2014 Volkswagen Jetta HybridPosted on July 7th, 2014
Compact sedan is fuel thrifty and fun to drive
By Nina Russin
While there are a lot of hybrid passenger cars on the market, few meet the needs of driving enthusiasts. Volkswagen, a brand known for its driving dynamics, engineered the Jetta Hybrid to fill this square and give eco-conscious fans of the brand an alternative to clean diesel.
The difference between the Jetta Hybrid and competitors in the compact segment is components. The Jetta has a turbocharged engine while others do not, and a dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission in lieu of the more common continuously variable unit. The suspension is independent front and rear as opposed to competitors with torsion beam rear axles.
With a starting price of $25,560 excluding the $820 destination charge, it’s a lot of car for the money. Volkswagen throws in two years of complimentary scheduled maintenance and three years of roadside assistance as part of the factory warranty to sweeten the deal.
The Jetta’s other ace-in-the hole is interior versatility. While it can’t match models such as the Toyota Prius liftback for cargo space, a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat is rare in a hybrid sedan. There’s a bump between the trunk and rear seat where the battery pack is located, but the driver has considerably more room to work with than in most competitive products.
Standard comfort and convenience features include Bluetooth interface, dual-zone climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a rear spoiler and remote keyless entry.
Enhanced aerodynamic profile
Although the hybrid sedan looks almost identical to the gasoline-powered sedan, there are important modifications around the exterior that decrease the car’s coefficient of drag by two tenths of a point. Engineers revised the front air intake and front air dam, added a unique rear spoiler and extended the car’s side skirts.
Styling variations include a unique grille and badging.
Turbocharged powertrain features DSG transmission
Power for the Jetta Hybrid comes from a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine and 27-horsepower electric motor mated to a dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission. The driver can manually select gears for more aggressive performance.
Zero-to-sixty acceleration is 8.6 seconds according to the manufacturer. Because electric motors develop peak torque at very low speeds, the Jetta hybrid has exceptional acceleration in the twenty to fifty mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into high-speed traffic.
Test drive in Arizona
This week I got behind the wheel of the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, giving it the ultimate test at the height of the Phoenix, Arizona summer. Average temperatures during the 90-mile test drive were about108 degrees: a balmy day in these parts at this time of year.
The route included some time on surface streets and highways in Phoenix’s east valley before climbing towards the mountain town of Payson and then heading south on the Bush Highway in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains.
The Jetta proved to be a spunky, fun companion, taking on the heat and elevation gain on the Bumblebee highway with aplomb. I kept the car in fully automatic mode during most of the test drive, primarily because I found the car’s Power Meter that replaces a conventional tachometer confusing.
The idea is good: to inform the driver of when and how both the electric motor and gasoline engine are working. But because the engine decouples during deceleration to save fuel, the Power Meter goes to zero. If a person bases their shifting on engine speed, this sort of arrangement makes rpms hard to keep track of.
Aside from that and some rather hard seats, the sedan was all I had hoped it would be and more. It is quiet, powerful and responsive. Although on-center response from the electric power steering system is a little soft, I felt well connected with the wheels on the more challenging parts of the drive. The four-wheel independent suspension did an excellent job of absorbing bumps in the road without feeling overly soft.
Visibility around the perimeter of the sedan is good. Although this trim level does not come equipped with a rearview camera, I was able to monitor traffic to the back of the sedan quite easily: ditto for vehicles in adjacent lanes on the highway.
Engineers did an excellent job on NVH, so passengers in both rows of seating should have no problems conversing or listening to the audio system.
The Jetta Hybrid interior is clean and spacious, offering seating for up to five adult passengers. Rear legroom isn’t quite as good as for the larger Passat, but it is adequate.
Engineers love to add efficiency displays into hybrid models and the Jetta is no exception, with a digital indicator displaying instant fuel economy. Its greatest value is that it shows the driver when the engine decouples during deceleration and when it reengages.
I found both the audio and temperature controls easy to operate and reachable from either front seating position. Manual seat controls were easy to operate and I was able to find a position with good forward visibility. As mentioned above the driver’s seat was a bit hard: something I noticed after the first hour of driving.
The Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control and tire pressure monitoring. Volkswagen’s intelligent crash response system automatically shuts off the fuel, unlocks the doors and turns on the hazard lights when the vehicle is involved in a serious collision.
The Jetta Hybrid is on display at Volkswagen dealerships nationwide.
Like: A well-engineered hybrid sedan that combines excellent fuel economy with equally good driving dynamics.
Dislike: Hard driver’s seat
Model: Jetta Hybrid
Base price: $25,560
As tested: $26,380
Horsepower*: 150 @ 5000 rpm
Torque: 184@ 1600 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 ratings are for the gasoline engine only.2014, Green Hybrid 2014, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, standard safety, Volkswagen
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