Recently Volkswagen set a hybrid world record, not in fuel economy, but in speed, with the very new Jetta Hybrid hitting an astonishingly fast 187 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
|1. Using a turbocharged 1.4L 4-cylinder engine mated to an electric motor the Jetta Hybrid makes 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque
2. Rated at a combined 45 mpg, that’s 11 mpg more than the Jetta TDI
3. The 0-60 sprint is done in 8.6 seconds.
4. Trunk space is down 4 cu-ft compared to its gasoline/diesel counterparts
5. Hybrid models start at $24,995, a $2,000 premium compared to the TDI
A hyperbole of sorts, the point VW is making is that its hybrid isn’t just about fuel economy – though it makes an impressive statement in that area as well. Driving the brand’s first ever hybrid in and around Santa Fe, New Mexico, there’s an immediate sense that the German automaker has succeeded in delivering customer satisfaction without any compromises.
How VW managed to do so is by combining a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with a 27-hp electric motor, regenerative braking and an all-electric, zero-emissions operation. The combination delivers impressive performance and fuel economy. Matched with a 7-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic transmission, the outcome defies regular hybrid expectations presenting a vehicle that feels powerful yet is extremely economical.
CLEAN, CONSERVATIVE AND CONFIDENT
Long and lean from front to back, the Hybrid looks blessed with normality and the same contemporary presentation as its gas counterparts. Redesigned in 2011, the Jetta has a longer wheelbase and 2.9-inches added to its overall length.
The designers at Volkswagen decided not to reshape the Jetta for hybrid-sake yet have refreshed the exterior look with mild hybrid marketing accents while keeping the Jetta’s essence. The only notable identifiers of the green vehicle are blue-highlighted VW emblems, hybrid badging, new alloy wheels and a new front grille. More subtle changes include a custom front airdam, trunklid spoiler and side skirts.
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FAMILIAR, BUT UNIQUE
Clean, simple and casually refined, the interior finishes are nothing new to folks who have spent some time in other Volkswagen products. Expect a coolly conservative and partially upscale design. The Hybrid’s cabin remains a spacious place, with agreeable passenger head and legroom. Our SEL Premium tester even had stylized gray and black two-tone seating finishes, bordering a sense of sporty sharpness.
Rear seating is still generous along with plenty of storage in the door panels. However, the trunk is slightly more diminutive than gasoline models in order to store the Hybrid’s battery pack at 11.3 cu-ft compared to 15.5. Plus, it retains a 60/40 rear seat split to accommodate more.
On a tech level, there are hits and misses. On the plus side, VW has created one of the best-looking hybrid power meters in the category. Complete with indications on Charge, Eco and Boost, the simplistic visual is coolly analogue and leaves out any guessing-games. Furthermore fuel and performance stats are impeccably presented in the digital navigation screen on the centre stack. Unfortunately, the navigation system is less than desirable, as we found the GPS system to be outdated with poor functionality.
The interior trims are identical to what can be found in standard gas Jetta models. The options can be summed up as follows: the base Hybrid priced at $24,995 offers power windows, adjustable front seats, dual climate-control, Bluetooth, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel and more. The $26,990 Hybrid SE adds power reclining front seats, a media-device interface, touchscreen and keyless access with push-button start. For more premium choices, the Hybrid SEL at $29,325 has a sunroof, navigation, heated seats and a six-way power driver seat, plus 16-inch aluminum wheels outside. And compared to the SEL, the Hybrid SEL Premium adds the 400-watt 9-speaker Fender audio system with subwoofer and a rearview camera, while outside there are Bi-Xenon headlights with LED Daytime Running Lights, an Active Front-Lighting System (AFS) and 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.
AN ENJOYABLE HYBRIDEstimated to achieve a combined fuel economy of 45 miles per gallon as well as 0-60 mph in less than 9.0 seconds (8.6 seconds to be exact), the Hybrid seems like a game-changer – an alternative to the Prius or TDI. After spending a full day with our tester on the mountainous roads of New Mexico, the Hybrid proved its worth. A winning combination of driving dynamics, the 1.4L turbocharged gas engine (producing 150 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque) mated with a 27 horsepower (20kW) water-cooled electric motor (generating a constant 114 lb-ft of torque) coupled with a seven-speed, DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox (operable as an automatic or sequential shifting know as a sport mode) drove with confidence, efficiency and a genuine sense of natural aspiration sans the excess of fumes.
It’s a quiet ride with smooth acceleration and able handling thanks to the borrowed suspension of the sportier Jetta GLI, with a fully-independent rear end, meaning it’s both efficient and engaging. The Hybrid’s drive feel and cornering sensation is precise and sporty, without compromising overall passenger comfort.
Drivable in multiple modes, the Electric Mode (E-Mode) is the primary selection upon the car’s start-up as the drivetrain is eliminated to afford efficiency, prompting the vehicle to run gasoline-free at up to 37 mph (for up to 1.2 miles), depending on driving conditions and the hybrid’s battery power. Push the E-Mode button and the emissions-free speed is extended up to 44 mph and the vehicle’s gas pedal inputs can be more aggressive.
Above 37 mph (44 mph in E-Mode), when the battery level is low, or the driver requires more throttle power, the turbocharger kicks-in to give an extra boost. The electric motor then works with the gas engine to get the promised output of 170 horsepower. When coming down from speed, regenerative braking system recharges the battery while the engine is decoupled from the drivetrain to reduce drag.
For the non-believers who think that a hybrid vehicle cannot be more than a fuel-efficient uneventful machine, think again.
While you won’t be hitting 187 mph, the 8.6-second jaunt to 60 mph means this is a hybrid that doesn’t compromise on power. And even when you’re not driving foot-to-the-floor, it’s responsive and engaging.
Starting at a base price of $24,995 ($2,000 more than the 2.0L TDI Clean Diesel model), the Jetta Hybrid is a welcome addition to the growing hybrid market. If you’re shopping for the most fuel-efficient Jetta, skip the TDI and order the all-new Hybrid.
And if you’re in the market for another hybrid, anything from a Prius to a Camry, this German green-machine combines the very best traits of performance, fuel economy and affordability.