The 2011 Volkswagen Jetta has been totally redesigned as VW is on a serious quest to become the world's #1 carmaker and wants to broaden its appeal. The biggest change is in pricing, with the Base model now starting at about $15,000. Will the lower price spice up sales? Well, there's both some positives and negatives to consider.
On the one hand, the new Jetta is no longer the sedan version of the VW Golf. This means the drop in price does indeed come at the expense of some of its predecessor's overall handling and performance prowess. In addition, some of the interior's previous use of upscale materials has been cut back, putting the Jetta's cabin pretty much on par with other competitors in this segment.
On the plus side, the new Jetta has a longer wheelbase, making for a roomier and more comfortable interior. The standard feature list also remains quite appealing for this price range, making it a better feature-value than the Honda Civic, for example.
Overall, the 2011 Jetta will likely be a contender in this segment due to its solid and competent handling, good fuel economy, spacious interior and convenient features. And the Jetta TDI diesel continues its wide appeal due its combination of robust torque and excellent fuel efficiency.
While the 2011 VW Jetta is a solid pick as a small/midsize sedan, making an informed buying decision is often aided by checking out a car's top rivals. Worthy competitors include the Honda Civic, the redesigned Hyundai Elantra, the Kia Forte and the Mazda 3.
Trims, Standard Features And Options:
The 2011 Volkswagen Jetta is offered in a choice of five trims: Base, S, SE, SEL and TDI (the Jetta Sportwagen, still based on the Golf and therefore a totally different vehicle, will be reviewed separately).
Standard features on the fairly sparsely equipped Jetta Base include power windows, power doorlocks, cloth upholstery, height-adjustable front seats, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, 5-inch steel wheels and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, while the Jetta S then adds air conditioning, keyless entry, power/heated mirrors and a 4-speaker audio system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The Jetta SE adds a more powerful engine, premium vinyl upholstery, cruise control, a front center armrest and storage compartment, 16-inch steel wheels, a trunk pass-through and a rear seat center armrest. There's also an SE Convenience package that includes Bluetooth, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, heated windshield washer nozzles, 16-inch alloy wheels and a 6-speaker audio system with an iPod interface and satellite radio.
In addition, for those opting for the Convenience package, a sunroof can also be added. And coming with it is a premium touchscreen-6-speaker audio system, a 6-disc CD changer and an SD memory card reader.
Moving up to the Jetta SEL adds all the SE's optional equipment except the sunroof (can be added as a stand-alone option), plus a navigation system, keyless entry/ignition, foglamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, rear disc brakes, chrome exterior trim accents, manual front seat lumbar adjustment and a trip computer. The available SEL Sport package then adds a sport-tuned suspension, sport seats, the sunroof and sport pedals.
The Jetta TDI is outfitted similarly to an SE with both the Convenience and Sunroof packages plus a turbodiesel engine, rear disc brakes and a trip computer. Opting for the optional navigation system on the TDI also adds keyless entry/ignition, exterior chrome accents, foglamps and manual front seat lumbar adjustment.
Engines, Powertrain And Gas Mileage:
Powering the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta Base and S models is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that outputs 115 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with either a 5-speed manual transmission as standard or an optional 6-speed automatic. The EPA-estimated gas mileage for this engine with the automatic transmission is a solid 23 mpg city and 32 mpg on the highway. These numbers rise slightly with the manual transmission to 24 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.
Under the hood of the Jetta SE and SEL is a 2.5-liter inline-5 that's good for 170 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. It also is mated with the same transmissions as the 2.0-liter inline-4. The EPA-estimated gas mileage for these models is similar to those of the smaller engine, despite the added power, coming in at 24 mpg city and 31 mpg highway with the automatic and 23 and 33, respectively, with the manual.
In performance tests, a 2011 Jetta SEL with the manual transmission was timed from a standstill to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds, a very respectable performance for a midsize sedan that is also this fuel efficient.
Powering the VW Jetta TDI is a turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel inline-4 that delivers 140 horsepower and a robust 236 lb-ft of torque. It's mated with a 6-speed manual transmission as standard or Volkswagen's optional 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual. The TDI gets excellent gas mileage, rated at 30 mpg city and 42 mpg highway with either transmission.
Standard safety features on all 2011 Volkswagen Jettas include antilock brakes (ABS) with brake assist, stability control, traction control, front side airbags, active front head restraints and side curtain airbags. The S and SE models are equipped with rear drum brakes while the SEL and TDI come with rear discs. In performance testing, the Jetta SEL came to a stop from 60 mph in 117 feet, a better-than-average performance for the segment.
Government crash testing had not yet been performed at the time of this writing.
The 2011 Jetta's cabin is attractive, comfortable and user-friendly. That said, it is no longer one of the strongpoints that previously set the Jetta apart. While the overall build quality remains high, the high-grade and soft-touch materials of previous models have given way to more segment-typical and less expensive materials.
Even so, the new Jetta's interior is roomy and passenger-friendly both front and rear. The seating is both well-cushioned and supportive, while the generous trunk offers a cargo capacity of a very useful 15.5-cubic-feet (even larger than the Honda Accord, for example).
The drive of the 2011 Jetta is competent yet not particularly remarkable ... though certainly not a negative in this price range. Power from the 2.0-liter base engine is adequate but uninspiring. The 2.5-liter five-cylinder's more robust torque make it a much more capable choice while still getting very similar gas mileage.
The overall solid-feel is what one would expect from a German car, so the change to a semi-independent torsion beam from an independent rear suspension hasn't had a significant impact on ride quality or handling. And while the steering doesn't have all the driver-feedback of the past, it's still precise and responsive enough to do a commendable job when cornering.
The best of the bunch, however, is the Jetta TDI diesel with its turbocharged engine, healthy torque and outstanding gas mileage.
How To Get The Lowest Price:
Best Negotiating Tactic: Well, there's definitely a 'best way' when it comes to new car buying. If you want to get the best bottomline, out-the-door price you need to know exactly who to talk to at the dealership, how to make the contact and how to make this person eager to quickly drop prices as low as possible to get your sale.
Those of you in the market for a used car may want to check out this article about how to buy a used car at the lowest price. It details a super effective buying method, one that often beats down prices to wholesale levels.
And somewhat related to this, here's another excellent method that identifies Price-Distressed Cars Right On Dealer Lots. These are vehicles they are so desperate to unload they would welcome your wholesale offer.
In addition, you can also try Public Wholesale Auto Auctions in your own geographic area. While there can be a lot of junk vehicles at these auctions, there are often absolute gems sprinkled in as well. This article reviews what to expect at open-to-the-public car auctions and how to locate them at no cost in your own area.
Prices: 2011 Volkswagen Jetta Sedan:
Base, manual: list price: $14,995, invoice price: $14,395
Base, automatic: list price: $16,095, invoice price: $15,451
S, manual: list price: $15,995, invoice price: $15,355
S, automatic: list price: $17,095, invoice price: $16,411
SE, manual: list price: $18,195, invoice price: $17,467
SE, automatic: list price: $19,295, invoice price: $18,523
SEL, manual: list price: $21,395, invoice price: $20,539
SEL, automatic: list price: $22,495, invoice price: $21,595
TDI, manual: list price: $22,995, invoice price: $22,075
TDI, auto/manual: list price: $24,095, invoice price: $23,131