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2017 Volkswagen Jetta: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader December 2016

Although the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta is officially a compact sedan, it's the biggest in its class and offers space comparable to a midsize car. The range of engines and trims available covers a lot of ground from basic to sporty, and the Jetta has performed well in crash tests.

Going for the safe option is great when protecting occupants, not so much when designing the exterior and cabin. Forgettable, inoffensive styling is a Jetta downside, as is this generation's age -- it debuted in 2011. After gaining a USB port (at last), the storage area near the port isn't big enough to accommodate a regular smartphone, let alone something like an iPhone Plus. However, this year's model still has plenty of bright spots.

What's New for 2017?

Trim levels and equipment choices have been streamlined. A rearview camera is now standard throughout the range. Electronic driver aids become available in lower trims, and Volkswagen has stopped making the hybrid version.

What We Like

Passenger space; trunk space (15.7 cu ft.); Apple CarPlay/Android Auto; energetic engine, direct-shift gearbox (DSG) automatic transmission and tidy handling in the GLI

What We Don't

Not completely convinced about the Fender-branded audio system; the 1.8T SEL and GLI are a bit pricey

How Much?

$18,715-$28,715

Fuel Economy

A turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine makes a useful 150 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. This is sent to the front wheels through a 6-speed manual transmission. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 28 miles per gallon in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. The optional 6-speed automatic adjusts those numbers to 28 mpg city/38 mpg hwy.

The 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder returns 25 mpg city/35 mpg hwy while delivering 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. This engine comes with the automatic transmission only.

The GLI enjoys 210 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. The standard transmission is a 6-speed manual, and the automatic option is a 6-speed DSG dual-clutch unit. The EPA puts consumption at 23 mpg city/33 mpg hwy (manual) and 24 mpg city/33 mpg hwy (automatic).

Standard Features & Options

The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta comes in 1.4T S, 1.4T SE, 1.8T SEL and 2.0T GLI trims.

The 1.4T S ($18,715) includes a 5-speed manual transmission, 16-inch steel wheels, power accessories, heated side mirrors, a multifunction steering wheel, a rearview camera, LED daytime running lights, a 4-speaker audio system, Bluetooth and the MIB 2 infotainment system with a 5-in touchscreen, a USB port and an auxiliary audio input.

The 1.4T SE ($21,715) adds 16-in alloy wheels, heated front seats, heated washer nozzles, a power sunroof, a blind spot monitoring system with rear traffic alert, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, leatherette upholstery, keyless entry with push-button start, satellite radio and a 6.3-in touchscreen.

The 1.8T SEL ($25,815) brings the automatic transmission as standard, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision mitigation, fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, a 6-way power adjustable driver's seat, automatic dual-zone climate control, a cooled glove compartment, a 6-speaker audio system and a navigation system. A 1.8T Sport version is expected later in 2017.

The 2.0T GLI ($28,715) comes with its own cosmetic and aerodynamic touches to accompany its more powerful engine, plus upgraded brakes with red-painted calipers, a sport suspension, front sport seats, 18-in alloy wheels, parking sensors front and rear, LED taillights and a 400-watt/9-speaker Fender-branded audio system (made by Panasonic).

Where it's not standard, the automatic transmission is an extra $1,100.

Safety

The Jetta obtained the best score of Good from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety crash-test program. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tests, the Jetta was awarded four stars for front impacts, five for side impacts and five overall.

Standard features include front- and side-curtain airbags, as well as the usual anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control. All models have an automatic post-collision braking function that applies the stoppers when the car has been involved in a crash. The idea is to make sure the car doesn't run into anything else.

Behind The Wheel

For the most part, the Jetta range provides a composed, capable ride that should keep everyone comfortable -- although it probably won't be too thrilling.

For anything approaching real fun, check out the GLI, which positions itself as the sedan version of VW's brilliant GTI hatchback. Taking 6.7 seconds to sprint from standstill to 60 miles per hour doesn't sound that fast, but the GLI seems a little quicker when going by seat-of-the-pants feel.

It's certainly nimble and stable, yet eager to transition from left to right. Front-wheel-drive cars usually suffer from understeer, where the front tires gradually lose grip if a corner is taken too quickly. The GLI has XDS, however, an electronic cross-differential system that helps with traction and mitigates torque steer. The sweet thing about the GLI is that it's such a well-balanced package, with just the right amount of power to make the chassis enjoyable but not enough to overwhelm it.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 Ford Focus -- The Focus is one of the finest-handling front-wheel-drive compact cars around, with punchy engines also in the mix. It's coming to the end of its current generation, with a new version due in 2018.

2017 Mazda3 -- Refreshed for 2017, the Mazda3 offers a superb package with good driving manners, fine style and decent equipment levels.

2017 Subaru Impreza -- The Impreza comes in sedan form, with all-wheel drive as standard. A new generation debuts for this model year.

2017 Volkswagen Golf -- Among the best compact cars on the planet, the Golf is engaging yet comfortable, practical yet stylish. The sporty GTI didn't become an icon by accident.

Used BMW 328i -- All sports sedan drivers want a BMW when they grow up. The 3 Series is the epitome and pinnacle of its class.

Autotrader's Advice

The Jetta's main selling point is its interior space. Those requiring more upscale materials and driving fun will do well to look elsewhere, like the Golf (if a hatchback body is acceptable). But if it's a Jetta or nothing, then the 1.8T SEL version could be most things to most people.

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RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Certified 2017 Volkswagen Jetta S
Certified 2017 Volkswagen Jetta
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Used 2017 Volkswagen Jetta S Sedan
Used 2017 Volkswagen Jetta
$14,280
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Used 2017 Volkswagen Jetta S Sedan
Used 2017 Volkswagen Jetta
$13,490
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Used 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI SE Sedan
Used 2017 Volkswagen Jetta
$20,147
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.
2017 Volkswagen Jetta: New Car Review - Autotrader