ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Volkswagen Jetta is the German automaker’s entry-level sedan, competing in a crowded field of competitors.
For folks with a hankering for a family car with German credentials and personality, this is the least expensive choice in the U.S. Base S models open at $18,645, while our SE model tester bottom-lined at $23,095, which included the optional six-speed automatic transmission. For that price, the Jetta SE came fairly comprehensively equipped, including sunroof and heated seats.
Not optional is the Jetta’s European driving comportment. Graced with a torque-rich, 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine; perfectly weighted, accurate steering; reassuring handling; and taut road manners, the Jetta delivers a confident and satisfying driving experience.
In areas other than performance, the Jetta is showing its age. The car’s styling comes off as conservative, at least compared with the edgy and aggressive designs some of its competitors are sporting (think Honda Civic).
Inside the airy but stark cabin, the SE tester featured faux leather upholstery – V-Tex leatherette in VW parlance – that does a fairly successful imitation of the real deal. The driver faces a chunky, hide-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel.
A brace of large, legible gauges keeps track of speed and RPMs, with readouts positioned between them displaying secondary data such as time, odometer, outside temp and miles remaining on fuel.
A simple-to-operate touchscreen in the center of the dash controls the infotainment system, while climate selections are made via two knobs and a row of clearly marked buttons.
Seating comfort and interior assembly is first-rate, but the extensive use of hard plastics on the dash, doors and console give a rather behind-the-times feel to the whole experience.
Underway, the 1.4-liter turbo motor delivers sprightly acceleration to the front wheels through a snappy, six-speed automatic transmission. There’s a slight hint of turbo lag pulling away from a stop light, but under way the power is instantly accessible.
The nicely tuned, taut suspension achieves that vaunted Germanic handling prowess while serving up a compliant highway ride.
With an all-new Jetta in the pipeline for the 2019 model year, the current car’s few demerits will undoubtedly be addressed. Meanwhile, the 2018 Jetta has plenty of positives to earn consideration by compact sedan shoppers.