Full 2010 Volkswagen Jetta Review
What's New for 2010
For the 2010 Volkswagen Jetta, there is a refreshed instrument panel and cabin trim, a new climate control system and a new radio. Most trims also see a new leather-wrapped, multifunction steering wheel and standard Bluetooth connectivity. An iPod connection becomes a separate option (you had to get the navigation system before) while the SportWagen loses its SEL trim level and the accompanying turbocharged engine. The sport-tuned GLI has been discontinued. Finally, there's a new Limited Edition trim and the TDI Cup "Street" Edition debuts with an extra helping of tuner flavor.
It's hard to imagine in this era of model proliferation, but the 2010 Volkswagen Jetta manages to exist in its own niche, one deftly carved out by its forebears. An upscale compact, the Jetta proves that just because a car is small and reasonably priced doesn't mean it has to have an economy car feel to it. Indeed, the Jetta has long been a refined, well-built alternative to the humdrum offerings more typical of the segment. The Jetta also provides the confident handling and supple ride of a German-bred car. This generation of the Jetta debuted five years ago, and though some feel the styling is not as distinctive as Jettas of yore, the stout little Vee-Dub maintains its tradition of providing a European road car at a price point comparable to more plebeian offerings in the small sedan and wagon segment.
Last year, the lineup was considerably sweetened with the return of the Jetta TDI and the debut of the Jetta SportWagen. The former offers strong performance along with the stellar fuel economy of a turbodiesel while the latter, as its name implies, combines the solid personality of a Jetta along with the practicality of a wagon body style. The TDI, which returned after a hiatus prompted by ever-stiffening emissions standards, is so clean that it's 50-state compliant and also boasts an impressive combined (city and highway) fuel economy number of 34 mpg. The SportWagen, meanwhile, offers significantly more cargo space than VW's own Tiguan compact SUV -- 18 more cubic feet with the seats up, 10 more with them folded.
Though the 2010 Volkswagen Jetta still stands apart from the compact pack, it nonetheless competes indirectly against a wide variety of models. The lower Jetta sedan trims may be cross-shopped with economy cars like the Mazda 3 or Honda Civic, while higher trims can be compared with entry-level luxury models like the Volvo S40 or midsize family sedans like the Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima or Suzuki Kizashi. For any of these categories, the Jetta is a smart choice. The SportWagen is also worthy of strong consideration if you're contemplating a small wagon or compact crossover, while the TDI makes for an excellent alternative to hybrids. On its own merits, any Jetta is a good choice for those who want a premium German sedan but find themselves with a bier rather than a champagne budget.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Volkswagen Jetta is available in sedan and SportWagen body styles. The sedan is available in S, Limited, SE, SEL, Wolfsburg Edition, TDI and TDI Cup "Street" Edition trim levels. The SportWagen is available in S, SE and TDI trims.
The Jetta S comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors and washer nozzles, air-conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, eight-way-adjustable front seats with power recline, heated front seats, a 60/40-split rear seat and an eight-speaker stereo with a single-CD player and auxiliary audio jack. The Limited (sedan only) adds 16-inch alloy wheels, leatherette vinyl upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Bluetooth The Jetta SE adds a rear-seat armrest, a sunroof (sedan only), a 10-speaker stereo with a six-CD changer and satellite radio, and most of the Limited's items on the SportWagen SE.
On top of this, the Jetta SEL sedan adds 17-inch wheels, a multifunction steering wheel, iPod integration and a trip computer. The Jetta TDI sedan is equipped similarly to the SEL sedan but comes with 16-inch alloy wheels and doesn't have a sunroof. The TDI Cup "Street" Edition adds 18-inch wheels with all-season performance tires, a sport body kit, larger brakes with red calipers, the sport-tuned suspension from the GLI, cloth sport seats, and paddle shifters when equipped with the DSG transmission. The SportWagen TDI is equipped similarly to the SportWagen SE, but it adds a trip computer.
The Jetta Wolfsburg Edition is basically an SE sedan with a turbocharged engine, 17-inch wheels, no exterior chrome window trim and Wolfsburg badges.
Optional on all Jettas is an aerodynamic body kit and rear side airbags (except the Wolfsburg), while a touchscreen navigation system (with a 30GB hard drive, digital music storage, SD memory card slot, USB port and DVD playback) is optional on all but the Jetta S. A panoramic sunroof is a stand-alone option on the SportWagen. Last, a couple of the upper trim features, such as Bluetooth and the dedicated iPod connection, can be had on the S, SE and TDI versions.
Powertrains and Performance
There are three engines available for the 2010 Volkswagen Jetta. All S, Limited and SE trim levels, as well as the SEL sedan, are powered by a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine rated at 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. The standard transmission is a five-speed manual, while a six-speed automatic with manual shift control is optional. In performance testing, a Jetta SE with the manual went from zero to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds. EPA fuel economy estimates with the automatic are 23 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined. Manual-equipped cars earn 1 fewer mpg in the city. In California and California-emissions states, this engine earns a squeaky-clean PZEV tailpipe emissions rating.
The 2010 Wolfsburg Edition sedan gets the same turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine found in VW's temporarily discontinued sport-tuned GLI sedan. It produces a zesty 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is standard, while VW's slick dual-clutch DSG automatic transmission is optional. The Wolfsburg should sprint from zero to 60 mph in the 7-second range. The manual yields 21 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined, while opting for the DSG improves fuel economy to 24/32/27 mpg.
The Jetta TDI features a 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine that utilizes VW's clean diesel technology, making this car compliant with all 50 states' emissions requirements. This diesel produces 140 hp and a healthy 236 lb-ft of torque. With DSG, it goes from zero to 60 mph in 8.9 seconds. The TDI shares the same six-speed manual and DSG transmission choices as the Wolfsburg. Fuel economy for the TDI with a manual is estimated to be 30 mpg city/41 mpg highway and 34 mpg combined, while the DSG rates 30/42/34.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Rear side airbags are optional on all Jettas except the Wolfsburg.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Jetta sedan and SportWagen four out of five stars for frontal collision protection, and a perfect five stars for side protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the 2010 Volkswagen Jetta sedan received the highest rating of "Good" for frontal-offset and side crash protection.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Jetta SE sedan came to a stop from 60 mph in 134 feet, while the TDI stopped in 130. These are below-average distances, and pedal feel is notably nebulous at best.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Jetta's cabin is a strong selling point, with high-grade, soft-touch materials and metallic trim. The vinyl "leatherette" upholstery found in most Jettas is finely stitched and does a good impression of real cowhide, with the added bonus of being easier to clean. Stereo and climate controls are straightforward and easy to use, and we're also fans of the cool blue lights used for the instruments and radio display. The state-of-the-art navigation system features an intuitive touchscreen interface and a 30GB hard drive that not only decreases processing time but also devotes significant space to digital music storage.
The Jetta's tall roof line lends a sense of spaciousness to the front seats, which boast a wide range of adjustment in order to accommodate drivers of various sizes. Headroom is a little tight in the rear, however. Nonetheless, there's an adequate amount of legroom in back, particularly compared to past Jettas, although even an economy sedan like the Toyota Corolla offers more.
The sedan's trunk capacity is very impressive at 16 cubic feet, while the SportWagen is naturally even larger -- cargo volume for the latter is 32.8 cubic feet with the 60/40-split rear seat up and 66.9 cubic feet with it down.
For most shoppers in this segment, a comfy ride matters more than razor-sharp moves. By this measure, the 2010 Volkswagen Jetta is a fine companion in day-to-day driving. It swallows bumps and provides a relatively quiet cabin from which to endure the daily grind. If you do decide to drive aggressively, the Jetta's steering is nicely weighted and accurate, though significant body roll puts a damper on the level of fun.
With the TDI models, expect a little more vibration, a tad more noise and less high-end kick when trying to charge up that highway on-ramp from a stop. However, the diesel's prodigious low-end torque makes it feel downright muscular around town, as it pulls away from traffic lights with authority.