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2015 Volkswagen Jetta: First Drive Review

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author photo by Doug DeMuro September 2014

We recently had the opportunity to test out the newly updated 2015 Volkswagen Jetta, which features a revised front and rear end, an updated interior, a few new features and some new engines -- not that you'd notice. In fact, changes to Volkswagen's all-new Jetta are so subtle that even we had trouble telling the latest model apart from the old one. Still, we've collected our thoughts about the new car below after a few hours behind the wheel.

More of the Same -- Fortunately

One of the main reasons that Volkswagen hasn't substantially altered the Jetta is that the compact sedan is just too important to its U.S. lineup to subject it to huge, radical changes after just 4 years on the market. In fact, the Jetta accounts for around a quarter of all U.S. Volkswagen sales, and it outsells most of the brand's other models combined. Volkswagen revised the Jetta in areas where it needed changing and left the rest untouched -- and to us, that's a good thing.

Consider, for example, the powertrains. While we'd avoid the slow, inefficient 2.0-liter base-level engine at all costs, even the outgoing 2.5-liter 5-cylinder was starting to show its age, offering mediocre fuel economy and middling performance. Enter Volkswagen's new 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which boasts the same 170 horsepower as the 2.5-liter but touts far more abrupt throttle response and improved acceleration feel. The new engine also brings improved gas mileage, boasting up to 25 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway compared to 23 mpg city/33 mpg hwy for the 2.5-liter.

The Jetta's interior has also been updated. While exterior changes are too subtle for most drivers to notice, interior revisions go a long way, offering better quality and improved textures. The steering wheel is an especially important upgrade; it swaps out last year's drab, plastic material for an upscale replacement with piano-black trim.

Drives Like a Jetta

On the road, we noticed few differences from the outgoing model -- save for the 1.8-liter engine, which already made it into some Jetta models for the 2014 model year. The sedan's ride is compliant, like always, seemingly offering a little more protection from bumps than compact-car rivals such as the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Handling is secure, though not especially sporty. More importantly, it doesn't suffer from the excessive lightness that often hinders the steering feel in many compact cars.

Diesel Improvements

We had the opportunity to spend a little time behind the wheel of Volkswagen's latest Jetta TDI, which is also heavily updated from last year's model, though you wouldn't know it at first glance. In fact, you wouldn't know it on paper either: The Jetta TDI still boasts a 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine -- just like the outgoing model.

Volkswagen insists, however, that there's an all-new diesel engine under the hood of the Jetta TDI, boasting a 10-hp boost over the outgoing model. More importantly, it offers a fuel economy boost as well, with Volkswagen saying that the latest Jetta TDI should get 32 mpg city/45 mpg hwy -- a jump from the outgoing model's 30 mpg city/42 mpg hwy. That's an important change for shoppers who compare the Jetta TDI to hybrid vehicles that can sometimes approach 50 mpg.

In normal driving on a variety of roads, we found the Jetta TDI to be highly competent regardless of the location -- from smooth highways to curvy country roads. The engine is smooth, handling is stable and wind noise is muted. Of course, acceleration still isn't a strong point -- we suspect that 0-to-60 times still hover around last year's 9-second figure -- but we think most drivers won't be buying the car with sporty driving intentions in mind.

A Jetta for Everyone

For those that are looking for a sporty Jetta, however, Volkswagen says that the high-performance GLI trim level will soon get the same exterior and interior revisions as the sedan's other 2015 models. While we haven't had a chance to drive the new GLI, we suspect Volkswagen has a hit on its hands if it's anything like the spry, exciting GTI hatchback on which it's based.

Drivers interested in improving their fuel economy without going diesel will be happy to learn that the highly efficient Jetta Hybrid will also be making a comeback. While Volkswagen hasn't announced final details, today's model offers 42 mpg city/48 mpg hwy -- outpacing even Volkswagen's own Jetta TDI.

In essence, the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta offers something for everyone: the thrifty 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, the mainstream 1.8-liter turbo, diesel, hybrid and the high-performance GLI. Given its changes for 2015, the Jetta remains a compact car that we'd still be happy to have on our shopping list.

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Used 2014 Volkswagen Jetta SE Sedan
Used 2014 Volkswagen Jetta
$9,451
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2014 Volkswagen Jetta SE Sedan
Used 2014 Volkswagen Jetta
$10,738
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2014 Volkswagen Jetta SE Sedan
Used 2014 Volkswagen Jetta
$10,793
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Certified 2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI SportWagen
Certified 2014 Volkswagen Jetta
$16,122
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Volkswagen Jetta: First Drive Review - Autotrader