2018 Volkswagen Jetta

2018 Volkswagen Jetta Review

It's roomy and easy to live with, but otherwise the Jetta lacks any kind of personality.
3.5 star edmunds overall rating
author
by Jason Kavanagh
Edmunds Editor
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, the Jetta receives only minor changes. There are two additional trim levels (the Wolfsburg Edition and SE Sport), but the GLI trim loses the manual transmission option. Cosmetic alterations are also subdued, with various new wheel designs and several trims receiving a new chrome grille.

we recommend

The range-topping GLI is the most compelling of all the Jetta trims for those shoppers who prioritize performance. But we recommend that most buyers take a look at the SE Sport, which hits the sweet spot among Jettas for performance, comfort and value. Its engine has more oomph than the one in the base Jetta, and it has a solid complement of standard creature comforts.

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.

trim tested

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.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall3.5 / 5.0

Driving

3.0 / 5.0

Acceleration4.5 / 5.0
Braking4.0 / 5.0
Steering2.0 / 5.0
Handling2.5 / 5.0
Drivability2.5 / 5.0

Comfort

3.5 / 5.0

Seat comfort3.5 / 5.0
Ride comfort4.0 / 5.0
Noise & vibration3.5 / 5.0

Interior

5.0 / 5.0

Ease of use4.0 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out4.5 / 5.0
Roominess5.0 / 5.0
Visibility4.0 / 5.0
Quality2.5 / 5.0

Utility

4.5 / 5.0

Small-item storage3.5 / 5.0
Cargo space5.0 / 5.0

driving

edmunds rating
The Jetta with the 1.8-liter engine is a bit of a drag racer among compact cars — faster than almost all its rivals. But show it a corner, and it fails to deliver any semblance of responsiveness, engagement or confidence. Lower trims with the smaller 1.4-liter engine would fare even worse.

acceleration

edmunds rating
The 1.8-liter turbo-four is a superb engine (lower trims have a 1.4-liter turbo-four). Low-end power galore makes it feel every bit as quick as it is — 0-60 mph in 7.4 seconds is topped only by a few, very quick competitors.

braking

edmunds rating
In our emergency braking test, the Jetta posted impressive performance for a small sedan. Around town, the brake pedal has a long-travel, low-effort feel.

steering

edmunds rating
The steering has an elastic-band quality — it's numb, with ample dead play at center, then weights up when turning increases. Scarce response and feedback. It's hard to think of a competitor that is worse.

handling

edmunds rating
Overall grip is on a par with rivals, but there's an awful lot of body roll when you're going around a turn. It's not at all playful, and it utterly lacks feedback. You don't feel confident driving it energetically, nor would you want to.

drivability

edmunds rating
Many will dislike brake pedal effort and travel, along with its positioning relative to the accelerator. Jumpy acceleration at times.

comfort

edmunds rating
The Jetta is a small sedan you could envision taking a cross-country road trip in as it is suitably quiet and comfortable. Is it more so than its competitors? Not really, and it also can't match the altogether more impressive Volkswagen Golf.

seat comfort

edmunds rating
Power seats, even on loaded trims, adjust only six ways (there's no front-seat bottom lift), reducing potential driver comfort. Acceptable adjustment in lower trims. The seats themselves are firm and supportive.

ride comfort

edmunds rating
The Jetta is composed, and it imparts a sense of solidity when going over bumps and undulations. No impact harshness detected over potholes and especially bad pavement. This is one of the few ways the Jetta feels like a proper German sedan.

noise & vibration

edmunds rating
The turbocharged engine is more pleasing to the ears than most other four-cylinders in the segment. Levels of wind and road noise are average for the segment. A road trip would not become tiresome.

interior

edmunds rating
The Jetta's generous size would be the reason to consider this car, especially in one of its less expensive lower trims. Quite simply, this is one of the most affordable ways to get a new family-friendly sedan.

ease of use

edmunds rating
The smallish infotainment screen is mounted a bit low, but it has crisp graphics, quick responses and nicely sized icons. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard with this 6.3-inch system. Straightforward controls elsewhere.

getting in/getting out

edmunds rating
With its sizable interior proportions and big doors, this is an easy sedan to get in and out of. The squared-off roofline provides additional head clearance for rear passengers.

roominess

edmunds rating
The Jetta is a lot like a midsize sedan, as a pair of 6-footers can easily sit in a row. Headroom is plentiful, even with a sunroof. A viable family car — most competitors cannot claim that.

visibility

edmunds rating
The big windows, thick pillars and squared-off roofline create good visibility all around. A rearview camera is standard on all but most basic Jetta. Excessive reflections from plastic trim front and rear.

quality

edmunds rating
High-quality switchgear, but the only soft-touch surface is the squishy dashboard found on upper trims. Everything else is hard and shiny. Materials are subpar for this segment and in no way indicative of an as-tested $28,000 car.

utility

edmunds rating
A huge trunk goes a long way toward making the Jetta a truly practical sedan. Its cabin storage isn't quite as impressive, ranking about average.

small-item storage

edmunds rating
Small-item storage for the front occupants is just OK. The forward bin works well to keep a phone and wires out of the way.

cargo space

edmunds rating
This trunk is enormous — wide and very deep. Its 15.5-cubic-foot dimension is on par with capacity in midsize sedans and easily bests compact rivals.

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.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.