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Now is the Winter of VW Jetta's De-Content

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author photo by Autotrader October 2010

The all-new 2011 Volkswagen Jetta enjoys several advantages over its predecessor. It's larger – for a roomier, more comfortable interior. It's also more fuel efficient – a new base engine makes meager but measurable mileage gains. And the new Jetta is less expensive than the old one. But that may not be an advantage.

A cheaper car usually makes a happier customer. But the 2011 Jetta's lower starting price – by around $2,000, depending on the model – might have the opposite effect. Volkswagen has been cutting more than a few corners to make it possible. For example, the base-level S offers 115 horsepower, down from last year's 170. It also features rear drum brakes: old-school technology found on few production cars today and not seen on last year's model. But the biggest decline comes in the form of interior quality, an area where the Jetta once stood unopposed in its class.

Look at the numbers. Last year's Jetta started at around $17,600, about $2,000 more than the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. While the Jetta racked up a respectable 100,000 sales in 2009, the cheaper Civic and Corolla both topped 250,000, more than the entire VW brand combined. Those figures won't do – Volkswagen's goal is 800,000 annual U.S. sales by 2020.

To meet this lofty goal, the Jetta has to be more mainstream, with prices closer to the competition: from under $16,000 and just $500 more than Japanese rivals.

For those who still like the Jetta as a small luxury car, they can opt for the top-level SEL model, which ditches the drum brakes, small engine and de-contented interior. Instead, it offers a standard navigation system, alloy wheels, and keyless access – all from around $22,000. The new Jetta could be where Volkswagen bridges the gap between a traditional compact sedan and an entry-level luxury car.

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Used 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
Used 2011 Volkswagen Jetta
$12,900
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Used 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
Used 2011 Volkswagen Jetta
$11,500
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Used 2011 Volkswagen Golf TDI 4-Door
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Used 2011 Volkswagen Touareg VR6 Lux
Used 2011 Volkswagen Touareg
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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.
Now is the Winter of VW Jetta's De-Content - Autotrader