2011 Volkswagen Jetta Review

2011 volkswagen jetta review 1

“You will need to pry my cold, dark hands from the steering wheel.”

That’s what I told the guy who came to pick up the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta, a re-designed entry-level passenger car from the fine folks from Wolfsburg, Germany. After a solid week of testing, including frequent trips on a “test track” that winds around a sleepy Midwestern town, the basic summary for this sleek, sporty, but somewhat cramped four-door is that it’s worth every penny. Before we dive into the thrills and spills, let’s cover exactly what changed on this total re-design for 2011.

First off, the new Jetta measures just over 15 feet long, which is actually just a touch longer than the 2010 model (by about 3 inches). The previous model is just a hair wider. Really, VW positions the Jetta as a fine driving experience without the fine driving price, but it’s also the company’s entry-level sedan. The car costs $15,995 for the base S model, which is about $1700 cheaper than the similarly equipped 2010 model. We drove the SE, which is basically the same but uses a 5-speed transmission. VW offers a handy online comparison guide to see how the Jetta stacks up, warts and all, beside the competition.

So what changed? For starters, the inside of the car feels cheaper than the 2010 model. When you first get in, it feels like an older Hyundai and not a German-engineered sedan. There’s goofy dark plastic everywhere – on the steering wheel, around the dash, on the doors. You would think a car company with the great legacy of VW would spring for a couple of fake wood accents here and there.

2011 volkswagen jetta review 5

There’s also the rather startling sense that the nav screen, which both VW and Audi call the Multi Media Interface or MMI, looks and functions almost exactly like one of those Wal-Mart navigation devices that you connect to the windshield of your Chevy Impala. The interface itself is useable, but measures only about four or five inches across, and proved quite small even for basic navigation. That said, the fact that there even is a nav screen on the Jetta is a bonus – most entry level sedans do not offer one.

Another minor gripe about the new Jetta is that the exterior styling is not exactly jaw-dropping. VW is known for cars with fine lines and a sleek appearance – most of their cars are eye-catching and you can spot them easily in a crowd. The Jetta fits in a bit too well at the local mall parking lot amid the Chevy Cobalts and Hyundai Sonatas. This lack of distinctive styling is one of the letdowns in the re-design. We wanted, say, a bit more aerodynamic sleekness, or lighting accents on the side mirrors. At first glance, the Jetta looks like a small car that gets you from point A to point B without any frills.

Driving for fun

At second glance, every one of those mild irritants and less-than-stellar first impressions fades once you slip into the driver’s seat. (But take note: Most of these test results apply only to the SE we drove; the S version has similar handling but not the same excitement that the 5-speed transmission provides.)

Wow, the 5-speed is downright punchy. Like the totally re-designed 2011 Ford Fiesta we drove a few weeks ago, the Jetta benefits greatly from the fact that it’s small and light, because the first two gears provide some serious pep. More importantly (and we will spare you the car jargon here because no one understands it anyway), the Jetta is highly responsive. When you make a slight nudge to the left or right, the car responds quickly. There is likely some technical reason for this, but the reality for everyday drivers is that the Jetta will be a blast to drive.

2011 volkswagen jetta review 12

The sportiness also means you feel safe in the new Jetta. There’s never that lazy driving sense where you feel like the car does not handle well around corners and could drift easily on you. Instead, the Jetta seems to benefit from smart engineering: gripping the road tightly, accelerating quickly in a variety of conditions, still providing power in the upper gears when you zoom up to 80MPH.

Product Review

It's not the sharpest tool, but the Surface Go does it all for $400

Microsoft has launched the $400 Surface Go to take on both the iPad and Chromebooks, all without compromising its core focus on productivity. Does it work as both a tablet and a PC?
Product Review

Audi built an electric SUV for buyers who want gasoline-free to mean stress-free

We finally got to spend time behind the wheel of the electric 2019 Audi E-Tron bustling cities and arid desert of the United Arab Emirates to see how it compares with Jaguar and Tesla's competitors.
Cars

600-hp, $155K Polestar 1 is the alluring Volvo coupe you’ve been waiting for

Volvo's return to the coupe segment just took an interesting turn: the model will join the Polestar lineup, and it will get a 600-hp plug-in hybrid powertrain. The Polestar 1 will be built in China starting in 2019.
Cars

Did that car just wink at you? Daimler previews car-to-pedestrian signals

Eager to show off progress with autonomous cars and perhaps do some consumer softening as well, Daimler and Bosch previewed car-to-pedestrian communications. A sensor-loaded Mercedes S appears to wink to acknowledge a pedestrian's presence.
Cars

Bosch is developing a Rosetta Stone for autonomous and connected cars

Bosch and start-up Veniam want to create a common language that autonomous and connected cars can use. The two firms have developed a connectivity unit that transcends the national boundaries of technology.
Cars

Aston Martin bets classic car owners will choose volts over carburetors

Aston Martin has converted one of its most sought-after classic models to run on electricity instead of gasoline. The roadster uses electric components sourced from the upcoming Rapide E sedan.
Mobile

Car-branded phones need to make a U-turn if they ever want to impress

Your car and your smartphone are becoming one, yet smartphones branded or co-created by car companies are a problem. We look at the history, some examples of the best and worst, then share hopes for the future.
Cars

Volkswagen may be planning a tougher challenge for its all-electric I.D. R

The Volkswagen I.D. R electric race car may head to the Nürburgring in 2019 for a lap-record attempt, according to a new report. Volkswagen will reportedly aim to set the quickest lap time ever by an electric car.
Cars

The Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake is the sexiest wagon ever

Aston Martin has revealed new photos of the limited-production Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake. The Vanquish Zagato line now includes the Shooting Brake, Coupe, Volante, and Speedster, each with bespoke styling.
Cars

Nissan and Italdesign’s GT-R50 concept will become a $1.1 million reality

The Nissan GT-R50 is a customized sports car built to celebrate the 50th anniversaries of both the GT-R and design firm Italdesign. Underneath the sleek bodywork sits a 710-horsepower engine fortified with race car components.
Cars

Ford’s new Shelby GT500 Mustang will have 3D-printed brake parts

Ford's new $45 million Advanced Manufacturing Center will focus on emerging technologies, including 3D printing. One of the staff's first jobs is to print parts for the 700-horsepower Shelby GT500 Mustang.
News

World’s fastest electric race car to display at Petersen Museum

The Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak race car smashed the all-time record at the hill climb for which it was named. The all-electric VW record-holder will be on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles until February 1, 2019.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Cars

This freewheeling Army truck-turned-tiny home is a labor of love

Most tiny homes are models of efficiency but one British metal worker has redefined the idea, converting an old Army truck into a mobile tiny home that comes with a bed, a sofa, a shower, and a beer garden.
1 of 2