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2017 Volkswagen Jetta Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta was new.


Performance: 8.0

Test drivers say all three of the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta’s turbocharged four-cylinder engines deliver decent performance, whether you go with the fuel-efficient 1.4-liter engine, the eyebrow-raising 2.0-liter engine in the GLI, or the best-of-both-worlds 1.8-liter engine in the midrange SEL. Fuel economy is above average with the base engine. Compared to other compact cars, handling ability and ride quality fail to stand out among rivals, although driver and passenger alike will no doubt be comfortable onboard. The GLI is a different animal and by far the sportiest choice in the lineup, with its sharper handling and potent 210-horsepower engine.

  • … the 2017 Jetta's lineup of four-cylinder engines is pretty sweet, and two of the three available engines even offer a manual transmission." -- Edmunds
  • "For the most part, the Jetta range provides a composed and capable ride that should keep everyone comfortable. Although it probably won't be too thrilling." -- Autotrader (2016)
  • "VW's 2016 Jetta GLI is one of the best sports sedans money can buy. Fast, efficient and more fun than usually evoked by 4-doors, this is one front-drive family sedan that will prompt frequent arguments over who gets to be in the driver's seat." -- Kelley Blue Book (2016)

Acceleration and Power

With the Jetta 1.4T S and 1.4T SE trims, 150 horsepower comes from a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine paired with a five-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic transmission is available as an option. The best fuel economy comes from the base setup with the manual gearbox, with which the Jetta gets 28 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. With the automatic transmission, the base Jetta earns 28 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway, which are above-average estimates for a nonhybrid compact car.

A 170-horsepower, turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission come standard in 1.8T SEL models, which return 25/35 mpg city/highway. That’s not much of a drop in efficiency, and the upgraded engine delivers sprightly acceleration and operates smoothly.

Performance-oriented GLI models come with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 210 horsepower. A six-speed manual comes standard and a six-speed automatic is available. Drawing comparisons to the Volkswagen GTI, the Jetta GLI delivers sporty performance and ample power. With an automatic transmission, the GLI gets 24/33 mpg city/highway.

  • "With three engines and three transmissions, the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta has arguably the most appealing powertrain lineup in its class. The 1.8-liter turbo that defines the SEL model is especially impressive, combining lively acceleration, smooth refinement and thrifty fuel economy. Then there's the turbocharged, 210-hp 2.0-liter engine in the GLI, which punches above its weight in real-world driving and induces grins with powerful, torque-laden sprints at almost any rpm." -- Edmunds
  • "For anything approaching real fun, check out the GLI, which positions itself as the sedan version of VW's brilliant GTI hatchback. Taking 6.7 seconds to sprint from standstill to 60 miles per hour doesn't sound that fast, but the GLI seems a little quicker when going by seat-of-the-pants feel." -- Autotrader (2016)
  • "The newest turbocharged engine in the Jetta fleet replaces the anemic 115-horsepower 2.0-liter from last year and all we can say is 'good riddance.' The 1.4T offers up robust acceleration and a 40-mpg highway rating when equipped with the manual transmission." -- Kelley Blue Book (2016)

Handling and Braking

The base Jetta’s ride is comfortable, and handling ability is confident and secure. However, its handling doesn’t feel as nimble and responsive as it might in sportier rivals such as the Mazda3 and Ford Focus. The steering provides decent feedback. For better handling, GLI models do a great job of managing the extra power to the front wheels, which isn't always the case with high-powered front-wheel drive cars. Although the Jetta GLI's handling reflexes are sharper than what you’ll find in the lower trims, its ride is quite firm, but that’s to be expected from a performance-oriented sedan.

  • As for lesser Jettas, they prove compliant and comfortable on the highway, and most feel lively and engaging, too. At the same time, the other cars in this class have improved markedly in the last decade, so the Jetta no longer stands apart." -- Edmunds
  • "It's certainly nimble and stable, yet eager to transition from left to right. Front-drive cars usually suffer from understeer, where the front tires gradually lose grip if a corner is taken too quickly. However, the GLI has XDS, an electronic cross differential system that helps with traction and mitigates torque steer. The sweet thing about the GLI is that it's such a well-balanced package with just the right amount of power to make the chassis enjoyable, yet not enough to overwhelm it." -- Autotrader (2016)
  • "Common traits for all Jettas are excellent road manners, responsive steering and brakes and a penchant for tackling tight turns. While the GLI is the best handling of the bunch, its ride can be harsh." -- Kelley Blue Book (2016)

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