2015 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 2.0T SEPosted on July 27th, 2015
Peppy compact sedan for driving enthusiasts
By Nina Russin
Compact sedans are go-to cars for first time buyers because of their affordability. A well-designed model can take its owner through college and starting a new family. While there are plenty of options on the market that are safe, fuel efficient and competitively priced, fewer that fill those squares are also fun to drive.
Volkswagen’s talent is in offering European performance without the price tag of a German luxury brand. The compact Jetta, priced from $16,215 is a prime example. Nicely styled and well engineered, the Jetta is a package that will serve its owner well through whatever changes life might throw at him. Plus it’s a hoot to drive.
The Jetta is the only compact sedan available with two green options: a gasoline-electric hybrid and turbo-diesel. Buyers can choose between three four-cylinder gasoline engines (one being the hybrid) as well as the TDI, mated to a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
The test car is the upscale GLI SE, priced from $28,020 excluding the $820 destination charge. Buyers who don’t like to haggle at the dealership with appreciate the monospec pricing strategy. The car comes fully loaded, including a power sliding sunroof, keyless entry and start, Fender audio system with satellite radio, rearview camera, heated front seats and split folding second-row seat, rain sensing wipers, daytime running lamps and LED tail lamps. Final MSRP is $28,840.
Test drive in Arizona
I spent the past week driving the Jetta sedan around the Phoenix, Scottsdale and Chandler Arizona metropolitan areas through a combination of monsoonal rainstorms and summer construction. In areas where the construction seems to cause daily traffic accidents, I found comfort in the Jetta’s five star government safety rating. The sedan is also an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
Turbocharging gives the two-liter gasoline engine a combination of pep and fuel economy, with 207 foot-pounds of peak torque coming on as early as 1700 rpm for good power off the line. Average fuel economy is 27 miles-per-gallon according to the EPA: 32 mpg on the highway.
The dual-clutch automatic transmission has friction as opposed to fluid couplings for crisp shifts similar to the performance of a manual gearbox. Although I prefer pushing a clutch pedal, the fact is that the DSG units shift faster and more accurately than most drivers, including me.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of a strut-type setup in front and multi-link in the rear, offering both rows of passengers a comfortable ride. Steering response from the electric power steering system is quite good on the low end with a 36.4-foot turning circle. On-center response at higher speeds is a bit soft, but I would not feel uncomfortable making an emergency evasive maneuver.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the sedan in firm, linear fashion.
Visibility around the perimeter is good thanks to a generous greenhouse. The standard rearview camera makes it easier to monitor cross-traffic in crowded parking lots.
Engineers did a good job of containing road, wind and engine noise so occupants can converse or enjoy the premium sound system.
This year’s Jetta models get a styling refresh inside and out. The sporty GLI is comes with larger rims, a honeycomb grille, red brake calipers, LED tail lamps and dual exhaust tips.
Designers did a good job of keeping clutter to a minimum on the interior to maintain and aura of spaciousness. The leatherette upholstery on the test car is attractive and easy to keep clean, but I did find the seats hard on trips lasting over an hour. Lower lumbar support is decent.
Both the gauge cluster and information screen are easy to read in bright sunlight and after dark. A flat bottom steering wheel is homage to the automaker’s racing heritage. Redundant steering wheel controls minimize driver distraction.
The Jetta’s spacious trunk has plenty of room for luggage, groceries, golf bags and some smaller camping equipment. The fold-flat rear seats extend the cargo floor for longer items such as skis and snowboards. Cyclists will want to install a hitch rack or consider one of the brand’s crossover vehicles.
The Volkswagen Jetta comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability control, daytime running lamps and tire pressure monitoring. Volkswagen’s intelligent crash response system unlocks the doors, turns off the fuel pump and activates the hazard lights in an accident severe enough to deploy the airbags.
Volkswagen’s factory warranty includes a year of complimentary scheduled maintenance and three years of 24-hour roadside assistance.
The sporty new Jetta is on display at Volkswagen dealerships nationwide.
Like: An affordable, nicely styled compact sedan with a wide array of engine options and peppy performance.
Dislike: Hard seats
Model: Jetta GLU 2.0T SE
Base price: $28,020
As tested: $28,840
Horsepower: 210 Hp @ 5300 rpm
Torque: 207 lbs.-ft. @ 1700 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 24/32 mpg city/highway