Newest Jetta keeps a good thing going

By From page B3 | February 28, 2014

The Jetta remains Volkswagen’s best-selling car, three years after the sixth-generation model was introduced to the U.S. marketl. For 2014, the 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine in the SE and SEL trim lines has been replaced by a new 1.8-liter turbocharged and direct-injection four-cylinder engine, carrying the EA888 Gen 3 designation. We were excited to drive the new Jetta turbo as we really tend to like the Volkswagen turbo engines.

The engine makes 170 horsepower (the same as the 2.5) and 184 pound-feet of torque (7 pound-feet more, delivered lower in the rev range). Equipped with an automatic transmission, it also has an EPA estimated fuel economy figure of 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, an improvement of five mpg on the highway over the outgoing 2.5-liter engine. The new engine runs on regular unleaded gasoline.

The EA888 Gen 3 engine family is designed to be lighter and more fuel efficient than the Gen 2 units. Engine weight has been reduced by eight pounds to 290 pounds overall. Among the improvements on this engine are: a thin wall crankcase casting; exhaust headers that are integrated into the cylinder head; smaller diameter main bearings; roller bearings for the twin balancer shafts; and a crankshaft that has four counterweights instead of eight.

The latest version of the EA888 TSI engine, in 2.0-liter form, also powers the Jetta GLI model. The 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine in the GLI produces 210 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. That version is definitely our favorite but the 1.8 liter version that was in our Jetta was pretty good as well. The 1.8 basically feels the same as the 2.0 with less power but better economy. The 1.8 liter gets 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the freeway with the automatic transmission while the 2.0 in the GLI gets 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the freeway.

VW’s engineers also made some other significant mechanical improvements for 2014. On the cars fitted with the available 1.8T engine, the hydraulic power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering has been replaced by an electric-assist system, in line with the TDI and GLI models.

Inside it’s basically the same Jetta that you have known since 2011. You get a very roomy interior that will make tall people very happy. The seats are firm and supportive and the controls are clear and within easy reach. The best part is that the controls are very simple and easy to use. The trunk offers 15.5 cubic feet of room and is just plain huge.

Our SEL model Jetta was the top of the line model which meant more luxury items and came with tons of standard features. Unfortunately, it also meant that you get 17-inch all-season tires and a fairly soft suspension with electronic stability control that you can’t turn off. Push the car hard around corners and it becomes obvious that the car was designed for the average driver and not for the enthusiast. It feels great if you only push it to about seven tenths or so. After that, the car starts to remind you that you are not driving a sports sedan.

That is not necessarily a bad thing. Volkswagen offers many different Jetta models depending on what is important to you. There is the Jetta S that starts out at $16,720. There is our SEL luxury model that came with tons of features for only $25,590. Then there is the hybrid for $27,260 that gets up to 48 mpg and the TDI turbo diesel for $23,195 that gets 42 mpg but can even be had with a manual transmission. And then there is the sportiest of the Jettas, which is the GLI that costs $24,255.

The 2014 Jetta 1.8 is a great addition to the Jetta family. It may not be right for everyone but the great thing about the Jetta family is that there is probably a Jetta for most tastes out there depending on what is important to you. There are inexpensive versions, luxury versions, economical versions, fun versions and economic versions that are fun to drive. What more do you want?

Ali Arsham

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