The 2021 Volkswagen Jetta receives VW’s latest infotainment system (MIB3) for the two top trims, a new 16-inch wheel design on the base trim, and standard power seats for some trims in between.
Choosing your Volkswagen Jetta
There are five trim levels. The 2021 Jetta S costs $19,990 with destination, the SE is $23,890, the R-Line is $23,790, the SEL trim is $26,740, and the SEL Premium is $29,040.
The Jetta is fitted with a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 147 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque and is saddled with a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic transmission for $800. The automatic is standard on the SE, SEL, and SEL Premium trims.
Despite the manual transmission’s fewer gears, it edges out the automatic with EPA-estimates of 30 miles per gallon city, 41 mpg highway, and 34 combined versus 29, 39, and 33 mpg, respectively. The sedan’s power is routed through the front wheels and all-wheel drive is not available.
Passenger and Cargo Capacity
The exterior of the Jetta is large at 185.1 inches long and 57.6 inches tall which makes it physically larger than most of the competition and as spacious as the Honda Civic although the new Hyundai Elantra is roomier. The Jetta can fit five passengers, however, it’s more appropriately sized for four.
Headroom is good with 38.5 inches in the front and 37.2 inches in the back and legroom is equally generous for rear passengers at 37.4 inches. Trunk volume is 14.1 cubic feet which is considered large for this class of vehicles.
The base Jetta’s sub-$20,000 starting price reflects its lack of standard active safety equipment, although automatic emergency braking, rear cross-traffic warning and intervention, and blind-spot detection are available in the Driver Assist Package for just $500. Those features are standard in the SE and R-Line trims. The SEL and SEL Premium trims additionally receive adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, high-beam assist, and better-performing headlights.
The Jetta earned top scores from IIHS and NHTSA for its crashworthiness but the lack of standard safety equipment and poor performing headlights prevented it from earning more accolades across the board.
The S, SE, and R-Line are equipped with a 6.5-inch touchscreen display with VW’s App-Connet system, which connects with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and two USB ports. The SEL and SEL Premium trims receive VW’s latest MIB3 infotainment system which includes a wireless App-Connect system, an eight-inch screen, and SiriusXM 360L.
The base Jetta hardly looks like a sub $20,000 vehicle on paper. It wears 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, and is fitted with six-way adjustable cloth seats and four speakers. The Driver Assist Package is inexpensive ($500) and includes added safety equipment and heated mirrors.
The next level up is the SE trim and it includes numerous notable upgrades such as proximity entry with push-button start, a panoramic sunroof, leatherette seats with heating for the front row and power-adjustability for the driver, dual-zone climate control, a leather-wrapped gear shifter, and an enhanced multi-information display.
The $500 Cold Weather Package is the single available package and includes heated outboard rear seats, heated windshield washer nozzles, a heated steering wheel, remote start, and a washer fluid level sensor.
The R-Line takes on a sportier appearance with a unique front fascia, gloss-black mirror caps and grille, and a revised rear valance with integrated dual trapezoidal exhaust outlets.
It also incorporates 17-inch wheels, a brake-biased limited-slip front differential, fog lights, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Cold Weather Package is also available.
The SEL trim adds more tempting standard features such as improved LED headlights, a digital gauge cluster display, interior ambient lighting, a 400-watt eight-speaker Beats Audio sound system, sport seats that feature additional bolstering and contrast stitching, and a wireless charger. The features of the Cold Weather Package are also included.
The top-tier Jetta uniquely features a sport rear valance (from the R-Line), turn signals integrated into the side mirrors, leather ventilated (front) seats, navigation, and an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat with memory positioning. There are no available packages.
While each lineup of the Jetta is tempting for its features, the SE trim includes today’s key safety and convenience features and stands out as the best bargain - and it is also available with the reasonably priced Cold Weather Package for those who desire those features.