Budget-minded German Sport Sedan: 2017 Volkswagen Jetta

For its 2017 lineup, Volkswagen brings the sixth generation of its frugal but sporty front-wheel drive Jetta sedan to North America with three engine choices ranging from near misery to nearly marvelous. The S (base) and SE trim levels run on a 150 horsepower 1.4-liter turbo I4, while the mid-range SEL straddles the center with a 170 horsepower 1.8-liter turbo four. Performance enthusiasts on a budget might opt for the two-liter turbocharged GLI and its 210 flared-nostril ponies.

The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta is a small sedan that competes with some midsize sedans in many ways including interior room, particularly for rear passengers. Where the Jetta falls short of midsize and compact competitors is largely in its interior trim quality. But this is a budget car, designed to meet a price point, and with all that Volkswagen has done right for this vehicle, something had to give to meet pricing goals. Interior materials are of a lesser quality than other Volkswagen models. While understandable, this remains a bit of a disappointment as interior material quality is often a distinguishing trait for Volkswagen.

LED accents serve as daytime running lights and the Jetta’s tastefully angled headlights lead the eye to the clean horizontal lines of the front grill. Audi-esque styling lends a classic aesthetic – a car that isn’t cutting edge, but the style of which won’t pass as quickly as a high-school sneaker fad. This is an undoubtedly German car, with exterior details reminiscent of Audi lines, while still maintaining a unique Volkswagen identity.

Inside the 2017 Jetta, manual seats wrapped in leatherette and hard plastic interior panels remind you that this is a car designed to meet a budget. Where Volkswagen saved on interior materials, resources were invested in build quality. After all, what is a German car, if not solidly bolted together? One upside to the hard-plastic interior panels is that they provide a family-friendly surface that forgives small messes and is easy to keep clean. Among the Jetta interior’s redeeming qualities are its sporty faux carbon fiber top trim on doors and soft-touch armrests.

As long as you’re not offended by expansive plastic, you’re unlikely to find anything in the Jetta’s interior that will make you sneer with disapproval. The interior design, much like the Jetta’s exterior, is – in a word – clean. Heating and cooling controls are decidedly low-tech, with knobs that are a bit difficult to turn in a brand-new model, not yet broken-in. However, being easy to understand, you won’t lose time learning how to find a comfortable cabin temperature.

Image via Motortrend

While seemingly spartan in many ways, the Jetta offers a lot for you to like. The cold weather package brings heated seats and windshield washer nozzles. Heated mirrors chase away frosty morning’s lingering crystals, and a flat-bottom steering wheel makes it easier to pretend you’re driving a formula one racer. The simulated leather wrapped steering wheel features volume and cruise control buttons, as well as paddle shifters on equipped models. Two tone seats on some trims add a sporty look, even if you didn’t spring for the zippier GLI trim.

Rear passengers are treated to a larger-than-expected seating area with a 12-volt adapter in the back, so they don’t need to beg front-dwellers to charge their electronics. Headroom is ample for front and rear seat passengers up to, and slightly over, six feet.

Lower trim Jettas roll on 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps. Unlike many competitors, the Jetta comes equipped with a spare tire, albeit a temporary one.

All Jettas come standard with a backup camera, a pricey safety add-on for some other budget-minded competitors in this class, and the touchscreen sound system which supports CD, SD card, auxiliary input, and Bluetooth to play audio from your phone or other Bluetooth device. The Fender audio sound system upgrade will please all, but the most discerning audiophiles and these multimedia units support both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

A satisfying snick-snick short-throw five speed transmission is standard, with a six speed Tiptronic auto available for about $1,000 more. The Tiptronic enables manual shifting without needing a clutch. Tiptronic shifting is a simple upshift or downshift selection, and auto mode includes a sport option for more spirited automatic shifting.

In keeping with its affordable price tag, the 2017 Jetta brings fuel savings as well. Highway mileage is as high as 40 mpg and the German sedan darts around the cities and burbs at 28 mpg. There’s no need for premium go-juice with this Jetta. Unlike previous model years, the 2017 Jetta runs like 150 ponies, 210 in the GLI, and when it stops to drink, less expensive regular unleaded gas will quench its thirst.

A padded-top center storage console is large enough to stash the biggest of cell phones or whatever small items you might wish to hide from curious peekers. A handy built-in USB charger in the center pod provides an easy way to charge your phone, with a small cubby for secure storage.

Competitors to the Jetta include Volkswagen’s own Golf hatchback and mid-size Passat, as well as the Honda Civic, which has grown into a larger car in recent years.

2017 Volkswagen Trim Levels

Jetta S

MSRP $17,895 USD

1.4L Turbo 150HP 40 mpg Highway / 28 mpg City

Jetta SE

MSRP $20,895 USD

1.4L Turbo 150HP 40 mpg Highway / 28 mpg City

Jetta Sport

MSRP $22,175 USD

1.8L Turbo 170HP 35 mpg Highway / 25 mpg City

Jetta SEL

MSRP $24,995 USD

1.8L Turbo 170HP 35 mpg Highway / 25 mpg City

Jetta GLI

MSRP $27,895 USD

2.0L Turbo 210HP 33 mpg Highway / 23 mpg City

Page 1 of 212