Mention “trickle down” in a political crowd and watch the sparks fly. It’s a different ballgame in the car world, though.
This year, Volkswagen’s compact Jetta sedan enjoys the benefits of a trickle-down product strategy. New to Jetta is a turbocharged, 1.8-liter engine that arrived earlier on such models as Passat, Beetle and CC.
It’s stronger, lighter and more efficient than the 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine it replaces.
Similarly, VW’s Car-Net telematics (crash notification, roadside assistance, etc) migrates downstream from Passat, et al., into upper-tier Jettas.
An independent rear suspension that earlier replaced the old torsion-beam setup on upper trims is now standard across the board.
Otherwise, Jetta retains the qualities that have made it VW’s best-selling model. It easily accommodates four adults and on the road feels lively and solid. Its cabin is quiet at speed and the contoured seats are supportive and comfortable. Jetta’s rigid unibody, 104.4-inch wheelbase and Euro-style suspension give it a road-worthy, big-car feel.
Inside, materials quality and fit and finish are very good, though lower trims sport abundant hard plastics. Soft-touch surfaces lend an upscale feel to upper trims.
Standard features on the S ($17,715) trim include air conditioning, one-touch auto up/down power windows, power locks with keyless entry, aux-in for the radio/CD player, and power heated exterior mirrors.
A de-contented Base Jetta ($16,515) must be special-ordered through a dealership.
Jetta’s interior design is low-key and no-nonsense. Some will find its flat planes and unadorned surfaces uninspired; others will find it refreshingly straightforward.
Gauges are easy to read and the well-damped controls feel substantial.
The navigation system is easy to use but the smallish screen displays limited information. Its speed-limit function continues to be a god-send, though, displaying the posted speed limit whenever the Jetta is on a public road.
Three engines and three transmissions are available. A 110-hp, 2.0-liter four powers Base ($16,515, including shipping) and S trims and can be paired with a five-speed manual or six-speed DSG automated manual. Estimated fuel economy with the stick is 28 combined (24 city/34 highway) and 27 mpg combined (24 mpg city/32 mpg highway) with the DSG.
The 170-hp 1.8T powers SE ($19,715) and SEL ($26,745) trims. Fuel economy is 30 mpg combined (26 mpg city/36 mpg highway), with the manual, and 29 mpg combined (25 city/36 highway), with the DSG.
A 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel four (from $22,115) makes 140 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque and can be paired with the manual or the DSG. With either, estimated fuel economy is 34 mpg combined (30 city/42 highway).
The GLI’s sport suspension rides 0.6 inches lower than other trims and its turbocharged 2.0-liter four makes 210 hp — up 10 from last year. Its XDS+ Cross Differential System reduces understeer during hard cornering.
Originally conceived as a sedan alternative to the rowdy GTI hatchback, the GLI has evolved into a mildly worked-over Jetta. Though strong and responsive, my tester settled quietly into the daily routine, apparently happy without a daily romp.
Meantime, VW’s trickle-down strategy continues to bring good stuff to the compact segment. No argument there.
2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn w/Navigation
Vehicle base price: $15,695
Trim level base price: $29,595
As tested: $30,415
Optional equipment: Our GLI Autobahn tester was a fully equipped model, with no additional options.
EPA rating: 24 city/32 highway/27 combined
Premium fuel specified