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.