Known for keeping it simple and sticking to a budget, the Volkswagen lineup won’t drop jaws. However, that shouldn’t devalue their simple and efficient approach to a family sedan. It’s one of the main things that’s kept VW very successful over the years.

The 2021 Volkswagen Jetta sticks to this formula. It brings a very competent and affordable base model. Then it adds plenty of upgrades and trims to respect a wide range of budgets. You’d be hard pressed to NOT find a Jetta that would work for you. To help you decide if the 2021 Jetta is the right sedan for your situation, we’ve put together the following guide. By the end of it, you should know whether the VW dealership will be one of the stops for your next shopping experience.

Performance Specifications

The 2021 Jetta is a front-wheel drive sedan with a singular base powerplant. The 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder achieves 147 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. It pairs with either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic transmission. Yes, that’s right, there’s actually a manual option for those stick enthusiasts. They are a dying breed, but the Jetta perseveres for now.

The Jetta GLI models upgrade to a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder capable of 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Again, a six-speed manual is available. However, a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is standard. Volkswagen considers the Jetta GLI a completely different product than the “regular” Jetta models. However, we’ll still touch on the GLI a bit in this article.

Available Colors

Which color will you paint your new 2021 VW Jetta? You have the following choices.

  • Tornado Red
  • Pure White
  • Black
  • Silk Blue Metallic
  • Pyrite Silver Metallic
  • Platinum Gray Metallic
  • Habanero Orange Metallic

Trimlines and Pricing

These are the trim levels available on the 2021 Jetta. With five different models to choose from — not including the GLI version — there’s likely a Jetta that suits your need and budget. Technically, VW considered the Jetta GLI an entirely separate line. As promised, though, we’ll talk about it a bit at the end. You’ll want to know all of your options before you walk into a dealership.


With a price tag of $18,995, the base Jetta includes quite a few nice features for the price. A full set of 16-inch wheels and LED headlights forge a path towards your next destination. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth are standard as well, along with a 6.5-inch infotainment touchscreen. It’s a very capable entry level sedan.


If you’re all about sunroofs, this model is definitely for you. A power driver’s seat will let you lay back and enjoy the view above too. Keyless entry and push-button start keep things simple. Heated front seats and side mirrors will keep you happy in the cold months. The Jetta SE starts at $22.895.


Leatherette seats, foglights, and 17-inch wheels are among the many features found on the Jetta R-Line. A “leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel” allows you to keep your eyes on the road while still changing things up how you like. Specific R-Line badging and a blacked-out grille let everyone know what you’re about, along with an electronic differential. While the R-Line tag might make you think you’re getting a faster Jetta, it still only includes the same engine as other models. The R-Line starts at $22,795.


Ambient lighting has become a thing, so Volkswagen’s included a list of ten different colors on this higher end trim level. You can also take advantage of the App-Connect with wireless capabilities, as well as VW’s Digital Cockpit. The eight-inch touchscreen makes the most of the extra real estate. You’ll need to slap down at least $25,745 for the SEL model.

SEL Premium

This kitted-out model takes full advantage of the eight-inch touchscreen to bring you a premium experience with GPS navigation. Full leather seats are ventilated in the front for those hot summer days. The top end Jetta model starts at $28,045. That’s still a very reasonable price for a full-featured sedan.

GLI Version

The 2021 Jetta GLI includes a couple models of its own. The base S model features a limited-slip differential, selectable driving models, 18-inch wheels, and variable-ratio steering. Upgrade to the Autobahn model for adaptive suspension, perforated leather seating, the large eight-inch touchscreen, and an eight-speaker BeatsAudio sound system. Of course, you’re really paying the extra for the larger engine. The GLI S starts at $26,345, providing great value for anyone in need of a new sedan. The Jetta GLI Autobahn goes for $30,745, making it the most expensive Jetta you can buy.

Safety Features

Besides the bare minimum on base models, the 2021 Jetta includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot monitoring. Pay a little more and you’ll have access to adaptive cruise control with lane keep assist, automatic high beams, rear traffic alert, and rain-sensing wipers.

These safety features earned the 2021 Jetta a 5 out of 5 stars overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a top-ranked “Good” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The Jetta GLI model also shares these impressive safety ratings, by the way.

Fuel Efficiency

The pairing of a turbocharged engine with smaller displacement allows the 2021 Jetta to achieve better numbers when it comes to fueling up at the pump. For instance, the base engines posts 30 city and 41 highway EPA-estimated miles per gallon (MPG) with the manual transmission. Those numbers drop a bit with the automatic, down to 29 and 39 MPG. Even upgrading to the Jetta GLI still puts you at 24 city and 35 highway MPG for automatic transmissions. It drops every so slightly to 24 city and 33 highway MPG for the manual GLI.

What Others Are Saying

The 2021 Jetta might not be a huge competitor when it comes to hot German sedans. However, don’t be so quick to dismiss this work horse. Some might consider the Jetta’s plain looks to be boring when parked beside an Audi sedan. Just keep in mind that those premium Audi features tend to fetch premium prices. This isn’t the case with the Jetta.

Much like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, the Jetta fills that entry-level gap between buying used and spending over $30,000 for a brand-new car. It’s a realm best suited to anyone looking for a low-cost car loan. Whether it’s for yourself or you’re looking for a first car for the young adult in your life, the Jetta is a strong contender. You’ll get a reliable set of four wheels, maybe a bit of power, and just enough features to make the driving experience pleasant.

Specifically, VW claims the 2021 Jetta “strikes the perfect balance with a sophisticated look, sleek character lines and a comfortable, modern interior.” Past models started to crack at the edges if you looked at them too hard — especially with all that plastic trim and bargain-basement pleather. That stuff wouldn’t stand up to a family of hooligans for more than a week. That said, this year’s model starts to take a page out of Audi’s book — minus the higher pricing.

Experts echo this trend towards higher quality.  Motorbiscuit opines that “for a compact car, it’s surprisingly roomy with an appealing, comfortable cabin.” The folks at Kelly Blue Book raved that “stick-shift aficionados will be pleased with its easy and precise action.”  They also added that “the Jetta cabin is pleasing and ergonomically sound.” The model “generally hits the mark,” notes Edmunds, who assume the “roomy seats” will please passengers.

All this praise come a few complaints, though. U.S. News called the Jetta “a decent value.” However, they weren’t impressed with the extra cost to add a more robust array of advanced safety features. Edmunds also stated the Jetta “doesn’t stand out in a crowded field of competitors in any one category.” Then again, maybe you’re not the kind of person who wants to stand out.

Main Competitors

With few, if any, changes from last year’s model, it was hard for most review sites to recommend buying a brand-new Jetta. Unless you’re someone who has to have a fresh-off-the-assembly-line vehicle, you might be doing yourself a favor to by looking into the 2020 model. If the VW sedan isn’t doing it for you, there are still a few realizable sedans being made.

Competitors in this segment include such heavy-hitters as the Honda Civic and Accord, Toyota Corolla and Camry, the Mazda3, Kia Optima and Forte, Hyundai Elantra and Sonata, Nissan Sentra, and the Subaru Impreza. Most of these models land in that sweet spot between $20,000 and $30,000, with plenty of brand-specific features to have you pondering where you want to spend your money. You should also consider the 2021 Volkswagen Golf, especially if you’re looking to enjoy the drive as much as the savings.

The Last Word

Volkswagen have almost cornered the market on affordable sedans, hatches, and wagons, alongside their capable SUVs. The 2021 Jetta is no exception. This four-door may look unassuming compared to sportier sedans on the market, but don’t be fooled by the minimalist exterior. There is plenty of value packed into the 2021 Jetta — from the in interior material quality, exterior styling, fuel efficiency, and plenty more. Check out the 2021 Jetta at your nearest Volkswagen dealership. Test drive the model for yourself. The 2021 Jetta might just be Das Auto for you.


Rebecca Henderson has a Master's in German and a Bachelor's in Creative Writing. She alternates her time between writing and working on a variety of motorized projects. Most recently, she and her boyfriend have been building a custom drift trike. Rebecca believes that language, love, and a life worth living are only the first ingredients to happiness.