Volkswagen wants to be world’s biggest automaker by 2018. The company’s secret (or not so secret, as the case may be) sauce: the Jetta. This week, FastCompany.com had a chance to take the yet-to-be-released 2011 Jetta SEL for a spin on the sharp twists and turns of Northern California’s Highway 1.
First, the interior. Volkswagen representatives told us that the company made an extensive effort to keep the Jetta looking classy despite its relatively low starting price of $15,995 (the 2010 Jetta starts at $17,735). But the interior still looks a bit cheap, and plastic-like coatings on all the controls don’t help matters much. Still, the vehicle is nothing if not comfortable–the latest Jetta has significantly more leg room than the 2010 model, and we enjoyed the faux leather V-Tex upholstery.
The “RNS 315” touchscreen navigation system is fine, with optional Sirius radio hookups, automatic iPod integration, and a navigation screen that offers all the usual amenities, including speed limit notifications. But the speed limit warnings were sometimes off, reading 55 mph on the 20 mph curves of Highway 1. The vehicle’s crisp six-speaker stereo, however, didn’t give us any problems.
The new Jetta was a fun ride, overall–the vehicle manages turns nicely, absorbs most bumps, and has just the right amount of torque (177 lb-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm). The mileage is decent, with approximately 34 mpg on the highway (the 2010 model squeezed out just 30 mpg). And for the price, the car can’t be beat. Still, we’d hold out for the diesel TDI model, set to be unveiled later this year. The truly eco-conscious (and patient) might want to wait even longer–a hybrid Jetta will be revealed in 2012.