WASHINGTON — When you want to buy a compact sedan you usually have to sacrifice interior space for better fuel economy. You usually can’t have it both ways. Luckily there is a sedan that has the interior space of a larger midsize sedan and it won’t break the bank to buy it either.
With prices for the VW Jetta starting under $20,000 (and my midlevel SE model at around $22,800), you might think it’s a stripped down model. It isn’t. Inside, you get a power sunroof and push button start. The convincing. leatherette-looking heated seats are comfortable enough for some serious driving, just be careful sitting on those seats in the summer with shorts on. Adding a nice touch to the interior, there is leather on the steering wheel, shift knob and hand brake, but there are more hard plastics than some higher trim level models.
Jetta comes in at the top of the class when it comes to space, with a back seat that can handle adults. The space offers enough head and leg room; I had no problem putting three children in various car seats and boosters across the back seat. The trunk is also large for its class with plenty of room for multiple roller suitcases; I fit four and still had space to spare.
You expect good mpg from a compact sedan and the Jetta fares well in this area. I drove the Jetta with a newer engine to the lineup, a 1.4L turbo four-cylinder engine, which isn’t as powerful as the larger 1.8L engine. It had on/off power delivery on boost from the turbo, which I thought was good enough. I seemed to be waiting for the turbo to kick in to accelerate more, along the lines of the first generation Chevy Cruze. Power was adequate for most situations but you do have to let up into higher rev range to get the most out of it. You can choose from a manual or like my tester, a six-speed automatic, which does a fine job.
Fuel economy from this smaller engine was good; I managed 32.4 mpg for my week of mixed driving. The Jetta is happy being your daily driver with a comfortable ride over most road surfaces. There is a bit of noise at highway speeds but nothing abnormal for this class. Handing isn’t very sporty in this VW, as it’s geared more toward comfort than fun on back roads.
The Volkswagen Jetta showed up with an attractive White Silver paint color that adds to this understated sedan. While it doesn’t wow everyone, it’s a handsome sedan that comes with handsome alloy wheels and body-colored heated side view mirrors. (Those mirrors look better than the black that you get on lower trim levels.) It also looks like a more substantial car than the typical compact sedans. You could easily mistake this for a midsize sedan.
If you want space in a compact sedan, the Volkswagen Jetta has you covered. Pricing is also easy on your wallet and with a new Jetta coming soon you can score big discounts on this large compact sedan.
Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by STI, FMI or Event Solutions for the purpose of this review.