Striving to become the world's largest automaker, Volkswagen is expanding its reach, and that means offering hybrids for Americans who have a fanatical appreciation for the pairing of a gasoline engine and electric motor. I spent a few days driving the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid around Los Angeles, and really there isn't a more appropriate place: Californians gobble up hybrids faster than avocados. Millionaire CEOs with a salt-of-the-earth environmental streak love them, as do trust-fund kids playing it cool, and Lululemon-wearning Vinyasa-flow yoga-philes with an affinity for kale and goji berries. But the thing is, none of the stereotypical hybrid buyers might even realize the Jetta Hybrid is, in fact, a hybrid.
Sure there are a few tell-tale signs aside from Hybrid badges: the "VW" logo is blue, there's a unique grille, and inside there are slightly different digital instruments. But the Jetta Hybrid does without the gangly-paranoid-horizontal-ostrich looks, and instead, looks like a regular Jetta. The 1.4-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine paired with the electric motor make the same 170 horsepower output as the non-hybrid Jetta, and there's a measure of sportiness and fun that you wouldn't find on a say, a singularly-focused Toyota Prius. You can read our 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid First Drive from associate editor Trevor Dorchies for the full review, here we're concerned with what makes this hybrid unique.
Model and PriceThe 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid is available in four models. We drove the well equipped, top-of-the-line SEL Premium which starts at $31,180. Add on $795 for delivery and $35 for a first aid kit, and our model was priced at $32,010.
An entry-level Jetta Hybrid starts at $25,570 after delivery, and the SE and SEL models each add a couple grand in exchange for features and content. SE adds keyless start and a basic touch-screen radio, while the SEL adds niceties such as navigation, a sunroof, heated front seats, and power for the driver's seat. Our SEL Premium upped the content with a backup camera, and excellent Fender premium audio system.
Safety and Key FeaturesThe 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid comes standard with traction and stability control, front and side airbags, side curtain airbags, head restraints, and anti-lock brakes. In NHTSA testing, the Jetta Hybrid received four out of five stars for an overall crash-test rating, with four stars in front and rollover tests, and five stars in side crash testing. The Jetta Hybrid is surprisingly quick and agile, thanks in part to its 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, and 27-horsepower electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack. Offering a roomy cabin, and four-door sedan utility, the Volkswagen's hybrid does away with the quirkiness (and awkwardness) of the Toyota Prius, to make for a fun and practical drive.
Family Friendliness and UtilityThe Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid offers LATCH points that are relatively easy to access, and a generous amount of cabin room for a compact car. The battery pack takes away some room from the deep and recessed cargo area, but that's typical for a hybrid; we managed to get eight grocery bags inside. The Jetta Hybrid still offers more cubic feet of cargo space than the Honda Civic Hybrid, another compact alternative to the class-leading Toyota Prius. And unlike the spartan interior of the Prius, the Jetta Hybrid offers a similar, possibly better interior than the non-hybrid Volkswagen Jetta. The Hybrid model adds a trip computer and a soft-touch dash, as well as a few different electronic gauges.
Comfort and QualityIt's not surprising that the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid is quiet and smooth on the road, but that it can be comfortable while also being fun and sporty, is. Our editors are split on the vinyl seats that Volkswagen calls V-tex, but featuring a soft-touch dash, logical instrument controls and dials, and sporty digital gauges, the interior is head and shoulders above the segment sales leader. Rear passengers can easily enter and exit, and will find the Jetta Hybrid offers the same generous rear-seat leg room as the non-hybrid version.
How it DrivesThe biggest surprise is not that the Jetta Hybrid looks like a regular car, but that it drives like one as well. The electronic steering feels natural, and the spritely turbocharged 1.4-liter engine and electric motor paired to a smooth seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission make the Hybrid not only feel like a regular car, but like a fun, sporty one that will even entice you to drive. The hybrid feels quick around town, too. The one glaring misstep involves the regenerative braking. After a day or two the driver will get acquainted with them, but at first it's hard to gauge pedal feel. The brakes are punchy, and take a little getting used to. Brakes aside, the Jetta Hybrid is a pleasure to drive, which is more than we can say about some hybrids.
SummaryThe 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid we drove surprised us with its spritely turbocharged engine and attractive styling and interior. With about a $5,000 premium over the regular Jetta, the hybrid will take 5-6 years to pay off in fuel savings. We like the TDI diesel models that Volkswagen has become expert at producing, but if it's a hybrid you're after, the Jetta SEL Premium would be our pick. The Honda Civic Hybrid is also worth taking a look at, and the Toyota Prius will get you a few more mpg, but you'll sacrifice style, sportiness, and refinement. Loaded with all the content you would want in a compact fuel efficient sedan, the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid does an exceptional job of merging efficiency and desirability.
Spec BoxPrice-as-tested: $32,080
Fuel Economy: 37 mpg observed
EPA City: 42 mpg
EPA Highway: 48 mpg
EPA Combined: 45 mpg
Cargo Space: 8 grocery bags
Child Seat Fitment, Second Row: Good
Estimated Combined Range: 531 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Below Average
Notebook Quotes"If you're in the market for a hybrid, this is the one to get hands down, even if you're unfamiliar with Volkswagen's current product lineup. The Jetta hybrid offers the same comfortable interior found in the regular gas-powered version and even delivers a peppy ride not normally found in a hybrid vehicle. The brakes, however, were less than desirable and forced you to stop much sooner than you'd originally anticipate." -Trevor Dorchies, Associate Editor
"That engine is really good. With the EV powertrain, it feels very torquey, and it makes driving at slow speeds feel more fun than normal. The whole powertrain is incredibly refined, and it was very quiet. The regen brakes however, are very aggressive"-Jacob Brown, Associate Editor
"I like the interior. My biggest gripe is the lousy brake system. I could live with everything else, and I think it could be the best hybrid car on the market for regular people." -Jason Davis, Associate Editor