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2023 Volkswagen Jetta: Choosing the Right Trim

Because the VW Jetta experienced a midcycle refresh for the 2022 model year, little has changed with the car for 2023. Apart from some minor cosmetic changes, and the SE model now getting remote start, it’s basically the same new Jetta.

Consistency is a good thing here because this VW continues to be a popular front-wheel-drive (FWD) sedan blessed with attractive pricing, outstanding fuel economy, a spacious interior, and a huge trunk.

As such, the Mexican-built 2023 Volkswagen Jetta represents an affordable way to enjoy a European-designed automobile that competes effectively with Korean alternatives such as the Kia Forte and Hyundai Elantra. American manufacturers now largely ignore compact and midsize sedans.

As in 2022, the vast majority of 2023 Jetta sedans are powered by a 158-horsepower 1.5-liter turbocharged engine. Similarly, the sporty Jetta GLI model sticks with its powerplant, a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that puts out 228 hp.

A 6-speed manual transmission is standard in the 2023 VW Jetta S and Sport; an 8-speed automatic is an affordably priced $800 option. The GLI’s optional automatic (also $800) is a quick-shifting 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) with paddle shifters.

We’ve praised the Jetta’s 1.5-liter engine as being smoother and more relaxed than the previous 1.4-liter unit, with better fuel efficiency. We also like how the smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission is controlled by a traditional (and nearly mistake-proof) PRNDL shift lever.

Equipped with the 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and the 8-speed automatic, the 2023 Volkswagen Jetta is rated by the EPA at 31 mpg city/41 mpg highway/35 mpg combined. The Jetta Sport comes in at 29 mpg city/40 mpg highway/33 mpg combined.

The powerful Jetta GLI does nearly as well, returning 26 mpg city/37 mpg highway/30 mpg combined with the 6-speed manual, or 26 mpg city/36 mpg highway/30 mpg combined with the 7-speed DCT.

The standard 2023 VW Jetta is available in four trim levels: S, Sport, SE, and SEL. The Jetta GLI comes one way, as a very well-equipped Autobahn trim level.

Let’s take a look at each.

Note: Due to the ongoing microchip shortage and supply chain issues, VW may delete features like rear parking sensors and ventilated seats and return a credit. Check with your VW dealer for status updates when placing an order.

2023 Volkswagen Jetta S (starting at $20,415)

The S, the entry-level Jetta, works well as a basic family sedan.

It comes standard with safety technology such as automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist are available as part of the IQ.Drive option.

If you get a Jetta automatic equipped with IQ.Drive, it gets Emergency Assist, which will slow the vehicle or bring it to a stop if it senses that the driver is asleep or possibly unconscious.

Basic Jetta S hardware includes 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, and power windows and door locks. You also get a keyless entry, an anti-theft alarm, and heated power side mirrors.

Inside, the cloth-covered seats join features such as manual air conditioning, a tilt/telescope steering wheel, and a handy 60/40-split folding rear seat that provides access to the large trunk, which is about the same size as that of the Hyundai Elantra but roughly a cubic foot smaller than that of the Kia Forte.

The Jetta features an 8-inch digital instrument panel — Digital Cockpit in VW parlance — complemented by a touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and a Wi-Fi hot spot (subscription required).

With the $1,095 destination fee, the 2023 Volkswagen Jetta S costs $21,510. On a 60-month loan at 3% financing and zero down, the monthly payment comes to about $387. See 2023 Volkswagen Jetta S models for sale

2023 Volkswagen Jetta S Includes:

  • Digital Cockpit – These configurable digital gauges, standard on the Jetta S, work well while giving the interior a modern look.
  • Apple Car Play/Android Auto – This connectivity with your smartphone lets you bring your tunes, messaging, and driving directions (and more) into your Jetta.
  • Blind-spot monitoring – One of our favorite safety technologies, this system lets you know when a car or motorcycle is in your blind spot.

2023 Volkswagen Jetta Sport (starting at $21,315)

While you don’t get any extra power with the Jetta Sport, you do get a sportier chassis and a look that’s highlighted by blacked-out trim on the grille and mirror caps.

Complementing the Jetta S’s standard sport suspension are 17-inch alloy wheels and XDS electronic locking differential. A black headliner and cloth-covered sport seats adorn the inside. VW designed the front sport seats to be supportive in turns while still maintaining good everyday comfort.

The Jetta S has minimal options, but you can order a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a leather-trimmed shift boot.

With the $1,095 destination fee, the 2023 Volkswagen Jetta Sport costs $22,410. On a 60-month loan at 3% and zero down, the Sport’s monthly payment should come in at about $403. See 2023 Volkswagen Jetta Sport models for sale

2023 Volkswagen Jetta Sport includes:

  • Black exterior trim – The Jetta S delivers a sporty look without spending GLI money.
  • 17-inch alloy wheels – These larger wheels and tires improve looks and handling.
  • Sport cloth seats – These seats, covered in a durable cloth material, effectively blend comfort and support.
  • XDS differential – This electronic locking differential can help the front-drive Jetta S power out of corners with minimal inside wheelspin.

2023 Volkswagen Jetta SE (starting at $24,145)

The Jetta SE gets remote starting for 2023. Apart from that, the SE is much the same as before, meaning it’s equipped with silver-painted 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless access, a push-button starter, faux leather upholstery, and the full IQ.Drive safety suite (which includes smart cruise control.)

It does not come with VW’s XDS limited-slip differential. However, it has more standard equipment, including a 6-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and three USB-C ports.

Notable among the optional equipment for the Jetta SE are a power sunroof, illuminated vanity mirrors, front-row reading lights, and dark 17-inch alloy wheels.

With the $1,095 destination, the 2023 Volkswagen Jetta SE costs $25,240. On a 60-month loan at 3% financing and with zero down, the monthly payment will be about $454. See 2023 Volkswagen Jetta SE models for sale

2023 Volkswagen Jetta SE Includes:

  • 6-way power driver’s seat – Aided by lumbar support, this seat keeps you comfortable on long trips.
  • Leather trim – While the seats are wrapped in faux leather, the Jetta SE’s steering wheel and shift boot feature actual cowhide.
  • Dual-zone climate control – You and your passenger will be comfortable in the SE because you can select individual temperatures.

2023 Volkswagen Jetta SEL (starting at $28,145)

What justifies the SEL’s $4,000 jump in price over the SE?

Plenty. As the most luxurious 2023 Volkswagen Jetta, the SEL adds Vienna leather upholstery, the larger 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit Pro instrument panel, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, a wireless smartphone charger, and a power sunroof.

The SEL also gets improved voice-controlled infotainment that features a BeatsAudio sound system (with Sirius XM and a subwoofer), a larger 8-inch touchscreen, and navigation. What’s more, the front seats are heated and ventilated; the windshield washer nozzles are heated; the interior features 10 available colors of ambient lighting.

With the $1,095 destination fee, the 2023 Volkswagen Jetta SEL costs $29,240. On a 60-month loan at 3% financing and zero down, the monthly payment works out to about $525. See 2023 Volkswagen Jetta SEL models for sale

2023 Volkswagen Jetta SEL Includes:

  • MIB3 – This touchscreen infotainment upgrade is quick and easy to use. It includes navigation and wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.
  • Heated and ventilated front seats – These seats help occupants stay comfortable in the Jetta SEL year-round.
  • Automatic high-beam headlights – Standard on the SEL, these headlights dim when sensing oncoming traffic. They automatically go bright again when traffic clears.

2023 Volkswagen Jetta GLI (starting at $31,345)

People have called the Jetta GLI a Golf GTI with a trunk for years.

That still applies. Under the hood of the Jetta GLI is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that sends 228 horsepower to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission or a quick-shifting 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.

The GLI also looks the part. It gets a more aggressive grille and lower bumper, plus a rear bumper with cutouts for the dual exhausts. Eighteen-inch wheels are standard, as are automatic high-beam headlights and the IQ.Drive safety suite.

Inside, the GLI distinguishes itself with sport seats covered in perforated leather with a visible red underlay. Additionally, the 2023 VW Jetta GLI has a flat-bottom sport steering wheel with haptic touch controls that get easier to use with practice.

Other standard GLI fare includes the 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit Pro instrument cluster, heated and vented front seats, keyless entry and start, a heated steering wheel, 10-color ambient lighting, a wireless charging pad, and the BeatsAudio sound system.

On the dynamic front, the 2023 VW Jetta GLI benefits from larger brakes, an electronically locking front differential, adaptive shock absorbers, and a multilink rear suspension (in place of the standard Jetta’s twist-beam rear axle).

With the $1,095 destination fee, the 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI costs $32,440. On a 60-month loan at 3% financing and zero down, the monthly payment works out to about $583. See 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI models for sale

2023 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Includes:

  • Turbocharged 2.0-liter engine – Yeah, it makes 228 horsepower, but we’re bigger fans of the luscious 258 lb-ft of torque.
  • DCC – This advanced suspension automatically adapts the suspension damping to varying road conditions, improving comfort and agility.
  • Big front brakes – These heavy-duty front disc brakes from the Golf R never seem to run out of stopping power.


What is the best 2023 Volkswagen Jetta trim?

We still like the Jetta Sport, which was new last year. With 17-inch wheels, sport seats, sport suspension, and the limited-slip front differential, the Jetta Sport continues to provide lots of driving fun at an impressively low price.

How many mile per gallon does the 2023 Volkswagen Jetta get?

The 2023 VW Jetta automatic is rated by the EPA at an impressive 31 mpg city/41 mpg highway/35 mpg combined. With the 6-speed manual, those figures change to 29 mpg city/42 mpg highway/34 mpg combined.

The more powerful 2023 VW Jetta GLI automatic is rated by the EPA at 26 mpg city/36 mpg highway/30 mpg combined. With the 6-speed manual, those figures change to 26 mpg city/37 mpg highway/30 mpg combined.


Which 2023 VW Jetta trim level offers the most safety?

All 2023 Jettas have automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.

As before, the safest Jettas have IQ.Drive, the safety suite that’s available on the S and Sport while being standard on all the other models.

IQ.Drive includes adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning.

Andy Bornhop
Andy Bornhop
Andy Bornhop is an author specializing in the automotive world, primarily the new cars, trucks, crossovers, vans and SUVs that support our daily lives and provide us with such superb personal mobility. While all new vehicles are much more competent than they used to be, there remain some significant differences, and Andy enjoys sharing that info with anybody who’s interested. His first car? A... Read More about Andy Bornhop

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