Nearly four decades after its introduction, the Volkswagen Jetta continues to make a statement among small sedans. Its entire engine lineup is turbocharged, providing this model with ample power as well as gas-sipping fuel efficiency. Importantly, the 2017 Jetta offers one of the roomiest cabins in the compact car segment.
The Volkswagen Jetta is a front-wheel-drive sedan that seats five. This compact car offers several noteworthy updates for 2017. A rearview camera is now standard across the model line. Several driver assistance features are now available in lower trims and a USB port replaces the previous media interface connection.
Volkswagen offers the 2017 Jetta in four trims: S, SE, SEL and GLI. Three turbocharged gasoline engines and four transmissions, including a pair of manual gearboxes, are available.
Among compact cars, the Jetta’s sheet metal is relatively conservative. With its steady beltline and raised rear deck, the Jetta is closer in appearance to the midsize Volkswagen Passat than the hatchback VW Golf. Still, there are several sporty attributes, including handsome wraparound headlamps highlighted with standard boomerang LED daytime running lights. Enhanced with frontal skirting, the lower grille opening looks fresh and modern.
The base model is outfitted with 16-inch steel wheels, while 16- and 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels are available for a more sophisticated presentation. Heated sideview mirrors are standard.
The list of available features includes a sunroof, chrome exterior accents, a rear spoiler and LED taillights.
The Volkswagen Jetta offers one of the roomiest cabins in the compact sedan segment. This model holds five people with ample head- and legroom in both rows, and its interior dimensions feel as spacious as a midsize sedan’s. The Jetta’s 15.7 cubic-foot trunk is one of the largest among compact sedans, and it offers more cargo capacity than you’ll find in some midsize models.
The base Jetta comes with two-tone cloth seats, while leatherette upholstery is standard in higher trims. The standard 60/40-split folding rear seat offers access to the trunk.
Available features include a power-operated six-way-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a rear seat pass-through with integrated cup holders and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The GLI model offers front sport seats and red contrast stitching.
Three turbocharged gasoline engines are offered in the 2017 Jetta.
The base engine is a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine making 150 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. This engine is paired with a five-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. These models make an EPA-estimated 28/40 mpg city/highway with the manual transmission and 28/38 mpg with the automatic.
The Jetta SEL comes with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with an output of 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. This engine comes paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting capabilities. Fuel economy comes in at an estimated 25/35 mpg city/highway.
The sporty Jetta GLI is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine creating 210 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. This engine is paired with a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. This model is rated at 23/33 mpg city/highway with the manual transmission and 24/33 mpg with the automatic.
Our test model was a Jetta SE equipped with the base engine and the manual transmission. Our initial reservations over having just five forward gears instead of the typical six quickly disappeared, since the extra cog is simply not needed here. We credit Volkswagen for offering a manual gearbox that shifts seamlessly with butter-smooth clutch uptake. Notably, this particular arrangement should deliver confidence to novice three-pedal users.
As for lag, it isn’t much of an issue when shifting gears yourself. And if you need assistance as to when best to shift, the instrument panel guides you. Fourth gear will be your preferred gear when passing. Fifth gear pulls the engine back to supply enough power without drinking too much gas. Steering is easy and responsive. The Jetta corners admirably and handles twisty roads better than the 2017 Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla.
The Jetta GLI features a sport-tuned suspension that helps the car sit just over half an inch lower than other Jetta models.
The big news for 2017 is that the Jetta no longer requires connection to a proprietary cable for USB access. Even entry-level models offer a USB port, as well an auxiliary audio input. Other standard features include Bluetooth connectivity, a 5-inch touch screen, a CD player, an MP3 player and a four-speaker sound system.
The SE trim brings in a 6.3-inch touch screen to supply maps, messaging, music and access to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. A navigation system is standard on SEL and GLI models, and the GLI trim adds a premium Fender audio system.
In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash tests, the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta scored a perfect five stars overall.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) designated the Jetta as a Top Safety Pick+ recipient. It earned top scores of Good in all crash protection categories, and received an Advanced rating for its crash avoidance and mitigation technology.
All 2017 Jetta models are equipped with safety features such as a rearview camera, side-curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction control and brake assist.
SE models add blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. SEL models incorporate forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. Oddly, the driver-assistive features added on the SEL trim are deleted on the top-of-the-line GLI model.
The base Jetta S begins at $17,895 (add $820 for destination). The SE is priced from $20,895, the SEL begins at $24,995 and pricing for GLI models starts at $27,895. Add $1,100 when upgrading S, SE and GLI models to the automatic transmission.
Our test Jetta SE offered no package upgrades. In fact, the only options available are accessory items such as a trunk liner ($99), pedal caps ($217) and chrome exhaust tips ($105). With destination included, our test car retailed for $21,715.
Still, the SE trim offers many of the features customers want, including a choice of transmissions, basic driver assist features, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. If you prefer an automatic transmission, a well-equipped 2017 Jetta SE will cost you $22,815, including destination.
Last redesigned in 2011, the Jetta is beginning to show its age. You can no longer get diesel and hybrid models, but the three turbo engines combine performance with fuel efficiency.
The Jetta isn’t perfect, but it’s worth investigating this compact sedan if you’re looking for a model that delivers roomy transportation and energetic performance at an affordable price. Its roster of available engines will also reap savings at the fuel pump.