Fact of the matter is some people get diesel, others don’t. If you’re a global automobile company, operating in a broad variety of markets, aiming to be one of the largest players on the planet, your products have to appeal to as significant an audience as possible. Specifically, your most mainstream product must hold as much appeal as possible for as broad a swath of the market as possible.
Witness the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid.
Volkswagen’s Jetta TDI would seem to have the green car side of things covered for VW’s bestseller, yet a whole lot of people simply don’t understand diesel. When they think green, they are Prius-conditioned to think hybrid — or full electric. So, even though the Jetta TDI delivers more horsepower, more torque, and strong fuel economy, the hybrid-ization of the minds of the American motoring public demand VW proffer a hybrid Jetta too.
Or at least so goes the logic of the decision makers in Wolfsburg.
In typical contemporary VW fashion, the Jetta Hybrid is a well turned out piece with some remarkable engineering. Its gasoline-fired internal combustion engine is a 1.4-liter turbocharged inline four producing 150 horsepower and 184 ft-lbs of torque. Yes, that is more than 100 horsepower per liter and for such a small powerplant the 1.4 is remarkably robust.
Factor in the output of the 20-kilowatt electric motor and the Jetta Hybrid boasts a total system output of 170 horsepower while delivering a combined fuel economy rating of some 45 miles per gallon. The hybrid Jetta will run up to 44 miles per hour on electric power only and a range of 1.2 miles on electric power (presumably NOT running at top speed). When coasting, the engine decouples from the drivetrain to reduce friction and improve range.
The electric motor, which also serves as the starter for the gasoline engine, is mounted in line between the engine and the seven-speed dual clutch transmission. The tranny uses a dry clutch pack to save weight and reduce the pumping losses a hydraulic clutch would impose.
In our impromptu testing, the electrified Jetta ran from 0 to 60 in just under nine seconds. If you’re looking for a frame of reference to put around that figure, basically you can jump into to traffic on a fast moving highway free from acceleration anxiety. You won’t scream away from traffic, but you’ll blend in comfortably. The 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, will most assuredly get out of its own way. Its feel underway is decidedly on the sporty side. This is understandable, once you learn the Jetta Hybrid shares its suspension system and electric steering calibration with the Jetta GLI.
Like every other hybrid you’ve ever experienced, the Jetta shuts its gasoline engine down at traffic signals, or when stopped for an extended period. In steady state cruising the engine will also disengage, leaving the electric motor carry the weight. The transitions are all but imperceptible. Braking feel is a bit different than the standard Jetta and takes a bit of getting used to, but it is not disconcerting.
Long story short, the athleticism and connectedness we admire about the Jetta in general is present and accounted for in the hybrid version of the car. Don’t get it twisted, you won’t run down a BMW, but other hybrids in the Jetta’s class feel positively numb in comparisons.
Behind the wheel, anyone familiar with the current Jetta will feel right at home, as the interior is pretty much identical to all the other Jetta models. Like other hybrids, there are a plethora of readouts hypermilers can use to gauge their fuel miserliness — beyond that though; it’s standard Jetta fare. Which is to say, ergonomically superb, high quality and exceptionally comfortable.
VW’s product planners have responded to the cries of auto journalists everywhere who bemoaned the fact the Jetta’s interior contained more hard plastic in a reflection of Volkswagen’s efforts to keep the Jetta’s base price under $20,000. New soft touch materials cover the dash and door panels, adding a touch of richness belying the price of the Jetta.
Few exterior styling cues announce the “green-ness” of the Jetta Hybrid. A subtle tail spoiler, a blue hue to the badging, and hybrid script in the grille are pretty much all you’ll find. If you can’t wrap your head around a diesel, but you like the feel of a German car and you’re of a mind to be as frugal as possible while enjoying your drives, the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid may well be a strong consideration.
Pricing starts at $24,995.