Often referred to as a Volkswagen Golf with a trunk due to its joyful driving characteristics, the front-wheel-drive Jetta sedan is among the best compacts sold today. Plus, it’s in good company, as it stacks up well against newer and more powerful competition such as the Honda Civic or the Mazda 3, which offers all-wheel drive. The Jetta has spry handling that makes leaning on its 158-horsepower turbocharged inline-four engine fun. For more power and performance, turn to the 228-hp Jetta GLI, reviewed separately. While a six-speed manual is standard, the Jetta can also be equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission for a few hundred bucks extra. Standard safety features and a host of excellent infotainment offerings fill the Jetta’s cabin, and we’d be remiss not to point out that the last Jetta we tested returned an impressive 42 mpg on our real-world 75-mph highway fuel-economy test.
What’s New for 2023?
While the Volkswagen Jetta received a refresh last year, 2023 brings only minor cosmetic changes as well as the addition of remote start ignition capability for the SE trim level.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
The Sport trim level strikes us as the Jetta to get, with a host of unique design elements and a price tag that’s not too steep. The Sport’s standard equipment includes unique 17-inch wheels, black exterior and interior accents, and an electronically locking front differential for improved performance versus the rest of the lineup.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Every Jetta powers the front wheels with a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 158 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The base model has a standard six-speed manual transmission, but an eight-speed automatic is optional. At our test track, our automatic SEL test vehicle reached 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, which is 0.6 seconds faster than the last automatic Jetta we tested. While the sedan has a comfortable and quiet ride, its light steering is effortless but lacks a feeling of precision. Compared with rivals such as the Mazda 3, the Jetta isn’t a roundabout racecar, but it leans into sharp corners when moving above the posted speed limit. Still, its serene nature will satisfy those who want complacent transportation.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The VW Jetta beat its EPA estimates during our 75-mph fuel-economy route, returning an impressive 42 mpg. While the EPA ratings for new Jettas with either the six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission differ only slightly, the base automatic is most efficient with an estimated 31 mpg city and 41 mpg highway. Jettas with three pedals get an EPA-rated 29 mpg and 42 mpg highway. Jetta Sport, SE, and SEL trims get slightly lower ratings due to equipment differences, with an EPA-rated 29 mpg for city driving and 40 mpg during highway cruises. For more information about the Jetta’s fuel economy, visit the EPA’s website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Inside, the Jetta provides a sophisticated design and generous passenger space. Although the available features become more desirable with each higher trim, every cabin caters to the driver and boasts excellent outward visibility. Top content such as customizable ambient interior lighting, wireless device charging, and ventilated front seats are reserved for the most expensive models. Surprisingly, the Jetta held more carry-on bags than the regular Golf hatchback. The sedan held seven bags in its trunk, compared with the five that fit behind the Golf’s rear seat. Likewise, the Jetta held three extra bags more than the Golf (18 total) with the back seats folded. The Jetta’s interior cubby storage includes useful door pockets and a deep center-console bin.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Every Jetta has a responsive touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. Along with traditional volume and tuning knobs, the Car-Net unit allows gesture controls for swiping and pinch-to-zoom. Likewise, every Jetta has a mobile hotspot as long as people are willing to pay for a subscription-based data plan. Wireless charging is standard on the top two trim levels.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Even the entry-level Jetta comes with a handful of standard driver-assistance technology, and upgraded equipment such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist are all available. For more information about the Jetta’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Standard blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
- Available adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go technology
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Volkswagen has an above-average limited warranty and below-average powertrain coverage. To offset the latter, the company provides some complimentary maintenance.
- Limited warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for two years or 20,000 miles
2022 Volkswagen Jetta SEL
Vehicle Type: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
Base/As Tested: $29,090/$29,090
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 91 in3, 1498 cm3
Power: 158 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 184 lb-ft @ 1750 rpm
Suspension, F/R: struts/torsion beam
Brakes, F/R: 11.3-in vented disc/10.7-in disc
Tires: Bridgestone Turanza LS100
205/55R-17 91H M+S
Wheelbase: 105.7 in
Length: 186.5 in
Width: 70.8 in
Height: 57.7 in
Passenger Volume: 94 ft3
Trunk Volume: 14 ft3
Curb Weight: 3131 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 7.1 sec
1/4-Mile: 15.5 sec @ 91 mph
100 mph: 19.2 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 7.6 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 4.1 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 5.4 sec
Top Speed (gov ltd): 126 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 189 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.81 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 27 mpg
75-mph Highway Driving: 42 mpg
Highway Range: 550 mi
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 33/29/40 mpg