The Volkswagen Jetta started life as a version of the Volkswagen Golf, with a trunk grafted onto the rear end. In the three decades since, the Jetta has evolved greatly. With the introduction of the sixth generation of the Jetta in 2011, it has morphed into a top-selling compact sedan, but it has lost much of its personality along the way. The earlier generations were easily distinguishable in a crowd, and the iconic second-generation model is what immediately comes to mind when Jetta is mentioned. The current model fits in with its rivals at Toyota and Honda as an anonymous face that is easy to lose, which has the potential to be problematic as newer, more unique car designs continue to make an impact on buyers.
New For 2013
With a full redesign close in the rearview mirror, the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta gets a handful of updates, but nothing major. Many of the major changes from the recent redesign were directed towards the exterior, and the updates this year aim to improve the quality of the cabin. The base trim is left alone, in an effort to continue to provide a good vehicle for a bargain basement price. However, all higher trim levels are slightly updated and modified:
- Adjustable front center armrest for S models and above
- Power-reclining front seats for SE trim level and above
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather shift knob for SE trim level and above
- New trim on door panels and the dashboard for SE trim level and above
- Chrome highlights on the grille and window surrounds for SE trim level and above
- Power-adjustable driver’s seat with manual lumbar support for SEL model
- New soft-touch dash materials and two-tone interior for SEL model
The exterior of the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta is somewhat conservative, even stepping a bit on the anonymous side. It’s not ugly, but it also is not distinctive. The only memorable part of the Jetta is the front-end, with a grille that’s not particularly tall, aggressive air intakes placed underneath, and the oversized VW emblem smack in the middle of the grille. A sunroof is available, along with the choice of 15-inch, 16-inch, and 17-inch wheels.
Interior & Cargo
The interior of the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta is roomy and comfortable, although its downgrade from a luxury compact to a plain compact sedan has been reflected in the quality of interior materials. The rear seat of the Jetta one of the roomiest in the class, with enough room for large adults to stretch and move their legs. The trunk is fairly deep, providing 15.5 cubic feet of cargo space.
The base Jetta has power windows, height-adjustable front seats, cloth upholstery, and a four-speaker stereo system. Basic air-conditioning isn’t available at the base level, but moving up to the S brings air-conditioning, power door locks, and side mirrors as standard equipment. The Jetta SE is finally where the Jetta begins to show off. In addition to all the equipment in the lower trims, the SE adds power-adjustable front seats, leather-wrapped surfaces, and vinyl upholstery. The available SE Convenience packages include heated front seats, two more speakers, satellite radio, and Bluetooth capabilities. The Convenience package also adds a sunroof and an upgraded sound system with a touchscreen interface. Finally, the top-of-the-line SEL model includes all of the SE’s optional equipment as standard, as well as a six-way driver seat and an available touchscreen navigation system with an eight-speaker premium sound system. However, this touchscreen navigation is a bit unwieldy.
The Jetta has always been a quality safety pick, and the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta stays true to form. Dual front and side airbags and side curtain airbags are standard on the Jetta, as are active headrests. The Jetta also has a crash-response system that automatically turns off the fuel and turns on flashers after airbag deployment. There are plenty of accident-avoidance systems that are standard as well. Anti-lock brakes, stability control, and tire-pressure monitors help the driver avoid collisions.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the Jetta a score of four stars out of five for overall safety, with five stars for side-impact protection and four stars for front-impact and rollover protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named the Jetta a Top Safety Pick, with the rating of ""good"" in frontal-offset, side, and roof strength tests.
The base engine for the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta is a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that provides a meager 115 horsepower (hp). Even with the six-speed automatic transmission, the power under the hood is barely adequate – but offers excellent fuel economy. With this engine set-up, the acceleration is poor and it struggles significantly when carrying heavy loads, climbing up hills, and driving in poor weather. The five-speed manual helps to pull a little more out of the 2.0-liter engine, but not all that much. The 2.5-liter, five cylinder engine provides just the right amount of horsepower and torque for everyday use, while the TDI diesel engine has great low-end torque and incredible fuel economy. There seems to be an issue with the automatic transmission, as both of these engines suffer delayed throttle response when they are attached to the six-speed automatic or, in the diesel’s case, the DSG automated manual. The handling is solid and steady but not particularly unique or interesting, and the steering is adequate but not incredibly responsive.
Key Competitors For The 2013 Volkswagen Jetta
- Chevrolet Cruze
- Hyundai Elantra
- Dodge Dart