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VW Jetta: Promise fulfilled

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Volkswagen dropped the sixth-generation Jetta in 2011 and has refined its DNA each year since. Its cabin has grown richer. Engines are more refined and efficient. Ride and handling have evolved. 

This year, a mid-cycle refresh extends the streak: A stout new turbo-diesel joins the lineup; a new grille and redesigned front fascia give the compact sedan a wider and more substantial feel; engines are more efficient; piano-black trim and new soft-touch surfaces animate the subdued cockpit.

There are newly available safety systems and an optional new lighting package, with adaptive bi-Xenon headlights and LED running lights. Also new this year is a limited-edition Sport trim that packages a sport suspension, sport seats, fog lights, navigation and more into a value-priced $21,000 bundle.

VW sent me neither the diesel nor the alluring Sport to test, though. I got my first taste of the Jetta Hybrid, instead. 

Jetta prices start at $16,945, including destination, but the base 2.0 trim is available only as a factory-order. One trim up, the 2.0 S starts at $18,145.

Jetta’s Hybrid ($32,490) is available only in the high-end SEL Premium trim, which includes a new-for-’15 lighting package with adaptive Bi-Xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and automatic high beams; and a new safety system with blind-spot monitor, rear traffic-alert and front-and-rear park-distance control. There are also rain-sensing wipers; heated windshield washer nozzles; VW’s Car-Net telematics; touchscreen navigation; satellite radio; automatic dual-zone A/C; and foglights with static cornering light.

Volkswagen says the Hybrid’s cabin is quieter than that of any compact in its history. Its seats are firm and supportive and high-quality switchgear operates with sturdy fluidity. Compared with competitive telematics systems, though, Jetta’s feels dated and undersized. 

Jetta’s hybrid system marries a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine with a 20kW electric motor to produce 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque.

Rather than pairing the system with a continuously variable transmission, as most hybrids do — VW uses its seven-speed DSG automatic manual. The EPA rates the Hybrid at 45 mpg combined (42 city/48 highway). The 0-60 sprint happens in a quick-for-a-hybrid 7.8 seconds.

Blessed with the Jetta’s Teutonic ride-and-handling characteristics, the Hybrid also one of the most engaging — and comfortable — of the breed. Its all-independent suspension tames unwanted body motions; the ride is firm but compliant; and the steering system is accurate and responsive.

Braking action is less impressive, exhibiting the non-linearity — or “grabbiness” — to which regenerative braking systems are prone.
With the Hybrid, VW gives buyers a choice of two high-mileage options. Its new turbo-diesel makes 150 hp and 236 lb-ft and earns 36 combined mpg. It’s available in three trims, with a base price of $22,460, and with either a six-speed stick or the DSG.

Other engine choices include the base, 115-hp 2.0-liter four and a turbocharged 1.8-liter four that makes 170 hp. 

Seen in the rearview mirror, the 2011 Jetta was merely a starting place. Four years later, VW’s annual investments have brought the promise to fruition.

Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer. Contact him at don@dadair.com.

2015 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid
Vehicle base price: $17,035
Trim level base price: $31,630
Options: The SEL Premium Hybrid is a fully equipped model. Our tester included no options.
EPA ratings: 45 combined/42 city/48 highway
Premium fuel required

VW CC: One pretty Passat

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In 2009, Volkswagen debuted the CC, a slick “four-door coupe” whose flowing silhouette suggested high-performance European luxury, but whose platform was strictly Passat.

Passat is Volkswagen’s mid-size, four-door family sedan. When the time came to introduce the expected two-door coupe, VW instead stretched the Passat a half-inch, lowered its roofline 2 inches and re-sculpted its sheet metal. Hands-down, the resulting four-door was one of the prettiest VWs ever.

Vintage VW microbus a sweet little ride


      Vintage toys have great appeal because they not only reflect an era or specific period of time, they carry fond memories of childhood and play. And vintage die-cast cars are one of the most enduringly popular collectibles. For some, the curators, only mint collectibles—preferably still in the box—will do. For others, the sentimental treasure hunter, the obvious signs of use, the dents, scrapes and wear and tear of play, only add to the appeal. 


      I saved a shoebox full of the matchbox cars my children played with, but although I’ve admired plenty at flea markets and antique sales, I’ve never bought a vintage toy car or truck. Until a few days ago when I saw a 1960s die-cast replica of a VW Microbus on the shelf in a local thrift store and I couldn’t leave it behind.


     The toy is completely intact with none of the little pieces of trim missing. There are a few scratches here and there but the doors still open and close and it rolls straight. But to be honest, none of that mattered. What really drew me to it was that it reminded me of my son, not as a little boy pushing toys around in the sand box, but as a young man who likes to tinker with things.


     Several years ago he bought a real vintage Volkswagen bus the same robin’s egg blue and white as the toy. The bus was in great shape when he bought it and he continued to make improvements to the interior. By the time he was done it was a compact, comfortable, camper. He and his friends camped all over the Pacific Northwest in it.


     While the VW bus was fun to work on, and fun to use, it just wasn’t practical for everyday use so he sold it for a tidy profit. But whenever he rolled up my driveway in the driver’s seat, he had a smile on his face and I hated to see it go.


     So, when I saw the vintage 1960s Microbus I brought it home. It doesn’t have any great monetary value, similar toys are selling online for under $20. But at $3.99, and considering the pleasure it brings me each time I look at it, my new toy was a real steal.


You can read more of Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s work on her Spokesman.com Home Planet blog. She can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com