$6,143 - $10,482

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta was new.


Performance: 7.5

The 2013 Volkswagen Jetta has one of the most diverse powertrain lineups in the class. Reviewers favor performance from higher trims and are impressed with the diesel engine’s fuel economy. Test drivers are disappointed with the base engine, which is underpowered and has low gas mileage for the class. Reviewers aren’t impressed with the handling on lower trims.

  • "The 2013 Jetta's plethora of powertrains translates to a correspondingly wide range of driving experiences, from underwhelming for base models equipped with the entry-level 115-horsepower 4-cylinder engine to invigorating for GLI versions with VW's turbocharged 4-cylinder powerhouse. Splitting the difference are Jettas equipped with a 170-horsepower 5-cylinder engine, which has a good balance of power and fuel economy." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The performance numbers will never show it, but this is simply a joy-filled car and a sharp response to criticism of the … Jetta. There’s genuine pleasure to be had at the edges of the grip envelope." -- Left Lane News (GLI, 2012)

Acceleration and Power

The 2013 Volkswagen Jetta is available with four engines and four transmissions. The base S Jetta comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 115 horsepower. Higher trims offer a 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine; a 140-horsepower, turbodiesel 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a 200-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that comes with the GLI model. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, and a six-speed manual, a six-speed automatic and a dual-clutch automated manual transmission are optional, depending on the engine you select. With the base engine and automatic transmission, the Jetta averages an EPA-estimated 24/32 mpg city/highway, which is low for the class. The Jetta TDI, which is equipped with a diesel engine, has very good fuel economy ratings of 30/42 mpg.

Reviewers who have tested the base Jetta are disappointed with how underpowered it is. Its 115 horsepower rating is low for the class and low for a car as large as the Jetta. Test drivers are, however, pleased with the remaining engines. They think the 2.5-liter option offers a better balance of power and fuel economy than the base engine, though it doesn’t make the Jetta particularly fast. Auto writers add that power from the diesel engine is adequate and think its high torque rating makes driving the Jetta TDI enjoyable. Reviewers like both the Jetta’s manual and automatic transmissions. GLI models have a standard six-speed manual transmission and an optional dual-clutch automated manual. One test driver says that either choice is fine for the GLI because both transmissions are smooth.

  • "The manual has smooth shift and light clutch action. The automatic delivers smooth shifts, with quick reaction to throttle inputs." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "Diesel models, meanwhile, will please drivers not only with their 40-plus mpg but the torque from their powerful yet quiet engines. Though not swift, even base Jettas are comfortable and reasonably composed, while 2.5-liter and diesel models offer more competence and driving pleasure." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The base 2.0-liter engine should be avoided; it's underpowered and offers no better fuel economy than the 2.5. The bigger engine isn't the smoothest nor richest-sounding in its class, but it's still the better choice." -- Edmunds
  • "Clearly the DSG is the faster alternative, but driving enthusiasts will likely choose the manual. Both operate flawlessly with the DSG firing off shifts either in full automatic or from the steering wheel-mounted paddles. The manual has a very damped yet still mechanical clutch feel, and while the shifter throws are rather long, the action is smooth and the stick falls into gear easily." -- Motor Trend (GLI, 2012)
  • "Once under way, the direct-injected, 200-horsepower turbo two-liter four is throaty and responsive." -- Left Lane News (GLI, 2012)

Handling and Braking

Some car writers report that some Jetta trims have responsive steering. One reviewer isn’t impressed with the Jetta’s steering at all, and finds that the Jetta’s competitors have better maneuverability. Test drivers think the Jetta GLI has the sportiest handling in the model line. The Jetta’s brakes receive mixed reviews. One test driver says they are strong, while another thinks they’re only adequate.

  • "The GLI shines in this area and comes off as a true sports sedan, with responsive moves and little body lean in fast turns. Other Jettas, however, are not particularly sporty, which is disappointing for a Volkswagen. Jetta is more than competent, however. It's composed in fast turns with good steering feel and strong brakes." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The ride quality is quite good, as the suspension easily soaks up most road irregularities. The Jetta's handling is hardly memorable, though, and many other small sedans feel lighter and more maneuverable at the helm." -- Edmunds
  • "Feel from the wheel is above-average, if not overly communicative, and the seats do their best to hold you in place, unless your personal curb weight is on the malnourished side." -- Autoblog (GLI, 2012)
  • "The power steering in the GLI is light and controllable, just what we want for fast back-road work. … Lighter is better, as long as the feel is preserved. There’s plenty of feel to be had here." -- Left Lane News (GLI, 2012)
  • "Brake feel is just so-so. …" -- Car and Driver (2011)

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