Photo of gray Jetta on road in the fall.

2015 Volkswagen Jetta

Since the Jetta’s overhaul several years ago was met with a flat response from the market, Volkswagen has been hard at work trying to reestablish the Jetta as a top pick for buyers in the compact  market.

The 2015 Jetta received more than a few updates including changes to both front and rear profiles and definitive improvements to the frame and structure of the vehicle which significantly improve the safety of the Jetta in crash tests. And while the inside of the Jetta continues to impress with the tasteful design what’s under the hood is a bit of a letdown.

With just 115 horse-power with the base 2.0-liter engine driving is dull and uninspiring. At the same time, the available sport-tuned suspension can turn a drive around town into a spine-jarring nightmare. And while the positives outweigh the negatives we still aren’t completely sold on the new Jetta.

Especially when one considers the other options available in the compact car marketplace. Cars like Ford’s Focus and the Mazda 3 offer much more fun rides and even more impressive interior accents and embellishments when compared to the Jetta. Keep in mind the Jetta used to be the vehicle we looked to in leading by design. Not so anymore.

And when it comes to well built economical options the 2015 Hyundai Elantra and  Kia Forte are just as well put together and offer a better dollar value for the cost conscious drivers such as college students and recent graduates. Your best bet if you’re in the market and considering the Jetta would be to test out some — if not all – of its modern competitors to really see what today’s modern compact cars have to offer.

Gas engine variations of the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta include the Base, S, SE, Game and SEL trim levels. The diesel-engine TDI models come in S, SE and SEL trim.

The base model 2015 Jetta is fitted with a 2.0-liter four-chamber fuel engine and the primary available transmission is a five-speed manual. Other standard equipment includes 15-inch steel wheels, power windows, a tilt-and-expanding directing wheel, adjustable front seats and fabric upholstery.

The Jetta S incorporates power side mirrors, cruise control, AC and a 4-inch LCD screen plus Bluetooth. The 2015 Jetta S can also include a rearview camera, keyless ignition and a premium 6.5-inch touchscreen radio with satellite.

The Jetta SE brings the turbocharged 1.8-liter four-chamber engine and upgrades the S trim with 16-inch compound wheels, heated front seats, satellite radio.

The Jetta Sport trim delivers 17-inch wheels, fog lights, spoiler, and the aforementioned sport-tuned suspension. The Jetta’s SEL trim joins the equipment of the SE and different packages and incorporates dual zone temperature control, automatic seat adjustment for the driver and a nine speaker premium sound system.

The Jetta TDI models in S, SE mirror the equipment levels of the gas engine accomplices above (beside the TDI S’s standard 16-inch steel wheels). But if you are going with the TDI, we encourage you to opt for the turbo engine. Additional enhancements include blindspot warning and brake warnings. VW’s lighting upgrade package incorporates xenon headlights, daytime running lights,.

The 2015 VW Jetta comes standard with balance and consistent quality control, anti-lock circle brakes, front side airbags, side shade airbags and dynamic front head confinements. A rear-view camera is added to both SEL and TDI models.

In government crash tests, the Jetta earned a general score of five stars (out of five possible), with four stars for front crashes and five stars for side collisions. Despite the supposed suspension improvements, there doesn’t seem to be much benefit over a standard Jetta. In fact, even the GLI’s control isn’t particularly sharp when charging a corner and the car’s braking  and general handling through turns are simply ordinary. If your heart is set on a more exciting Jetta, then the GLI is your choice. The 2.0-liter turbo engine passes on a charming sense of torque that you should enjoy driving through town and on speedy moving roadways. The engine has a better than average sound to it as well.

While the Jetta is a good vehicle we’re not impressed and expect VW will lose more ground to competitors if they don’t put some effort into designing the inside, outside and engine to be competitive with today’s upstarts.

You can read about the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla to learn more about the landscape in the compact car market before making your decision.

And be sure to check out current used car inventory – maybe you can save on a full size used car and skip the compact market altogether.



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