• Jetta earns top 5-star federal safety rating
  • Improved driver protection in side-crash test
  • Lower rollover risk

VW bolstered the safety credentials of its best-selling model with a top safety score from federal regulators. The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta earned a 5-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) -- a better score than the 2013 Jetta. Incremental improvements in the side-crash and rollover tests contributed to the top overall rating for the compact sedan.

The outgoing 2013 Jetta is rated at four stars overall, with a 5-star score in the side-crash category and 4-star scores for frontal-crash and rollover sections of the test. Those results apply to both the 2013 Jetta and Jetta Hybrid but not to the Jetta Sportwagen.

NHTSA kept the frontal crash-test results from the 2013 model for this latest rating, but performed new side-crash and rollover tests using a 2014 Jetta Hybrid. The heavier hybrid vehicle fared better than the conventional, gasoline-powered Jetta. It earned five stars for driver safety in the side-barrier test compared to four stars for the 2013 Jetta.

The Jetta's performance on the rollover test improved, too. The results show a risk of rollover reduced from 12.1 percent in the 2013 Jetta to 11.1 percent in the 2014 model.

Aside from an optional backup camera, the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta does not offer advanced safety features such as collision warning or lane-departure warning, both of which are included on NHTSA's list of recommended advanced technology features. Instead, the Jetta sticks to a tried-and-true formula for protecting occupants with seat belts, head restraints and six airbags.

An improvement from a 4-star rating to a 5-star score for the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta is important for VW's biggest seller. Several of its competitors offer top safety ratings for their compact sedan models. The latest Chevrolet Cruze, Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla are rated at five stars overall. Like the Jetta, the Chevy Cruze is available with a diesel engine. Only the Jetta and Civic offer a choice of gas-only or hybrid powertrains.

What it means to you: Drivers who like the affordability and fuel efficiency of a compact sedan but don't want to compromise on safety have several choices. The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta -- and a handful of its competitors -- boast federal regulators' top, 5-star safety rating.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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