This is the bottom of the VW line......but the top of the line for MPG. VW purchased (buyback program) my immensely competent (but EPA says incompetent) TDI. The Jetta S 5M seems a very good value - noting the end of the model year discounting. Test drive was positive. Purchased late August 2017 for less than my 1988 cost for an Acura Integra 4- cyl hatch. First refueling calc's 477.5 mostly city miles on about 12 gallons of RON 87.
I purchased this car because I'm selling my 2011 Jetta Diesel back to Volkswagen as part of the emissions lawsuit where VW "gamed" the emissions tests and got caught. I loved my diesel Jetta but it had 135,000 miles on it and the lawsuit offered me a $15300 buy-back deal. For an additional $10,000 I bought a brand-new 2017 SEL with a 1.8Liter turbo engine and all the bells and whistles. It doesn't get the mileage of my diesel (up to 53mpg) but it rides terrifically and has all the options one could want. The car is fast, with great acceleration from the turbocharged engine, and it's nimble in the curves and in braking. There's plenty of room for 5 persons and the trunk is roomy and spacious! Unfortunately, VW isn't offering the 36,000 mile free maintenance warranty anymore, but this car is reliable and steady, needing only oil changes in the short term.
I bought this to replace an older Volvo sedan. I bought it in Feb 2017, it is now October. My Jetta routinely knocks down 42+ MPG on the highway. The 1.4 TSI engine is what makes this car so good. Fantastic power from the small displacement (85 CID) and excellent low end torque, no need to wind it out to get the power. I have to 6 speed auto transmission, it is geared very well to this engine. Turbo lag is almost invisible and the shift logic works very well. Light years ahead of the older turbo cars. The MIB-II infotainment system is by far the best I've played with, very ergonomic and straightforward to operate. It works with Android Auto quite well. No need to get sat nav, as Google Maps is better and comes up on the radio screen. I have not had any repair work done as it hasn't needed any. I imagine with proper care, it will last a long time. Service points are clearly marked under the hood and maintenance is easy to do. This engine does have a timing belt, which is good as there are no chains or plastic guides to wear out and replace. The service interval is 120K IIRC. My biggest gripe is the road noise, I think this is a fault of the Bridgestone tires that came on the car. There is a good deal of wind buffeting with the back windows down at 30+ MPH speeds. Overall, it's a great value to the money and just a hoot to drive. The electric power steering is calibrated fairly well, although I wish there were an option to adjust the power assist down, it can get a bit twitchy on the highway. The SEL model has a few more features that I would want, but not the 1.4 litre engine and that is the main reason I like this car. It would be nice to have adaptive cruise, auto mirror dimming and fog lamps on the SE model.
I have a 1.4 liter manual - the cheapest car VW sells. I think it's a matter of taste. This car has a classic, form follows function, understated yet poised and handsome design while the Japanese are going to a transformers/exotica style school of design that appears juvenile to my eyes, nor do I think that it will age well. The Jetta is a compact with back seat legroom exceeding 38 inches - enough for even large adult passengers to be comfortable - which is nice if you occasionally drive coworkers or clients to lunch. It also has an enormous trunk space. I have the 1.4 bottom end but it has the same torque as the 1.8 top end. This car will go from 0 to 60mph in under 8 seconds - traditionally the very definition of a fast car (that's v-6 performance) yet it gets over 40mpg on the highway if you drive 70mpg or under, and in excess of 42mpg if you drive at 65mph or less. This quite simply is a car that exceeds the performance of its classification in all perimeters: interior/trunk size, acceleration and efficiency. It also has more cache than most other compacts. It neither looks nor drives like cheapo. I think buying the 1.8 liter is unnecessary. It cost more, gets slightly less gas mileage and has the same torque (pulling power/accelaration) which means its only real advantage comes if you are going to be routinely driving over 90mph. There might be a practical performance advantage if you buy the automatic, my is manual, but I'm not sure its worth the increased cost and loss in economy. This car was a remarkable achievement for VW. The interior is practical and handsome and logical but I'd prefer a more driver focused layout. Also the car came with nice steering wheel controls with a sophisticated and highly accurate cruise control that allows me to set my speed right at the maximum allowed for my long highway commute to work. My feeling, when I was shopping for a car was that the Jetta offered the most car and most substantial car for the money. Chevy actually has a competitive model. Mazda is the gold standard, but it is more crampt and has the transformer design, the Toyota is less crampt but less mpg and worse performance characteristics. Whenever I see a compact I think "that guy could have bought a Jetta", though if its a Mazda, I can understand, different taste and perhaps better quality - though I have had no quality issues, I have owned Japanese makes before and their quality reputation is well deserved in my opinion.