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.
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.
I bought this car after much deliberation and test driving numerous other models. This car is, by far, the best car for the money, and overall I love it. I have only a couple issues. 1) the car is pretty underpowered when the A/C is running. I like zippy, and would expect a little more zip, but it's still pretty good overall. 2) THE NAVIGATION SYSTEM. Dear Jesus. It's not terrible, per say, but it needs some bug fixing STAT. Sometimes trying to find a specific address is a pain. Oh, and the iPod connector supplied in the glove box is a little iffy at times. It lags when switching songs, every so often it will glitch and not play, but overall these are very small issues.
I think it is hard to rate build quality and reliability so early when a new car is released, however I do love this car. I had the 2002 Jetta (GLS w/ heated seats, moonroof and leatherette). I disagree that it looks cheap inside. It is definitely minimalist, but not cheap. I basically got the same features -heated seats, leatherette, moonroof and the upgraded radio. I also opted for another 5 speed because they are just more fun to drive in my opinion. The ride in this car is smooooooth! The backseat is so much bigger, which is great because I have a child (still in a car seat). My 2002 was so tiny in the back and cramped. This is really spacious. Nice improvement VW!
Bought a new 2011 jetta se from day one car pulling and drifting to right. Dealer said it was out of alignment and rotated tires with only 250 miles on car. Still drives toward right side. Took in two more times, they said nothing they can about it. Tested another demo car same thing looks like a factory defect. Have filed for lemon law. Buyers beware of this factory problem it will eat your tires up. Miami, fflorida owner.