If you’re looking for a small sedan that offers comfort and high mileage in a reliable platform, you need look no further than the Jetta from Volkswagen. The Jetta has a loyal following for both the gas and diesel versions. In fact, the Jetta TDI is a favorite of hypermilers. These folks revel in going further on a gallon of fuel.
With the introduction of a hybrid to the Jetta line, we thought it was time to take a look at the advantages of each of the three platforms and present the facts, and maybe a few of our opinions, on how they compare. First, let’s look at an overview of the three different drivetrain types for the Jetta platform. Since the hybrid only comes with an automatic transmission, we took the chance to compare it to the gas and diesel automatics available. We spent some seat time in each, back to back, and here are our impressions.
First, the interiors of the three, diesel, gas and hybrid are remarkably similar. The most variation is in the dash cluster, with the hybrid having a gauge that tells you if you’re filling or emptying the batteries. Kitted out with all the accessories, like premium seats, top-shelf audio and satellite navigation systems, any of the three outclass any small car built just five or six years ago.
The Jetta TDI uses the same basic 2.0L diesel engine that most diesel Volkswagens use in the USA for the 2013-14 model years. This little 2.0L engine is a proven performer, and one of our favorite small diesel engines. It’s smooth, not overly noisy, and offers lots of torque. A TDI diesel-equipped Jetta is quick to accelerate and has enough torque to keep pulling on steep hills. The 2.0L TDI engine is quick and responsive. We expected no less, as this has been our experience in other VW models with this engine. The hold-back on hills is superior to any of the gas engine options. This makes leisurely cruising on mountain roads a pleasurable and relaxing task, rather than a brake-stabbing experience.
The Jetta gas version is predictably not as torquey as the diesel TDI, but the 2.0L gas engine is no slouch either. Sure, it’s not as powerful as the VW V-6, but it still sips fuel, and the V-6 is not a a Jetta option anyway. While the gas engine is not as torquey off the line, it does offer more power higher up in the rpm bands, making a fast merge on the freeway a snap. Both the TDI and gas versions of the Jetta come with a beam and trailing link rear axle setup, while the hybrid uses a multi-link system.
The Jetta hybrid is a new breed for the U.S. market. As the name implies, this rig is gas over electric. This powertrain is not a plug-in hybrid or an all-electric rig. Simply put, it’s a gas-powered car, with an electric assist system. Or vise versa, if you prefer. In our testing we used the gas engine more than the electric, but some practice would for sure have let us get to something more like a 55 gas/45 electrical usage. We found the quiet of the system kicking into electric drive odd at first, but soon got used to it. Other than a few strange gauges and details for the eclectic drive, the interior was much the same. Under the hood, you’ll find an odd-looking package in the engine compartment and some cargo capacity is lost.
Regarding mileage, for the EPA ratings for the three, we find the following:
- The Jetta TDI with automatic is rated at 30 city/42 highway for a 34 combined mpg.
- The Jetta 2.0L gas with automatic is rated at 24 city/32 highway for a 27 combined mpg.
- The Jetta hybrid with automatic is rated at 42 city/48 highway for a 45 combined mpg.
It should be noted that the hybrid and the 2.0L gas Jetta require premium unleaded so cost per mile calculations are closer than you might expect. In fact, the diesel comes in better than the gas-only rig in cost per mile for fuel. We don’t have the long-term figures on battery replacement costs for the hybrid to tell if it’s cost per mile is higher or lower than the diesel in the long run. DW