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2012 Volkswagen Jetta – clean diesel, terrific mileage, larger, and lower priced

By ALAN GELL , Automotive Journalist Published: October 21, 2011
American consumers want all the benefits of small cars with all the roominess of larger one.  So, VW’s engineers have responded.  The wheelbase of the 2011 Jetta is almost 3 inches longer and the overall length has been stretched 3.54 inches longer.  That allowed the interior to be increased.  Even the rear legroom is bigger. But the best thing about the Jetta TDI is that 4-cylinder diesel engine and the terrific mileage.

Recently, Volkswagen supplied a new 2012 VW Jetta TDI SportWagen for a lengthy test-drive. It was deep blue color called Tempest Blue Metallic. The interior was trimmed in a leatherette material called Titan Black. The power was supplied by a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder diesel engine called the TDI. That little engine provided 140 horsepower that allowed it to get-up-and-go down any road.

Last year, I was part of the last group of journalists to preview and test-drive the all-new VW Jetta.  We were in the San Francisco area, taking a lengthy test-drive in Northern California. The VW Jetta media event was a little different than usual since most of the journalists were foreign.  There were groups from Singapore, Mexico, Canada, India, China, and elsewhere.  Obviously, Volkswagen is reaching out.  However, the new Jetta design is clearly aimed at the North American market.   

Although there are four trim levels, our only choice for testing on that trip was the SEL model, either in automatic or manual.  The base trim, referred to as VW’s entry-level model, is called S, and has a beginning price of just $15,995.  That is almost $2000 less than last year’s offering.  The SE model is slightly more upgraded.  Our test model SEL’s were the most completely trimmed out and had a price tag of about $21,000.  The SEL’s standard engine is a 2.5-liter that produces 170 horsepower.  TheTDI trim model was not available on that trip, but features the 2.0-liter TDI diesel four cylinder.

The test model was a standard shift, six speed, with front wheel drive. The shifting was very easy and smooth. However, I needed to keep my foot on the pedal when I pushed down the clutch. I stalled it out numerous times during the week, but usually due to shifting from 5th or 6th gear down into 3rd, rather than all the way to first gear.

The car looks almost like all the other small new cars.  The sedan has gently curved lines and the outward parts all tend to blend into one another.  Even the headlights blend into the top piece of the grilles.  It is not a sporty look, but it is how most new vehicles are being designed.  Gone are the old days of the standout Beetle-Bug and Hippie Van.  Now those vehicles were head-turners with distinction.

Inside, the feeling you immediately think about is quality.  One of my favorite vehicles is the Touareg and this reminded me a lot of that.  The dashboard, the seats, and electronics all give you a sense of well-designed premium items.  The controls are all intuitive and conveniently arranged.  The seats were redesigned for this year’s model and they are comfortable.  After several hours of driving though, I did feel a little bit “tired” of sitting in the seat of a car.  The seats are covered with a V-Tex leatherette which has the look and feel of real leather, but is a more durable and covering.

The Jetta has good suspension and keeps the car generally flat on most hard turns.  The engine provides the power needed to climb in hilly areas as well as hug the roads when accelerating around curves.   

The test model came outfitted with so much, including power sliding and tilting sunroof, heated seats, six speaker sound system, 16-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires, and a lot more.

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