2018 Volkswagen Jetta Review
Edmunds expert review
In previous generations, the Volkswagen Jetta delivered a decidedly European driving experience and had refinement in spades. In its current iteration, the 2018 Jetta is all about size — a large cabin and trunk are its standout features. Refinement and fun are nowhere to be found. It's as if Volkswagen finally caved and traded the Jetta's uniquely Germanic values for generic attributes in the search for mass-market appeal.
Certainly, having a lot of interior space is a good thing. And the Jetta boasts a couple of turbocharged engines that provide strong acceleration and agreeable fuel economy. But your choices for a small sedan are varied, and many of them surpass the Jetta in terms of style, handling and features.
It's likely that Volkswagen will completely overhaul the Jetta for the 2019 model year. In the meantime, might we suggest taking a look at models such as the Honda Civic, Kia Forte and Mazda 3? Volkswagen's Golf hatchback is a more desirable choice as well.
What's new for 2018
Trim levels & features
The 2018 Jetta is available in six trim levels — S, Wolfsburg Edition, SE, SE Sport, SEL and GLI. All Jettas are four-door sedans that seat five occupants, and all are offered exclusively with front-wheel drive. The trim levels are differentiated mainly by engine and feature content.
The base S model is pretty sparse. It has 16-inch aluminum wheels, cloth upholstery, manual seats, heated side mirrors, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 60/40-split rear seats, a rearview camera, and a four-speaker sound system with a 5-inch touchscreen interface, a CD player, a USB port, and an auxiliary audio jack. An optional Cold Weather package adds heated front seats and windshield washer nozzles; this package is standard on every other trim level.
A 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine (150 hp, 184 lb-ft of torque) is the only engine available in S, Wolfsburg Edition and SE trims. All three of those trims have a standard five-speed manual or an optional six-speed automatic transmission.
New for 2018 is the Wolfsburg Edition trim, which is largely similar to the S trim save for a few additional features. It adds foglights, simulated leather upholstery and driver lumbar, heated front seats, a backseat pass-through, and a leather-wrapped transmission selector knob and parking brake cover.
SE models add a few goodies, including a sunroof, color-keyed mirrors and chrome side window trim, blind-spot monitoring, keyless ignition and entry, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 6.3-inch touchscreen, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.
The SE Sport model is like an SE with more power. SE Sport models come with a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine (170 hp, 184 lb-ft of torque) and a six-speed automatic. A trunklid spoiler, 17-inch wheels, gloss black cabin trim, and a black headliner and roof are part of the deal.
SEL models share their engine and transmission with the SE Sport and add a few creature comforts such as automatic headlights, automatic wipers, a power-adjustable driver seat, navigation, a premium Fender sound system, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a cooled glovebox. Adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking are also included.
The GLI trim is where things get zesty. It gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (210 hp, 207 lb-ft of torque), a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission, larger brakes, 18-inch wheels, and unique body and cabin trimmings. Standard equipment includes sport seats, a unique steering wheel with shift paddles, parking alerts and a self-dimming mirror. Adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking are two notable deletions, however.
Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta SEL Premium (turbo 1.8L inline-4 | 6-speed automatic | FWD).
NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current Jetta has received some revisions, including the addition of driver assistance features and minor revisions to the infotainment system. Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's Jetta.
Noise & vibration7.0
Ease of use7.5
Getting in/getting out7.0
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
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