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3/4 Front Glamour 2013 Volkswagen Jetta

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Expert's Rating


MPG 24 City / 35 Highway
  • Communicative steering feel
  • Excellent handling
  • Comfortable and supportive seats
  • Smooth ride
  • Unusually wide center console
  • Cramped back seat
, Automotive Editor -
Volkswagen still has a hit on its hands with the Jetta lineup, last redesigned for 2011. The Jetta Sedan remains the company's best-selling model in this country and competes well with the compact sedan class leaders. Key benefits include the diverse lineup, with not only a spacious four-door sedan, but also the Jetta SportWagen and the performance-tuned GLI sedan - essentially a Volkswagen GTI in the body of a Jetta. VW's US sales have been routinely hitting levels not seen since the 1970s - thanks to the popularity of models like the Jetta, as sales of the model line were up almost 44 percent in 2011 from 2010 levels. That's proof the expanded, and more affordable, Jetta lineup has struck a chord with American compact sedan and wagon shoppers.


The rest of the Jetta line continues with most versions getting a 2.5-liter five-cylinder gasoline engine, producing 170 horsepower and mated to either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic and up to 33 MPG highway. Base S models get a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 115 horsepower and the same transmissions as the 2.5. TDI models get a 2.0-liter 140-horsepower turbodiesel four-cylinder, with either a six-speed manual or six-speed DSG transmission and up to 42 MPG on the highway. The GLI gets the same transmissions, but pairs them to a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 200 horsepower and 33 MPG highway. For 2013, the GLI also gets Launch Control, a performance device seen on exotic sports cars.

Check out the rest of our picks for the top sedans of 2013

The Jetta appeals to compact car buyers who like the European lines, the slightly higher prestige of the VW badge that also comes with free scheduled maintenance for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the spacious rear seat and trunk. The Jetta SportWagen remains one of the few wagon options on the market and is for now one of the few cars with a diesel option. The Chevrolet Cruze is a popular competitor, with an Eco trim that matches the TDI's EPA fuel economy ratings, offers a nicer interior than the Jetta and offers features unavailable to Jetta like OnStar. But the Cruze's interior is tighter in the rear and there's no high-performance option like the GLI. The Ford Focus offers a hatchback to compete with the Jetta SportWagen, has features the Jetta doesn't offer like active park assist and has a faster ST hatchback coming for the 2013 model year. The Focus gets expensive though and its PowerShift dual-clutch transmission isn't as smooth as VW's automatic or DSG. The Subaru Impreza offers both sedan and hatchback variants and standard all-wheel drive, something the Jetta doesn't have even as an option. The Jetta is more spacious, however, and its TDI models has superior fuel economy. The new Dodge Dart is also large for the compact class, with a large interior and trunk, and its optional UConnect Touch infotainment and navigation system surpasses what any Jetta can offer. The Dart's interior is also better appointed. But it comes only as a sedan. The Honda Civic may be high-ranking on the sales charts, but it falls down with available technology, offering a truly hot performance option and offering a hatchback or wagon option. The interior and trunk are not as voluminous as the Jetta's either. But the Civic offers a hybrid option and is fuel-efficient in its own right. And there's an available coupe, too.

Ultimately, the Jetta appeals to lots of customers looking for a sedan or wagon or performance sedan for not a lot of money. The base S model is sparsely equipped and all but GLI and SEL models have some tacky interior pieces. But its understated styling doesn't offend and engines like the 2.0 turbo and TDI quietly impress. The Jetta aims to be both sensible with fuel efficient options and fun with the performance model.

Which Style To Buy?

2013 Volkswagen Jetta
Starting price

2013 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0L Base

Recommended for: Drivers who want the cheapest possible Volkswagen Jetta

The Base trim level gets the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 115 horsepower and either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. It has 15-inch steel wheels, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power locks and windows and cloth upholstery. The Base gives the Jetta the low introductory price by skipping out on popular features such as A/C and iPod connectivity. Moving up to the Jetta S gives you remote keyless entry, air conditioning, heated power mirrors and a four-speaker audio system with an AUX input.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta
Starting price

2013 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0L S

Recommended for: Drivers looking for the least-expensive way to get a VW and a spacious sedan

The basic S trim level gets the Jetta its low $17,470 base price. It includes the 2.0-liter 115-horsepower engine and a five-speed manual with cloth seats. The S gets power windows with one-touch up/down for all four windows, heated power mirrors, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power locks and a CD player. Going for the S with Sunroof adds the aforementioned power sunroof, folding rear seats with center pass-through, front center armrest and cruise control.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta
Starting price

2013 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0L TDI

Recommended for: For people who want to go green without going hybrid

Going for a TDI gains access to the sought-after 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine with the promise of 42 MPG highway. The TDI starts with an SE Convenience and adds 16-inch alloy wheels and a trip computer. TDI with Premium brings along a power sunroof, Fender audio and a touchscreen HD radio. TDI with Premium and Navigation continues with 17-inch alloy wheels, six-way power driver's seat, fog lights, navigation and keyless entry and start.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta
Starting price

2013 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5L SE

Recommended for: Suited for shoppers wanting more power for a reasonable price

Moving up to the SE brings the more powerful 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine and 16-inch wheels. The SE adds V-Tex leatherette seats with a power recline feature and chrome grille and window trim, new for 2013. There are also body-colored side mirrors and a leather steering wheel, handbrake lever and shift knob. SE with Convenience throws in 16-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth with audio streaming, iPod connectivity, SiriusXM radio, heated seats and a multi-function steering wheel. SE with Convenience and Sunroof adds the power sunroof and a touchscreen HD radio.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta
Starting price

2013 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5L SEL

Recommended for: For those looking for luxurious features and an impressive audio system

The SEL is the most luxurious Jetta sedan, improving on the SE with 17-inch alloy wheels. SEL cars get Sport Comfort front seats, a six-way power driver's seat, trip computer, keyless entry and start, fog lights and the soft-touch dashboard. SEL with Navigation adds a touchscreen navigation system and a Fender Premium audio system. It also comes only with the six-speed automatic.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta
Starting price

2013 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

Recommended for: For buyers who want a sports sedan wrapped in a subtle package

All GLIs have the turbocharged, 200-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder from the performance GTI model, as well as independent rear suspension and sport-tuned settings. The GLI also has unique 17-inch alloy wheels and a honeycomb-pattern front grille. Inside, there are sport front seats, paddle shifters for DSG-equipped models and a touchscreen HD radio with SiriusXM. GLI Autobahn adds 18-inch wheels, a power sunroof, Fender audio, V-Tex leatherette seats and heated front seats, a six-way power driver's seat and Climatronic dual-zone automatic climate control. GLI Autobahn with Navigation tops things off with a touchscreen navigation system, bi-Xenon headlights, keyless entry and start and a backup camera.

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