Car Reviews

Jetta does its Civic duty

2011 Volkswagen Jetta

By Thomas Bey

It’s been said Hugh Jackman is somewhat attractive.  There are some who find MTV’s reality show Jersey Shore a bit unsophisticated.  And while we’re on the subject of understatements, Volkswagen thinks their new Jetta will sell well.

You see, the Volkswagen Group—which includes Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and others—has ambitious global plans.  High on their to-do list is keeping North Americans in Jettas.  If that means aggressive pricing and luring shoppers away from Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas, so much the better.  Maybe this is payback for Asian cars’ role in the demise of the original VW Beetle.

In any case, I gladly accepted an invitation to evaluate the would-be Civic diversion in and around San Francisco.  I was also curious how this Jetta would compare to its architecturally-similar Golf sibling, which I drove in Germany upon its 2010 makeover; not to mention the outgoing Jetta, which I drive regularly (my wife has an ’06).

The 2011 edition has grown somewhat and uses its extra dimensions wisely, though it’s still not a large car by any means.  A walk-around reveals style that isn’t overly dramatic, yet purposeful enough to make the Civic look slab-sided by comparison.  The former Audi-like face has been reshaped for a broader horizontal appearance like most other new VWs.  But don’t worry.  If you miss seeing the German influence in front, the view from behind inevitably draws comparisons to Audi’s A4.  This Jetta is a good looking car, even if its refined lines slightly mute the standout character of the last generation.

Once inside and behind the wheel, the new Jetta’s strengths really shine, and you wouldn’t guess its base price is within a few hundred bucks of the Civic’s.  Instrument and control layout wasn’t exactly a disaster in the previous VW, and it’s better overall in the new car.  I did spot random evidence of cost cutting, though none were deal-breakers.  Base models still get standard air conditioning, six airbags and a CD system with aux input.  Higher end models, like the ones I drove, include Bluetooth (to connect your cell phone for hands-free calling) and a decent nav/satellite radio system.  Acceleration, ride and handling left little to be desired against the other four-wheeled appliances dominating this class.  My only real frustration came while driving through Santa Cruz Mountain roads: I got stuck behind a Civic.

Why he’ll like it: Drives great (and looks good) for the price.

Why she’ll like it: Plenty of trunk space (more than 15 cubic feet) and safety features like an on-dash notification of low tire pressure.

2011 Volkswagen Jetta
Available, now
Starts at $15,995
MPG for base S model is 24 city, 34 hwy

Thomas Bey(Thomas Bey is a freelance automotive journalist whose features have also appeared on and AOL Autos.)



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