2011 Volkswagen Jetta Review
2011 Volkswagen Jetta Review
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Edmunds' Expert Review
by the Edmunds Experts
- Spacious interior and trunk
- smart electronics interface
- fuel-efficient diesel model.
- Disappointing interior quality
- slow throttle response with automatic
- numb steering
- sluggish base engine.
The Volkswagen Jetta sedan has been fully redesigned for 2011 and is now significantly different from the Jetta Sportwagen.
While the new 2011 Volkswagen Jetta is bigger yet more affordable than before, it has lost many of the special attributes that formerly distinguished it from the pack.
Calculate my fuel costs
Cost to DriveCost to drive estimates for the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M) and comparison vehicles are based on 15,000 miles per year (with a mix of 55% city and 45% highway driving) and energy estimates of $3.11 per gallon for regular unleaded in Virginia.
Monthly estimates based on costs in Virginia
$136/mo for Jetta Base
Avg. Midsize Car
The Volkswagen Jetta has historically bridged a gap between salt-of-the-earth compact cars and Germany's entry-level luxury sedans. In the past, people who bought a Jetta were just as likely to have also considered a BMW 3 Series or a Honda Accord. There was a premium quality to the Jetta that its buyers recognized as worth the extra cost of admission. Even so, Volkswagen believes this price premium also kept more people from considering its compact sedan in the first place, so the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta represents a dramatic shift in philosophy.
For the first time in the car's 30-year history, the 2011 Jetta is not the sedan version of the 2011 VW Golf. On the positive side, the new Jetta has a longer wheelbase for more rear seat room. But we're not fond of the revised steering, standard rear drum brakes and the base model's 2.0-liter engine. Additionally, the Jetta's interior no longer boasts the upscale materials and thoughtful little details that used to give it a premium feel.
So why all these changes, when in most ways they make the Jetta less desirable? The answer is price. The new base model Jetta S costs less than $15,000, and VW points out that it's actually $1,700 cheaper than a 2000 Jetta when you consider inflation. At the same time, the Jetta also boasts more standard features for the money than a 2011 Honda Civic. Add this to its big-car interior and you have a super-sized Jetta for American consumers who expect the kind of value you get at Costco.
Simply taken as it is, the 2011 VW Jetta is a solid choice for a small or midsize sedan. With its spacious interior, plenty of standard features and exclusive offering of a fuel-efficient clean-diesel engine, the new Jetta holds its own against other top choices like the Honda Civic, 2011 Hyundai Elantra, 2011 Kia Forte and 2011 Mazda 3. But for every customer who will notice the Jetta's smaller price and bigger size, we think there will be just as many previous VW customers put off by the new car's obvious cost-cutting.
For the Jetta, it's pay less and you get less. And in our opinion, that's a step backwards.
Performance & mpg
The 2011 Volkswagen Jetta Base and S come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 115 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic is optional. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 23 mpg city/32 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined with the automatic and 24/34/28 with the manual.
The Jetta SE and SEL get a 2.5-liter inline-5 that produces 170 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. It gets the same transmission choices as the 2.0-liter inline-4. Its EPA-estimated fuel economy is actually quite similar, with 24/31/27 with the automatic and 23/33/26 with the manual. In Edmunds performance testing, a manual-equipped 2011 Jetta SEL went from zero to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds -- a good time for a midsize sedan with this type of fuel economy.
The Jetta TDI features a turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel inline-4 that produces 140 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is standard and Volkswagen's six-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox is optional. With either transmission, estimated fuel economy stands at an excellent 30/42/34.
The 2011 VW Jetta comes standard with traction and stability control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. All Jettas have antilock brakes with brake assist; however, the S and SE have rear drums. The SEL and TDI get rear discs. In Edmunds brake testing of an SEL, the Jetta came to a stop from 60 mph in a better-than-average 117 feet.
We have yet to sample a 2011 Volkswagen Jetta with the wheezy 2.0-liter base engine, but we doubt it has gotten any more energetic since it disappeared from the Jetta lineup back in '04. The 2.5-liter five-cylinder is obviously a better choice, and even if it isn't the smoothest or most aurally pleasing engine in its class, it is certainly robust. We've noticed an odd, delayed part-throttle response when this engine is paired with the six-speed automatic, so make sure to step on it during a test-drive to see if you find this quirk as annoying as we have. When the manual transmission is in place, we didn't notice anything amiss. Our pick, however, would be the TDI, as its turbodiesel engine boasts robust torque and frugal fuel economy.
Competent yet unremarkable handling is what we've come to expect from the Jetta, and the new car doesn't disappoint. The switch from an independent rear suspension to a semi-independent torsion beam doesn't seem to adversely affect handling or ride, as this remains a very solid-feeling German car. Though the steering has a small dead spot on-center and a somewhat artificial feel, we have no complaints as far as its actual performance, as it's quick and precise enough when guiding the Jetta through corners.
The 2011 Jetta has a disappointing interior, something we've never said about a Jetta before. Though build quality is still tight, the high-quality, soft-touch materials of the 2010 Jetta have been replaced by cheap hard surfaces. Also gone are features that used to make the Jetta stand apart from other small sedans, like a height- and length-adjustable center armrest, infinitely adjustable back rests for the front seat, rear-seat air vents and a carpeted trunk lid with struts rather than gooseneck hinges. The Jetta Sportwagen, which continues to be based on the Golf, has these features and is indeed a nicer car.
For all that, the new Jetta is quite roomy. It's easy to find a comfortable seating position, and a full-size adult can sit in the back with room to spare. The 15.5-cubic-foot trunk is actually bigger than those of the Honda Accord and outgoing VW Passat. We're also big fans of the available touchscreen stereo interface, which features a redundant control knob ideal for controlling an iPod.
2011 Volkswagen Jetta models
The 2011 Volkswagen Jetta is a midsize sedan available in Base, S, SE, SEL and TDI trim levels. The Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen is reviewed separately.
The Jetta Base is a stripped-down model that comes with 15-inch steel wheels, power locks and windows, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, height-adjustable front seats, cloth upholstery and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat. The S adds keyless entry, air-conditioning, power/heated mirrors and a four-speaker sound system with CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The Jetta SE gets a more powerful engine, 16-inch steel wheels, cruise control, a front center armrest and storage compartment, a rear seat center armrest, a trunk pass-through and premium vinyl upholstery. The SE Convenience package adds 16-inch alloy wheels, heated windshield washer nozzles, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio and an iPod interface. A sunroof can be added to the Convenience package and with it comes a premium six-speaker sound system with a touchscreen interface, SD memory card reader and a six-CD changer.
The SEL includes all the SE's optional equipment (other than the sunroof, which is a stand-alone option), plus 17-inch alloy wheels, rear disc brakes, foglamps, chrome exterior trim, keyless ignition/entry, manual front seat lumbar adjustment, a trip computer and a navigation system. The SEL Sport package adds the sunroof, a sport-tuned suspension, sport seats and sport pedals.
The Jetta TDI with its turbodiesel engine is equipped similarly to an SE with the Convenience and Sunroof packages. It gets the SEL's rear disc brakes and trip computer as well. When equipped with the optional navigation system, the TDI also gets foglamps, exterior chrome trim, keyless ignition/entry, manual front seat lumbar adjustment and the touchscreen navigation/stereo interface.
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most helpful consumer reviews
3.75 out of 5 stars
2011 Volkswagen Jetta S 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 6A)
This is a much nicer car than the Edmunds review gives it credit for. Sure, the 2010 had a (much) richer interior, but the 2010 was both smaller and (much) more expensive. I own and drive a 2009 Mercedes Benz C300 Sport, and bought the Jetta S for my daughter. The "wheezy" 2.0 liter does just fine, even with the automatic, and so far is getting 29 MPG in mixed driving. It is not fast by … any means, but it is smooth, quiet and refined, with no trouble whatsoever cruising at 80 MPH or above. The car handles well, looks and feels more expensive than it is, and most importantly, is smoother, quieter and more comfortable than just about anything else at its price point.
2.75 out of 5 stars
2011 Volkswagen Jetta SE 4dr Sedan (2.5L 5cyl 6A)
Bought the car brand new in 2011 and the AC went out in 2012. Great service at the dealer. In 2014 I started to notice the transmission slipping but no error codes. Then the car shut off once at a stop light and the second time turning into a friends driveway. I started researching the issue and found many, many 2011 and 2012 cars have this problem and dealers seem unable to solve them … because no error code goes to the computer
4 out of 5 stars
Value at a price!!
2011 Volkswagen Jetta SEL PZEV 4dr Sedan w/Sunroof (2.5L 5cyl 6A)
When I first set eyes on this vehicle I was sold. My SEL is 4 months old now and I wanted to get a real feel for her before writing this review. The exterior styling is much better this time around then the previous generation. It doesn't look cute, it looks cleaner and more Audi A4 like. VW gets a plus here. The ride is firm yet still has enough cushion to endure the NYC roads. The 2.5L … has good low end torque when it's needed for passing while the 6 speed auto handles the shifting solidly. The lay out of the interior has good fit and finish. The materials they used are on par with a Chevy Colbalt as cheap hard plastic. Rear seat room is more like a midsize and fits adults perfectly.
1 out of 5 stars
Nice car, but clutch failure at 22,280 miles?!?
2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6M)
I purchased the 2011 VW Jetta TDI with the manual 6-speed transmission in January 2011. The car had significant problems at first with stalling. After a couple of tries, the dealership replaced the air mass meter which improved it significantly. At 22,280 miles, the clutch disk disintegrated. VW claims that his was normal wear and tear. However, on a previous car (87 Volvo 740T) I got … 210,000 miles on the clutch. I know how to drive a clutch. I am a former licensed master auto mechanic, this is clearly a materials failure, and VW will not stand behind their product. They have lost a good customer and somebody who had been a good advocate for VW in the past. Update July 2016: In June 2016, the glow-plug warning light started flashing, the engine lost power, and then started making a loud clattering noise. Had it towed in to the dealer, and the high-pressure fuel pump had disintegrated internally, sending small shards of metal throughout the fuel system. They had to replace the entire fuel system (injectors, fuel distributor, hoses, filter, pumps) and flush out the fuel tank. Apparently this has been a fairly common problem as VW has a warranty extension for this to 10 years 120,000 miles. So VW paid for this repair, which at full retail would have been $7,000 to $8,000. My takeaway from this is that VW got the price point down on this car by engineering the car with no slack - a clutch which was too weak for the engine, a fuel pump which was cheaper than what was required for longevity, etc. What else would go wrong with this car if I kept it? Although the car drives well, I am now happy that VW will be buying it back due to the emission controls scandal. January 2017: Between June and Septempber 2016, the ring gear became misaligned on the flywheel (aftermarket, see above), and the dealer wanted $3,000 to install the factory clutch and dual-mass flywheel. I got a replacement ring gear from the 3rd party manufacturer, and paid a good mechanic to install it. Then, the A/C stopped working. Finally, in January 2017, VW bought the car back from me, so I'm done with it. Thank goodness!
2011 Jetta Highlights
|Combined MPG||28 MPG|
|Cost to Drive||$136/month|
|Cargo Capacity |
All Seats In Place
|Drivetrain||front wheel drive|
|Warranty||3 years / 36,000 miles|
NHTSA Overall Rating4 out of 5 stars
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
- Frontal Barrier Crash RatingOverall4 / 5Driver4 / 5Passenger4 / 5
- Side Crash RatingOverall5 / 5
- Side Barrier RatingOverall4 / 5Driver4 / 5Passenger5 / 5
- Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsFront Seat5 / 5Back Seat5 / 5
- RolloverRollover4 / 5Dynamic Test ResultNo TipRisk Of Rollover12.1%