2013 Jetta Hybrid: Great mileage and so much more
By Don Hammonds Oh..my gosh....have you driven the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid yet? No? Do not miss it. With cars, we often find that if they are really good, we fall in love instantly. Well, the Jetta Hybrid is a good car. Really, really good car. And if they ever make one with all wheel drive--we DO live in Pittsburgh after all--we would break the bank to buy it. Truly. Off the showroom floor, the front wheel drive Jetta Hybrid has a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder and a 20kW electric motor, which together product a powerplant system that puts out 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. The mileage rating for the Jetta Hybrid will return 42 mpg city/48 mpg highway and 45 mpg combined using required premium fuel, but that rating is conservative. We did way, way better than that using such things as cruise control, a moderate foot on the pedal, and the e mode at various times. Using just over a quarter tank of gasoline, we managed to drive 186 miles. Since the tank holds about 12 gallons of gas, that works out to three gallons of gas or about 60 miles per gallon! And everything operates quietly and seamlessly. You don't notice the kind of jerking and sudden noises you get from many hybrids when one function or the other is underway or is shutting off. So yes, we love this car because it gets fabulous gas mileage. But that's not even the best part of the Jetta Hybrid. The best part is that it's one helluva fun car to drive. The steering is dead on accurate and unwavering. The suspension is firm, and the responses are strong and lusty from the powerplant system. The DSG has wonderful, satisfying gear changes that are short and crisp. And going around corners, into curves and everywhere else is absolutely smile inducing. A tremendously satisfying car to drive. And did we mention it's fast? It is. Jetta Hybrid can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in less than 8.6 seconds. Prices range from $24,995 for the Base version to $26,990 for the SE Jetta Hybrid, to $29,325 for the SEL Jetta Hybrid and$31,180 for the SEL Hybrid Premium trim levels. The base Jetta Hybrid comes with 15-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, heated mirrors, cruise control, full power accessories, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, height-adjustable front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, premium vinyl upholstery, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a trunk pass-through, a trip computer, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with CD player and an auxiliary jack. The SE adds LED taillights, keyless entry/ignition, power-reclining front seats and an upgraded sound system with a touchscreen interface, satellite radio and an iPod interface. The SEL builds on the SE offerings with 16-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, heated front seats, a six-way power driver seat and a navigation system. The SEL Premium gets 17-inch alloy wheels, adaptive bi-xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lights, foglamps, a rearview camera and an eight-speaker Fender premium sound system. Want electric driving? According to the driver's manual, just push the e-mode button for extended electro mode drive, and you'll see a graphic illustrating that you are driving in that mode. As long as the battery has an adequate charge, you can use in this mode as long as you are driving at less than 45 miles per hour. There's also a boost mode which comes into play whenever the transmission is in sport drive and you accelerate heavily. During this full acceleration phase, the car is being powered by both the combustion engine and the electric motor.. A couple of things you should know. First, when you turn on the car, it takes a split second longer than with some hybrids we've driven, so don't think that you haven't engaged the system when you first push the starter button. Just wait that split second and you'll be fine. The car isn't stalling or still turned off. Secondly, the regenerative brakes can feel grabby at first, so brake a bit more moderately than usual until you get used to it. Dislikes? The biggeest for us were the levers for cruise control and for the wipers. The graphics, especially the arrows, were confusing, and we couldn't tell completely whether the arrows intended for us to pull the levers back or down. And the cruise control switches involved a tiny button on the top of the lever, plus another toggle switch on the tip of the lever, and again, the ambiguous looking arrows. Even the owners manual explanations and illustrations for these were pretty confusing. The other concern--and it's one we have with all hybrids--is that the large battery compromises the trunk shape and capacity. But that was less noticeable with the Jetta Hybrid than with others that we've driven. We also thought that although the Jetta is a pleasant looking car, the styling still resembled a basic, no frills sedan, and it could use a lot more eye interest, to be honest, if it is to disitinguish itself somehow from the tons of similar sedans out there. Besides, get this Jetta in some rich, dark shade like navy blue or black, stay away from silver and lighter hues, add some of the cool optional wheels that VW offers for Jetta, and you've got a pretty sexy car. So our bottom line is to watch what color you get because it does make more of a difference in appearance than many other cars.But as we said, we were more than happy---way, way more than happy--to overlook that because of the fabulous handling of the Jetta, and the energetic acceleraton. It's a real blast to drive, and the most fun we've had behind the wheel of any intermediate sized car, hybrid or no. We think it gives certain so-called entry level luxury cars a real run for the money when it comes to sheer driving enjoyment.