2017 Volkswagen Jetta SEL Review

If you’re looking for a near premium experience in an affordable package and your proclivities run toward the dynamic attributes of German cars, you have one choice —the Volkswagen Jetta.


Jetta is offered with four trim packages for 2017. The VW's S trim package uses a 1.4-liter, 150-horsepower engine, a rearview camera, LED DRLs and two-tone cloth seats. The  SE gets a sunroof, along with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Traffic Alert, keyless access and push-button start, as well as leatherette seats are included as well.

Volkswagen Jetta Overview

The SEL is treated to a 1.8-liter, 170-hp engine, a power adjustable driver’s seat; exterior chrome accents; dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, rain-sensing wipers and foglights. Active safety features include Forward Collision Warning with Autonomous Emergency Braking and Adaptive Cruise Control. Meanwhile, Jetta GLI comes with all of the  above, plus a 2.0-liter, 210-hp engine, 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, LED taillights, proximity sensors, and a Fender audio system.

Regardless of the trim package you choose, you’ll find the Jetta presents a highly respectable driving environment. The layout is both intuitive and ergonomically sound. Large round dials are offered for the climate control system. There are redundant controls on the multifunction steering wheel for the audio and cruise control systems and the handbrake is positioned precisely where your right hand falls when it isn’t on the steering wheel.

At night, all controls are illuminated with red lighting while all information is presented in white lighting. The touchscreen, while not one of the largest on offer, is nicely positioned, easy to use and activates its menu when your hand comes into close proximity of the screen. It’s a pretty neat trick. Still, function takes precedence over flashiness. Jetta’s interior won’t wow you with creative shapes, but everything is laid out logically so interaction is intuitive. It takes very little time to get familiar with the layout.

Another laudable aspect is the spaciousness of the passenger compartment. There’s more than adequate room for four full-size American adults. Large windows, and abundant head and shoulder room enhance the airiness of the cabin. Seating is comfortable and the overall vibe is substantive. Handy storage bins are at all four doors, there’s hidden storage in the center console and the trunk is fairly cavernous for the class, at 15.5 cubic feet.

Power for our SEL test car came from the 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 170 horsepower and 184 ft-lbs of torque. The front wheels were fed through a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is rated at 25-city and 35-highway. We averaged 29 mpg overall.

On the road, the Jetta dispatches long stretches of highway with ease, delivering adequate performance, good fuel economy and very smooth operation. The suspension system isolates you from road irregularities, while transmitting solid information about what’s going on at the road’s surface. While the VW doesn't burn up back roads like a BMW 3 Series, it’s considerably more interesting than anything Toyota, Hyundai or Kia can muster in the class.

Nicely planted and exceptionally stable on the highway, you know you’re driving a German car. The Jetta also tracks well through corners and brakes with authority—while delivering a comfortable and compliant ride. Wind noise is minimal and tire roar is nicely muted. Bottom line, this is a 500-mile a day car you can actually afford to buy.


For 2017, Jetta SEL pricing starts at $24,995.

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