2014 Volkswagen Jetta SEL Review - Video
The Jetta Attempts to Regain its Former Glory
Things are not going as planned for Volkswagen right now. After a year of incredible growth in 2012, sales slid for the majority of 2013. Like an underperforming pro sports team when things aren’t going right, a shake-up of some sort is in order.
|1. A new 1.8L turbo four-cylinder makes 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque.
2. Transmission choices for the 1.8 are a five-speed manual and a six-speed automatic.
3. Fuel economy is officially rated at 25 mpg city and 36 mpg. We averaged 28.9 mpg during our week with the car.
4. Pricing starts at $17,540. The as-tested SEL model costs $26,410 including delivery.
Although it may appear to be the same as the 2013 Jetta at first glance, the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta has received a couple of significant changes under the skin. The biggest news for 2014 is that the unloved 2.5-liter five cylinder engine has finally been put out to pasture. Its replacement is a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder unit slowly creeping into more and more VW products.
The Return of the Jetta 1.8T
The new engine makes the same 170 hp as the old five pot did, but torque has been bumped up a bit to 184 lb-ft. More importantly, that torque is now available at a much lower 1,500 rpm. Carried over from the old engine are two transmission choices, a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic gearbox. However, stepping up to higher trimmed Jettas like our SEL test model means the only transmission available is the automatic. The sportier GLI model offers a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual clutch automatic as do the diesel models.
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Volkswagen has long been producing turbocharged four bangers and it shows. The engine is smooth, refined and lacking any turbo lag; the latter thanks in part to the engine not being attached to Volkswagen’s dual clutch transmission. The new 1.8-liter turbo behaves a lot like the TDI diesel. There is a lot of low end torque and the transmission is quick to up upshift at a lower than expected rpm. As well, like any good Volkswagen, the 1.8 liter feels far more powerful than the claimed 170 hp, a fact exaggerated by the Jetta’s relatively low curb weight of just over 3,100 lbs.
As should be expected, the downsized engine achieves better fuel economy with city ratings improving by one mpg to 25 and highway ratings increasing by five mpg to 36. During our week with the car temperatures remained below freezing, but our winter tire equipped Jetta still returned a decent 28.9 mpg average.
The Rear End Claims its Independence
Besides the new turbocharged engine, two other prominent mechanical changes have occurred for 2014. All Jettas finally have an independent rear suspension now – the torsion beam rear axle is gone. Not as good news however is the removal of the hydraulic rack and pinion steering system, now replaced by an electric power assist unit in all Jettas except for the base S model.
It is hard to gauge how these changes work on the 2014 Jetta as it is the dead of winter right now and the car is rolling on winter tires. The steering does feel dulled down and vaguer compared to previous Jettas we have driven, but that may be due to the winter rubber. Ditto for the handling; responses on this car are slower than I remember, especially for an SEL model wearing 225/45R17 tires. The upside to softer rubber is a smooth, comfortable ride. Regardless of tire selection, the suspension absorbs road imperfections in a solid way that only the Germans seem to be capable of engineering.
Still the Same Boxy Body
As mentioned earlier, nothing has changed to the outside of the Jetta for 2014. It still wears the same, boxy sheet metal that is conservative if not boring. The SEL adds a set of fog lights and better proportioned 17 inch wheels. Those looking to get the LED tail lights and the LED daytime running lights will need to step up to the sportier GLI model.
See Also: 2012 VW Jetta GLI Autobahn Review
The inside of the Jetta has not changed all that much for 2014 either. There is still a well laid out design that, like the outside, it’s fairly conservative. By upgrading to the SEL trim, the Jetta receives 6-way power adjustable sport comfort front seats, a soft-touch dashboard, navigation, the Fender audio system and a rearview camera. The fact that a soft touch dashboard and rearview camera cannot be had until stepping up to the $26,410 price tag of our compact is bad enough, but at this price, there are still no automatic lights or automatic climate control. To get the auto climate control, the GLI trim has to be selected, but not just any GLI, the Autobahn with Navigation package is needed; pricing at this point hits $30,415 with the six-speed dual-clutch.
The Last Days of MIB
Some don’t like Volkswagen’s MIB infotainment unit and will be happy to hear it is being phased out for the new Carnet system. I however have always liked the MIB system. It’s easy to use, well laid out and the satellite radio presets allow me to see what song is playing on another channel without having to actually change over to that station. Of course, the Fender stereo is still one of the best sounding systems in this segment.
But the real party piece with the Jetta is space. Measuring as large as mid-size cars did not too long ago, the Jetta offers a massive 38.1 inches of rear legroom and a monstrous 15.5 cu Ft trunk. Thanks to the boxy shape, headroom is ample for backseat passengers and driver sightlines are great all around.
The sixth generation Jetta has always been a good car and most of the 2014 changes have made it better. The problem is that buying a well-optioned Jetta with a decent engine means picking a high trim level, turning this into one expensive compact.
At least the new turbo engine and independent rear suspension make it feel more like a premium compact worthy of that price. Better option packaging would still go a long way to make the Jetta a more appealing competitor in a tightly contested segment.