2017 Volkswagen Jetta Review
Edmunds' Expert Review
- Spacious backseat and big trunk deliver the roominess of a big sedan with the footprint of a compact car
- Four-cylinder engines are fun and fuel-efficient
- Tech interface, touchscreen and navigation are fully featured and intuitive to operate
- Handling and performance are just average
- Interior trim and materials feel subpar compared to competitors
- It's pricier than some rivals
- GLI model wants to be a high-performance car but is just sporty
With three engines and three transmissions, the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta has arguably the most appealing powertrain lineup in its class. The 1.8-liter turbo that defines the SEL model is especially impressive, combining lively acceleration, smooth refinement and thrifty fuel economy. Then there's the turbocharged, 210-hp 2.0-liter engine in the GLI, which punches above its weight in real-world driving and induces grins with powerful, torque-laden sprints at almost any rpm.
Yet for all the goodness of the turbocharged 2.0-liter, we’re just not particularly enamored of the GLI that it comes in. If you just want a sportier Jetta, the GLI fits the bill with its more firmly controlled suspension and upgraded, more powerful brakes. But the GLI is far from the Euro-style high-performance car represented by the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen GTI. More important, the driving performance of the 2017 Jetta GLI doesn’t even measure up to the standard set by the fully optioned versions of the Ford Focus and Mazda 3.
As for lesser Jettas, they prove compliant and comfortable on the highway, and most feel lively and engaging, too. At the same time, the other cars in this class have improved markedly in the last decade, so the Jetta no longer stands apart. The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta is a roomy highway cruiser, but there are a lot of other compact sedans worth trying first.
Most of today's compact sedans feature interiors with edgy shapes and accents, a fair level of quality materials, and plenty of tech features, all of which appeal to the young buyers who are drawn to these cars. By comparison, the cabin of the Jetta looks very traditional and feels a little cheap. For example, the lower trim levels are cursed with hard, shiny plastic, which has become a thing of the past from other brands except for the most price-conscious models. Rivals such as the Honda Civic, Mazda 3 and even the Volkswagen Golf hatchback offer more attractive, higher-quality, soft-touch interiors.
The 2017 Jetta does measure up well in technology. There are two available touchscreen sizes, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, and VW's own suite of connected conveniences and services. The interface is sharp, simple to use, and now offers a standard USB port for a wired smartphone connection. Audiophiles will appreciate the ability of the sound system to play FLAC-type music files.
And when it comes to interior space, the Jetta shines. The backseat’s expansive dimensions dwarf those of just about every other compact sedan and hatchback, including the VW Golf, while the trunk volume of 15.5 cubic feet rivals that of even midsize sedans. If you can overlook some chintzy material work and appreciate the loads of elbow room, the interior makes the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta a fine choice.