2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEPosted on March 6th, 2013
Turbocharged engine adds a performance boost
By Nina Russin
At the end of 2012, Volkswagen added a gasoline-electric hybrid model to its compact Jetta sedan lineup. The Jetta is a core product for Volkswagen, and its success is key to the brand’s growth in the US market. Although the clean diesel model gives buyers a green option, product planners see more opportunity stateside with a hybrid.
Compact cars account for two thirds of the hybrid market in the United States. Despite some heavy competition, Volkswagen has one ace-in-the-hole: it is the only manufacturer offering a hybrid sedan with a turbocharged engine. The 1.4-liter block in the Jetta hybrid is the same block used in the Audi A3.
An electric motor and clutch are integrated into a single unit, adding an additional 27-horsepower to the engine’s 150. Because electric motors develop peak torque at very low engine speeds, the unit delivers up to 184 foot pounds of torque as low as 1400 rpm.
The other appealing feature for driving enthusiasts is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The transmission uses friction rather than fluid couplings, offering performance closer to a manual gearbox.
The lithium-ion battery pack is located between the back seat and the trunk. While the trunk isn’t as spacious as the gasoline-powered Jetta, designers managed to incorporate a small pass-through for longer items. Once again, competitive products don’t offer this feature.
Base price for the hybrid is $24,995, excluding the $795 destination charge. The upscale SE model tested is priced from $26,990. Standard comfort and convenience features include leatherette seating, satellite radio, automatic climate control, a 60/40 folding rear seat with pass-through, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, keyless access with pushbutton start, iPod compatibility and LED tail lamps. Adding in the destination charge, final MSRP is $27,820.
Most fuel-efficient member of the Jetta family
The other green member of the Jetta family, the 2.0-liter TDI model averages about 30 miles-per-gallon around town and 42 on the highway according to the EPA. Numbers for the new gasoline/electric hybrid are considerably better: 42 miles-per-gallon in the city and up to 48 on the highway. Compared to naturally aspirated models, the hybrid gets almost twice the gas mileage around town and between 10 and 15 miles-per-gallon more on the highway.
Net horsepower for the Jetta hybrid is higher than either of the naturally aspirated gasoline engines and the diesel, thanks to the addition of the electric motor. However, when it comes to low-end power, the diesel is the clear winner, with 236 foot-pounds of torque available at 1750 rpm.
Test drive in Phoenix
Last fall, I drove the Jetta Hybrid at a media event in Santa Fe, New Mexico. While that experience gave me the opportunity to enjoy the turbocharged engine’s performance at altitude, I didn’t get a sense of what the sedan would be like to live with.
That opportunity came this week, when I got behind the wheel in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. While there is a flood of new hybrid models on the market, the Jetta is distinctly different than its competition.
The transmission is one of the most noticeable differences. Although the continuously variable automatic transmissions used in other hybrid cars have improved over time, they still suffer from soft response. To be able to enjoy the fuel economy benefits of the hybrid model and crisp shifting eliminates that compromise.
In order to compete against Toyota and Honda, both of whom have extensive hybrid development experience, Jetta engineers had to ensure seamless transition between the hybrid’s pure electric and gasoline modes.
They did. On the road, the only way I was able to tell when the gas engine shut off and the electric motor took over was by reading the energy meter in the gauge cluster. The Jetta hybrid can operate in pure electric mode at speeds up to 44 miles-per-hour and for distances just over a mile. In pure electric mode, the engine decouples from the electric motor to minimize parasitic power loss.
As with most hybrids, the gasoline engine shuts off when the car stops at a light, and restarts as soon as the driver lifts off the brakes. The sedan has similar creep characteristics to a conventional gasoline engine and automatic transmission, which is important for crawling along in stop-and-go traffic.
The suspension is similar to other Jetta models: a strut-type independent setup in front and torsion beam in the back. I found the suspension pleasantly compliant during both test drives.
Engineers utilize electric power steering systems on both TDI and hybrid Jetta models. The electric unit saves space and weight over a traditional hydraulic unit, and reduces internal pumping losses. While its performance is by no means bad, on-center response is soft. The hydraulic rack-and-pinion systems on the gasoline engine models work better.
Visibility around the perimeter is good. I had no problems monitoring traffic in adjacent lanes on the highway.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the sedan in firm, linear fashion.
Inside, the Jetta is quite spacious, considering the car’s compact dimensions. Although it doesn’t offer as much rear legroom as in the larger Passat, adults should feel comfortable in the outboard positions.
Evidence of Volkswagen’s value pricing strategy is evident in features such as the iPod interface, satellite radio and keyless start, which are typically part of option packages.
Buyers with active lifestyles will appreciate the versatility that the fold-flat rear seats and pass-through add. With the seats in place, the trunk is not particularly spacious. There is enough room for groceries and some small luggage. Adding the pass-through enables owners to load in skis, snowboards and other long items.
The Jetta hybrid comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability control, daytime running lamps and tire pressure monitoring. Volkswagen’s factory warranty includes three years of complimentary scheduled maintenance and roadside assistance. The hybrid system warranty is good for eight years or 100,000 miles: whichever comes first.
The newest member of the Jetta family is on display at Volkswagen dealerships nationwide.
Like: The Volkswagen Jetta hybrid is an affordable, fun-to-drive car with exceptional fuel economy. Driving enthusiasts will appreciate the turbocharged engine and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Dislike: Soft on-center response from the electric power steering system.
Model: Jetta Hybrid SE
Base price: $26,990
As tested: $27,820
Horsepower*: 170 Hp @ 5000 rpm
Torque: 184 lbs.-ft. @ 1400 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 8.6 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 42/48 mpg city/highway
Comment: * Horsepower and torque figures are for the gasoline engine and electric motor combined.2013, Best Value, Green Hybrid 2013, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, standard safety
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