Tom Crosby: Volkswagen adds tweaks to popular 2017 Jetta

Tom Crosby

Volkswagen is the second largest automotive manufacturer in the world and knows it has to win back the public’s confidence after its U.S. emission-altering scandal.

The Jetta remains the company’s best seller in the U.S. and while sales declined last year, changes for 2017 are minor for the popular compact sedan that historically boasts excellent mileage, decent performance, top crash safety scores and interior comfort.

The hybrid has been jettisoned for 2017 and there is no longer a Jetta diesel. That leaves four gas-powered trims – S, SE (our test-drive), SEL and GLI, the more powerful sport version.

Our SE used a turbo 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 6-speed automatic transmission and manual side-shifter. There are 1.8 liter and 2.0 liter engines in the line-up, as well as manual transmission options. Jetta’s profile and dimensions have changed only marginally since 2014 and base pricing has remained steady, although options can boost the price skyward. This year added a rear-view camera on all models and our no-option test-drive had blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and a bevy of cold weather aids – heated front seats, mirrors and windshield nozzles.

Nimble handling and comfortable ride come courtesy of front wheel drive on 16-inch wheels, a four-wheel independent suspension, a sub-37 foot turning radius and speed sensitive steering. High torque with low rpm’s provides snappy get-up and go. Visibility is excellent.

Inside, fit and finish is excellent and while interior materials are average, manually adjusted contoured seats are leatherette, the 6.3-inch touchscreen is easily reached for selections, gauges are easily read and with Bluetooth, audio apps can be accessed via a smart-phone. VW’s Car-Net® linked to a smart-phone includes automatic crash notification, remote vehicle access, stolen vehicle location and geo-fencing to let parents set boundaries for teenage drivers. And gas prices won’t be too harmful, with the Jetta achieving an average 32 miles per gallon.

Rear seating space comfortably accommodates a pair of adults with a center pull-down armrest. There is a rear seat pass-through to a nicely sized 15.5 cubic feet trunk containing a spare tire. Knick-knack spaces include a space under the dashboard for EV and USB ports plus a deep center console and door map pockets. Visors don’t extend, an annoyance on long trips with the sun shining on the driver’s left. The robust climate control fan is noisy and can require upping radio volume.

LIKE: Knick-knick spaces, roomy, visibility, mileage, handling, price

DISLIKE: Noisy fan, non-extendable visors, needs major upgrades

BOTTOM LINE: No major changes but still price and performance competitive

2017 VW JETTA 1.4T SE
Base price with destination fee: $22,815 (as tested, no options).
Curb weight: 3,025 lbs.
Wheelbase: 104.4 inches.
Length: 182.2 inches.
Width: 70.0 inches.
Engine specs :1.4 liter, inline, 4-cylinder, turbo.
Horsepower: 150 hp at 5,000 rpm.
Torque: 184 lbs.-ft. at 1,400 rpm.
Transmission: 6-speed automatic/manual shifter.
EPA rating: 28 mpg city and 38 mpg highway.
Range: 14.5 gallon tank, regular gas.
Performance: 0-60 in just over 7 seconds.

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.