Full 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid Review
What's New for 2013
The 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid is an all-new model.
When you first heard of the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, it's OK if your reaction was to wonder why VW is even offering a hybrid. After all, the company has plenty of long-running success at achieving high fuel economy with diesel engines. But Volkswagen is on a quest to become the world's largest automaker, and helping it along the way will be its new Jetta Hybrid.
Designed specifically for hybrid sedan shoppers who wouldn't otherwise consider a diesel, the Jetta Hybrid utilizes a small turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor to generate 170 horsepower -- equal to the output from the standard Jetta's larger five-cylinder. More importantly, this results in 45 mpg combined, a figure that, while shy of the Toyota Prius' 50 mpg and the Ford Fusion Hybrid's 47 mpg combined, is competitive with that of nearly every other rival. The Hybrid also drives a lot like a regular Jetta, with a comfortable ride quality and a familiar shift feel from the seven-speed automated manual transmission (DSG).
Besides the powertrain, some badging and a generous helping of standard features, the Jetta Hybrid isn't much different from its gasoline and diesel counterparts. The hybrid features the same roomy cabin, with a spacious rear seat offering more legroom than a Honda Civic. Overall interior quality is a bit underwhelming, but the Jetta Hybrid's trunk is respectably sized, even with the capacity reduction caused by the rear-mounted battery pack.
We like that the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid offers plenty of space, comfortable driving dynamics and great fuel economy. But it also has an eyebrow-raising sticker price, starting several thousand dollars higher than a Honda Civic Hybrid or Prius when new. A fully loaded Jetta Hybrid approaches the price of larger midsize hybrids like the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid or Toyota Camry Hybrid. As such, looking at these other hybrids (not to mention the cheaper yet still frugal diesel Jetta TDI) is still a wise idea. Still, with its midsize dimensions, compact attitude and miserly fuel use, the Hybrid makes a worthy addition to the VW Jetta lineup.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid is a midsize hybrid sedan available in Base, SE, SEL and SEL Premium trim levels.
Available by special order only, the base Jetta Hybrid comes with 15-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, heated mirrors, cruise control, full power accessories, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, height-adjustable front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, premium vinyl upholstery, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a trunk pass-through, a trip computer, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with CD player and an auxiliary jack.
The SE adds LED taillights, keyless entry/ignition, power-reclining front seats and an upgraded sound system with a touchscreen interface, satellite radio and an iPod interface. The SEL builds on the SE offerings with 16-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, heated front seats, a six-way power driver seat and a navigation system.
The SEL Premium gets 17-inch alloy wheels, adaptive bi-xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lights, foglamps, a rearview camera and an eight-speaker Fender premium sound system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 VW Jetta Hybrid comes with a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder and a 20kW electric motor, a combination good for 170 hp and 184 pound-feet of torque. Power is fed to the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission.
The electric motor alone can power the Jetta Hybrid for almost a mile at speeds up to 37 mph. VW says the Jetta Hybrid can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in less than 8.6 seconds. If true, it'd be one of the quicker times out there for a hybrid.
According to the EPA, the Jetta Hybrid will return 42 mpg city/48 mpg highway and 45 mpg combined using required premium fuel.
The 2013 VW Jetta Hybrid comes standard with traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints.
Interior Design and Special Features
Although the current-generation Volkswagen Jetta has been criticized for obvious cost-cutting measures in the cabin, the 2013 Jetta Hybrid shows signs of improvement, as VW has added a soft-touch dash and upgraded the trip computer. It's still not as upscale as previous Jettas, but the hybrid's interior is competitive relative to the cabins seen in other small and midsize sedans, and build quality is tight, too. In addition, the spacious cabin provides a backseat large enough for adults to sit comfortably.
This roominess carries over to the Jetta Hybrid model as well, although the battery layout consumes more trunk space -- about 4 additional cubic feet -- compared to the standard sedan's expansive cargo hold. The hybrid still offers a useful 11.3 cubic feet, more than the hybrid variants of the Honda Civic or larger Hyundai Sonata.
We also like the touchscreen stereo interface (standard in all SE and SEL models) and its redundant dial knob, which is ideal for controlling a portable music player. The associated navigation system, however, is a bit of a letdown due to the small screen and limited amount of display information.
From the driver seat of the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, you'd hardly know you were piloting a fuel sipper. The turbocharged engine is smooth, quiet and rarely feels labored -- a pleasant change from the buzzing dramatics we expect from similarly small engines. The seven-speed automated transmission shifts quickly and smoothly. We're also fond of the brakes. as the pedal has a nice feel to it; this is especially impressive when you consider the awkward regenerative braking systems found in most hybrids.
And while the Jetta Hybrid is not billed as a sport sedan, it offers the same independent rear suspension as the Jetta GLI (for battery packaging reasons) and feels planted and balanced when run through long sweeping bends. It's also by far the quietest model in the Jetta family.