Full 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid receives VW's Car-Net telematics system.
If you're looking for a hybrid that doesn't drive like one, the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid makes a compelling bid for your business. Think about the negatives typically associated with hybrids: strange transmissions that never change gears (CVTs), soggy handling and slow acceleration. Now consider the Jetta Hybrid's resume. Its transmission is a crisp-shifting automated manual. It handles securely through turns, and it feels downright quick when you give it some gas. About the only traditional hybrid element here is the impressive EPA rating of 45 mpg in mixed driving.
The Jetta Hybrid may strike you as redundant given the existence of the fuel-sipping Jetta TDI, but here's the reality: Not every American wants to drive a diesel. Also, you could argue that the hybrid is actually a better car. After all, its combined fuel economy outpaces the TDI's by a whopping 11 mpg, and you can fill up its tank with good old gasoline, so there's no need to share a greasy pump with 18-wheelers. Predictably, the Hybrid is also quieter than its grumbly diesel sibling.
Here's the catch, though: The hybrid Volkswagen Jetta is also more expensive than the TDI model, and that brings some other appealing hybrid vehicles into play. The Honda Civic Hybrid is cheaper than this Jetta, as is the best-selling 2014 Toyota Prius. Toyota's unparalleled experience with hybrid powertrains could also add some long-term peace of mind. Another option in the Jetta Hybrid's price range is the larger 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid, which bested the VW and a few other hybrids on the way to winning our recent hybrid sedan comparison test.
Nonetheless, these models (the Honda and Toyota in particular) still drive like hybrids, and that's where the Jetta Hybrid has an edge. If you're intrigued by hybrid fuel economy but could do without the common side effects, give the 2014 VW Jetta Hybrid a shot.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid is 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, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a trunk pass-through, Bluetooth phone and audio 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, VW's Car-Net telematics and an upgraded sound system with a touchscreen interface, satellite radio and an iPod interface.
The SEL steps up to 16-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, heated front seats, a six-way power driver seat, a rearview camera and a navigation system.
The SEL Premium tops the range with 17-inch alloy wheels, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, foglights and an eight-speaker Fender sound system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 VW Jetta Hybrid is powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that works in tandem with a 20kW electric motor. The team produces a combined 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Power flows to the front wheels through a seven-speed automated manual transmission: a special hybrid version of VW's DSG transmission with one extra gear.
If you're delicate with the throttle, the electric motor can scoot the Jetta Hybrid along for almost a mile at speeds up to 37 mph, though conditions likely won't allow this in the real world. At the test track, the Jetta Hybrid ran from zero to 60 mph in a swift 7.8 seconds, one of the quickest times in this segment.
According to the EPA, the Jetta Hybrid will return 45 mpg combined (42 mpg city/48 mpg highway), essentially matching the rated fuel economy of the Civic and Fusion hybrids, but still below the Prius. During an extensive Edmunds fuel economy test consisting of city, highway and interstate driving, the Jetta Hybrid averaged 43.0 mpg overall. Although that's a little off the EPA combined number, it should be noted that the VW posted 47.3 mpg during the 100-mile suburban driving portion of the test.
The 2014 VW Jetta Hybrid comes standard with traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. A rearview camera is included in SEL and SEL Premium models. VW's new Car-Net telematics system, standard from the SE trim on up, includes automatic crash notification, roadside assistance, remote vehicle access, stolen vehicle location and geo-fencing (which allows parents to set boundaries for teenage drivers). A Car-Net smartphone app lets owners control many of these functions on the go.
During Edmunds brake testing, the Jetta Hybrid came to a stop from 60 mph in a commendably short 117 feet, one of the top performances in this class.
In government crash tests, the Jetta Hybrid earned five stars out of five overall, including four stars for front crash protection and five stars for side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the conventional Jetta its best possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests, In the IIHS's small-overlap frontal-offset test, the conventional Jetta posted a "Marginal" rating (second worst of four).
Interior Design and Special Features
While the 2014 Jetta Hybrid has one of the least exciting interiors in its class, some might interpret this as tasteful restraint. Whereas rivals may use various curves, angles and textures to catch your eye, the Jetta just gives you simple, straightforward gauges and a no-nonsense control layout. Some hard, coarse plastic panels are a turn-off for a car at this price, though.
The controls generally feel substantial and well-damped. We also like the touchscreen stereo interface 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.
One thing the current Jetta does quite well is carry adults in the backseat, and the Jetta Hybrid can claim the same. In the trunk, however, the battery consumes about 4 additional cubic feet of space versus the regular sedan, cutting the maximum figure down to 11.3 cubic feet. That's still bigger than the trunk in the Honda Civic Hybrid or the larger Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, however.
The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid's turbocharged gas engine is smooth and quiet, a pleasant change from the droning dramatics in some rival hybrids. The seven-speed automated transmission shifts quickly and smoothly, lending an authoritative feel to the car's sprightly acceleration.
While the Jetta Hybrid isn't an overtly sporty sedan, it feels planted and balanced in corners, showing more athleticism than expected for a hybrid car. We're also fond of the brakes, which is rare praise for a hybrid. The pedal has a nice feel to it and the brakes are strong in emergency stops. For the sake of fuel economy, the Jetta Hybrid is tuned to coast when you're off the gas pedal. The upshot is that in hilly areas, you can't simply take your foot off the gas and expect the car to slow down; you'll need the brake pedal, too.