equipment and upgraded features, which we believe make the Jetta even more enjoyable to drive from day to day.
Check out the sections above for the full review.
The 2011 Jetta has been completely overhauled, inside and out with a wheelbase and exterior length that are significantly larger than its predecessor. At 182.2 inches long, 57.2 inches tall and 70 inches wide, it is more than 2.9 inches longer than the previous Jetta.
The front end of the car features a design defined by prominent horizontal lines. The high-gloss black radiator grille and the carâ€™s trapezoidal headlights help create to distinct look. The upper front end section shows a powerful transition from the V-shaped engine hood to the fenders on the sides; the shoulder section provides dynamic and muscular styling. The lower fascia carries fog lights at each end and is sculpted to fit the rest of the front design.
The signature VW taillights are split into two sections, extending on either side from the fender into the tailgate.Turn signal indicators have been moved from the base of the side-view mirrors to the back side, and illuminate sharply with amber LEDs.
S trim levels carry 15â€ steel wheels while upper trim levels carry 16â€ and 17â€ wheels and tires. Upper trim levels also have a high-gloss black â€œwingâ€ satellite radio antenna mounted at the back center of the roof.
Thanks to the 2011 Jettaâ€™s larger dimensions, interior comfort and trunk capacity are greatly improved. Space all around feels comparable to a mid-size sedan, with plenty of glass area to make the cabin feel airy.
One of the benefits of the extended wheelbase is a more comfortable layout of the rear seating area. Legroom is now a class-leading 38.1 inches, a 2.7 inch gain from the previous model.
VW designers utilized the dashboard space with intuitive controls and well-arranged instrumentation, along with a newly designed three-spoke telescoping steering wheel that carries phone and audio controls. The center console is slightly angled toward the driver for a more ergonomic arrangement.
Additionally, the round white-on-red instruments are now in a more optimal viewing range with the multifunction display located between them. The display features outside temperature, speed, odometer, trip odometer, fuel, and clock information.
The simple-to-operate manual air conditioning system features a pollen filter, which serves to reduce pollen and dust levels for allergic passengers, as well as keeping the interior relatively clean. VW made variable intermittent windshield wipers standard on all trim levels, and even offers heated windshield washer nozzles on upper trim levels, a feature not usually seen in this segment.
The intuitive cruise control system, illuminated visor vanity mirrors, and a center armrest are standard on all but the S trim.
We found the 6-way manually adjustable heated front seats comfortable, and the adjustable lumbar on our SEL was especially helpful in finding just the right seating position and lower back support.
Surprisingly standard on all Jetta sedans are one-touch up/down power windows with pinch protection. This was a nice touch on VWâ€™s part, making the opening and closing of windows a cinch while driving.
The overhead red ambient lighting projects downward, illuminating the front of the cabin nicely at night, a feature primarily seen only on luxury vehicles.
The 60/40-split folding rear seat features a center armrest and pass-through with integrated cupholders. Three passengers fit comfortably with plenty of leg, shoulder, and headroom. VW even took the extra step of adding in a center-position head restraint.
Technology is critical in this class segment, and the 2011 Jetta does not disappoint.
Keyless access with push-button start comes standard on the SEL. We liked the hidden look of this system versus competitors, as there is no rubber button on the handle. We didnâ€™t like though, how it wasnâ€™t easy to unlock all four doors using the outside handle or how we failed to find a way to silence the obnoxious locking confirmation honk.
VW carried its German roots over to the 2011 Jetta with one feature that should be standard on every car: the three-blink lane change feature.
A great sounding six-speaker premium sound system is standard in the SEL trim, and is controlled via a 5â€ color touchscreen navigation system. Integrated into the system are AUX, SD memory card, iPod, CD, and Sirius Satellite radio inputs.
The VW RNS 315 navigation unit was hands-down the simplest and easiest to use OEM navigation system we have ever gotten our hands on. The system allowed passengers to fully use it while the vehicle was in motion, and destinations could be found quickly while at a traffic signal. We were truly impressed at how logically and expeditiously the system operated.
The same could not be said about the Bluetooth hands-free calling system. It took quite some time to get a Blackberry synced with the Jettaâ€™s system, and the ownerâ€™s manual wasnâ€™t very helpful.
The Volkswagen Jetta offers two 12V power outlets for charging small electronics, one in the front, and one in the rear.
Our SEL test vehicle also featured the optional sunroof, an extra cost option that used to be standard on almost all previous generation Jetta sedans.
The 2011 Volkswagen Jetta comes with the latest safety equipment, including six airbags (driver and front passenger airbags, side airbags in front and side curtain airbags in front and rear), and a long list of active safety systems.
Active systems include electronic stability control, ABS, Hydraulic Brake Assist, Engine Braking Assist, Electronic Differential Lock, Electronic Brake-pressure Distribution, and Anti-Slip Regulation.
Daytime running lights help the Jetta to be seen better by oncoming traffic and pedestrians, and VWâ€™s exclusive Intelligent Crash Response System turns off the fuel pump, activates the hazard lights, and unlocks the doors in the event of airbag deployment.
Tire pressure monitoring is standard and alerts the driver via the instrument panel if a tire loses significant air pressure.
Volkswagen offers disc brakes in the front and drum brakes in the rear on lower trim levels, while upper trim levels come with discs at all four corners.
Four engines are available in the U.S., with our tester featuring the 2.5L, 170 horsepower, and 177 lbs-ft of torque model.
Additional engines include the 2.0 (115hp), the 2.0 TSI (200hp), and 2.0-liter turbo-diesel direct injection (TDI) Clean Diesel, producing 140 horsepower and 236 lbs-ft. of torque.
All Jetta engines will be offered with a manual transmission as standard equipment. An automatic transmission will also be available with each engine version as an option. On the 2.0-liter TDI and 2.0-liter TSI, Volkswagen offers the 6-speed DSG â€“ one of the most advanced and efficient automatic transmission systems in the world.
The 2.5L Jetta SEL is rated at 23 MPG city, 33 MPG highway, while the diesel burning TDI model gets a remarkable 42 MPG on the highway.
On the Fun to Drive scale, the 2011 Jetta does a decent job for the compact class. It remains flat in the corners, stable at higher speeds, and highway lane-changes are nowhere as nerve wrecking as in a Toyota Corolla.
In fact, the five-cylinder engine sounded great at higher RPMs, an attribute not usually found in this segment.
Road noise is well muted, but there was a noticeable amount of wind noise. The side windows appeared to be thinner than normal, which might have been a contributing factor.
Whether it was around town driving or a two-hour highway drive, the Jetta was ready to handle any road with aplomb.
With competition from vehicles like the Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze, and Hyundai Elantra, the Jetta needs to offer just as much, if not more to be competitive. More style, features, safety, and value. Volkswagen even offers Carefree Maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles, a luxury that no other automaker in this segment offers.
The 2011 Jetta delivers, with sophisticated styling, German genetics, and a touch of fun on the side.
- Low starting price
- More cabin & trunk space
- Comfortable seating front and back
- Excellent visibility all around
- Engine has a lot of pep
- Large fuel tank = long range
- Best OEM navigation system ever
- Simple, clean, modern design
- Higher trim levels are $$
- Fuel economy could be better
- No power seat