We Find Out Why This Is VW’s Best-Selling Sedan
The Volkswagen Jetta is the only compact sedan that comes with three engine options—gas, diesel and hybrid. Clean Fleet Report has now reviewed all versions, starting with the 2013 Jetta Hybrid vs. Diesel, the 2014 Jetta TDI Automatic and the 2015 Jetta TDI with the six-speed manual transmission and 2015 Jetta Hybrid. To complete the family, we had the chance to get into a 2015 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T SE to compare its gasoline engine with the hybrid and diesel powerplants. It acquits itself well, offering comfort, interior spaciousness, fuel economy and ease of operation at a reasonable price.
Driving Experience: On the Road
Upon pushing the start-up button, Clean Fleet Report’s Jetta fires up its 1.8-Liter turbocharged/intercooled 16-valve, DOHC inline four-cylinder engine that puts out 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of
torque. Our test car was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with EPA fuel economy rated at 25 city / 37 highway / 30 combined. In comparison, the 2015 Jetta TDI is rated at 31 city / 46 highway / 36 combined (see our note on VW’s Clean Diesel Legacy for some background on current diesel issues). A smaller 1.4T engine hits 40 mpg on the highway. In 291 miles of driving throughout Southern California, I averaged 31.1 mpg with a 75-percent highway / 25-percent city driving pattern in the gasoline-powered Jetta. Running on unleaded regular, at our combined fuel average, the 14.5 gallon gas tank would have taken us more than 425 miles before needing to be topped off.
The six-speed automatic transmission shifted up-and-down smoothly, with the gearing programmed to match the engine revs and utilize the 1,500 to 4,750 rpm torque band.
The 2015 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T SE is quiet and smooth, making for a very enjoyable driving experience. The SE model I was driving had 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and 225/45R17H all-season tires. It had above average handling via the strut-type front suspension with coil springs and telescopic dampers and the multi-link, coil springs and telescopic dampers rear. The Jetta has an anti-roll bar on both ends. Highway stability was excellent in what was an overall easy and pleasant car to drive.
Weighing-in at 3,124 lbs (172 lbs lighter than its TDI–clean diesel–sibling), the Jetta 1.8T SE had a bit more cornering speed than the TDI as the reduced weight over the front wheels made the car more nimble. Both models have electromechanical speed-sensitive power steering (the steering gets lighter to the touch as speed increases) that thankfully was not programmed to take away the fun of driving. Body roll was almost non-existent, even when pushed above the recommended corner speed limits on Southern California mountain twisties.
A good handling car of course is nothing without good brakes and our Jetta came standard with ABS (anti-lock braking system) and power-assisted front vented and rear solid discs. Stops were straight, true and confident with no brake pedal fade during hard stops.
Driving Experience: Interior
I was driving the nicely optioned Jetta 1.8T SE, with Connectivity and Navigation trim options. The interior fit and finish, which includes updates Volkswagen calls “subtle but significant,” was German tight, with a good mix of soft and hard plastics. There are no unnecessary fake woods or design gimmicks, which often can be found on competitors. Here you will find piano black and chrome accents and ambient lighting. The instrument cluster, set behind the multifunction leather-wrapped steering wheel, has a tunnel design with deep-set faces to eliminate glare.
The Cornsilk Beige, heated, V-Tex leatherette front seats have better-than-average bolstering and include a manual adjustable driver’s seat with height and lumbar adjustments. There was a good choice of seat settings that, when combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, meant a comfortable position could be found easily, making long drives a breeze.
Volkswagen saying the interior is “spacious” is not an exaggeration. At 5’ 9”, I fit in all cars, including open wheel racers, so a true test was having a 6-foot-tall associate sit in the driver’s seat and, when positioned, have him climb into the back to check leg, knee and head room. The Jetta’s rear leg room, impressive at 38.1-inches, along with the arcing roofline, allowed for ample head room. The rear seat can accommodate three adults and would be fine for commuting but, as with most cars, for longer trips two in the rear seat would be preferred for comfort and space. The 60/40 folding rear seat, with a ski pass-through opening and folding armrest with cup holders, is backed by a very large class-leading 15.5 cubic feet trunk that provides excellent storage capacity. Make no mistake, the Jetta 1.8T SE is a spacious, comfortable car.
The six-speaker sound system delivers deep, full crisp tones for the AM/FM radio and CD player, with MP3 playback. Also part of the infotainment system is a touchscreen that controls the radio
plus the SiriusXM (a must for those long road trips that take advantage of the car’s fuel efficiency), Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music, and VW’s Media Device Interface, or MDI, which includes a SD card slot. Volkswagen still does not offer USB technology, but that was remedied in the 2016 Jetta.
Other conveniences are the power tilting and sliding sunroof, power windows with one-touch operation and pinch protection, cruise control, A/C with a pollen filter, center console with folding armrest and cupholders, front map lights and illuminated visors, carpeted floor mats, power adjustable and manual folding heated exterior mirrors and a rearview camera. Another nice touch are the variable intermittent windshield wipers with heated washer nozzles. Living in Southern California heated nozzles may not be used too often, but in cold weather climates, they make perfect sense. Clean Fleet Report’s Jetta had the optional Lighting Package that includes Bi-Xenon Headlights, LED daytime running lights, cornering lamps and ambient interior lighting.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The Jetta 1.8T SE exterior – Clean Fleet Report’s was in brilliant Tornado Red – has been refreshed for 2015 with subtle changes to the front and rear, including front grill shutters that close to increase aerodynamics and reduce wind resistance. In the rear there is an integrated aerodynamic trailing edge on the trunk lid that gives the car a more upscale look and improves wind flow for increased fuel economy. Overall, I like the conservative-leaning Jetta exterior styling with its clean lines and lack of cladding on body panels. VW calls this “class-up appeal” in which they offer more for less. I agree.
Safety and Convenience
Clean Fleet Report’s 2015 Volkswagen Jetta came with six airbags, keyless access, front fog lights, electronic stability control (ESC), a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), intelligent crash response system (ICRS) and VW’s Car Net that connects the driver to emergency services. Our Jetta had the optional Driver Assistance Package that includes forward collision warning, blind sport monitor and rear traffic alert.
All 2015 Jettas have earned a US Government National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score, the highest safety rating.
Pricing and Warranties
Clean Fleet Report’s Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T SE with Connectivity, Navigation, Lighting and Driver Assistance Packages had an MSRP of $25,340, not including the $820 Destination Charge. Here are the base prices for the gasoline-powered 2015 Jetta 1.8T models, not including any optional packages you may order. All prices exclude the $820 Destination Charge.
SE with Manual $18,995
SE with Automatic $19,420
SE with Connectivity and Automatic $22,325
Sport with Manual $20,895
Sport with Automatic $21,995
SEL with Connectivity and Automatic $25,380
All 2015 Volkswagen Jetta models come with these warranties:
- Basic – Three-year/36,000-mile
- Powertrain – Five-year/60,000-mile
- First Scheduled Maintenance – One-year/12,000-mile
- Roadside Assistance – Three-year/36,000-mile
- Corrosion Perforation – 12-year/Unlimited
Volkswagen has built its reputation in the U.S. on its diesel sales, but three-fourths of Jetta sales are gasoline-powered models.
Observations: 2015 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T SE with Connectivity and Navigation
In its sixth generation, the 2015 Jetta 1.8T SE has had minor but important interior and exterior design changes that continue its top ranking in the compact category for comfort, interior spaciousness, fuel economy and ease of operation. Clean Fleet Report’s Jetta 1.8T SE with Connectivity, Navigation, Lighting and Driver Assistance Packages was a fully equipped car at $6,800 less than the $32,200 average price paid for a new car in 2015 in the United States. Volkswagen has done a good job of offering popular and desired content that is not priced out of the budget of compact car buyers.
When visiting your Volkswagen dealership ask to test drive its gasoline, diesel and hybrid models to see for yourself how these cars can fit your lifestyle and driving needs.
Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!
Related Stories You Might Enjoy:
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The Legacy of Volkswagen Clean Diesel
Clean Diesel vs. Hybrid: Which One Is Best for You?
Road Test: 2014 Ford Focus Electric
Road Test: 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle, which does not address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology, during which we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements. Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class or are among the top mpg vehicles on the market. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at email@example.com.