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2018 Volkswagen Jetta: New Car Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Volkswagen Jetta, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Volkswagen Jetta Review

The 2018 Volkswagen Jetta comes into this model year with the title of best-selling VW in the United States. So even though it’s hardly the freshest car in the compact sedan class, there still seems to be plenty of appeal.

One inescapable factor is that it’s the biggest of its segment and offers space comparable to a midsize sedan. The engines and trims on offer cover a lot of ground from basic to sporty, and the Jetta has performed well in crash tests.

Playing safe is great when protecting occupants, but not so much when designing the exterior and cabin. Generic styling is a Jetta downside. As is this generation’s age — it debuted in 2011. Nevertheless, the Jetta has its bright spots.

What’s New for 2018?

Two new trim levels become available: Wolfsburg Edition and SE Sport. These new trims have brought about a reshuffle of equipment. The whole range receives some styling tweaks. The GLI version loses its manual transmission option. And the transferable bumper-to-bumper New Vehicle Limited Warranty has now been extended to six years/72,000 miles (whichever comes first). See the 2018 Volkswagen Jetta models for sale near you

What We Like

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

What We Don’t

Not completely convinced about the Fender-branded audio system; the SEL and GLI are a bit pricey; in general, the Jetta is getting relatively old

How Much?

$19,495-$30,395

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 5-speed manual transmission. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 28 miles per gallon in the city, 40 mpg on the highway and 33 mpg in combined driving. The optional 6-speed automatic adjusts those numbers to 28 mpg city/38 mpg hwy/32 mpg combined.

The 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine returns 24 mpg city/33 mpg hwy/28 mpg combined 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 DSG dual-clutch unit that is essentially an automatic. The EPA puts consumption at 24 mpg city/33 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined.

Standard Features and Options

The 2018 Volkswagen Jetta is available in S, Wolfsburg Edition, SE, SE Sport, SEL and GLI trims.

The S ($19,495) comes with a 5-speed manual transmission, 1.4-liter engine, 16-inch alloy wheels, power accessories, heated side mirrors, a multifunction steering wheel, a rearview camera, LED daytime running lights, a 4-speaker audio system, Bluetooth and an infotainment system with a 5-in touchscreen, USB port and one auxiliary audio input.

The Wolfsburg Edition ($21,195) includes fog lights, a leather-covered shifter, upgraded/heated front seats, leatherette seating surfaces and heated front washer nozzles.

The SE ($22,095) adds a chromed grille, a powered tilt/slide sunroof, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, keyless entry with push-button start, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration and a 6.3-in touchscreen.

The SE Sport ($24,095) is where the automatic transmission becomes standard, along with the 1.8-liter engine and a blacked-out grille.

The SEL ($27,095) brings 17-in alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision mitigation, rain-sensing wipers, a 6-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, automatic dual-zone climate control, a cooled glove compartment, a 400-watt 10-speaker Fender-branded audio system (made by Panasonic) and a navigation system.

The GLI ($30,395) comes with its own cosmetic and aerodynamic touches to accompany its more powerful engine (the turbocharged 2.0-liter), plus upgraded brakes with red-painted calipers, sport suspension, front sport seats, 18-in alloy wheels, a self-dimming rearview mirror, parking sensors in the front and rear and LED taillights.

Where it’s not standard, the automatic transmission is an extra $1,000.

Safety

The Jetta obtained the best score of "Good" from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) crash-test program, which named it a Top Safety Pick when the forward-collision mitigation system is installed. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tests, it was awarded four stars (out of five) 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 controls. 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 and capable ride that should keep everyone comfortable. Although it probably won’t be too thrilling. And keep in mind that the storage area near the USB port is not big enough to accommodate a regular smartphone, let alone something like an iPhone Plus.

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 mph 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-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, yet not enough to overwhelm it.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Ford Focus — One of the finest handling front-drive compact cars around, with punchy engines also in the mix. Coming to the end of a generation.

2018 Honda Civic — Crazy-busy styling, but a superb car with several intriguing versions.

2018 Mazda3 — An excellent package with good driving manners, fine style and decent equipment levels.

2018 Subaru Impreza — Comes in sedan form and with all-wheel drive as standard. A new generation debuted for 2017, so it’s still fresh.

2018 Volkswagen Golf — Among the best compact cars on the planet. Involving yet comfortable, practical yet stylish. The sporty GTI didn’t become an icon by luck.

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 new SE Sport trim level makes a strong case for itself by offering useful power and generous equipment at a reasonable price.

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