Earlier today, Volkswagen of America unveiled the all-new 2011 Jetta at what it called an “urban oasis” in Times Square and the news is big, in more ways than one.
Not content with a re-skin of the current fourth generation Jetta, Volkswagen set about cleaving it from its Golf twin and bestowing upon it an additional 2.76 inches in wheelbase and upping its overall length 3.54 inches over the current C-segment sedan. Technically speaking, this means that the Jetta will no longer share any body components with the hatchback.
According to Volkswagen, the Jetta’s designers drew much of their inspiration from the NCC coupe concept that was unveiled at this year’s Detroit Auto Show. To be sure. If you switch out the concept’s headlights for a more traditional set-up and increase the angle of the roofline to accommodate a second set of doors, the two vehicles would look nearly identical.
Aside from the differences in wheelbase and overall length, which VW says translates into a 2.6-inch gain in rear seat leg room, the newest Jetta measures within a few tenths of an inch of the previous version – keeping the same width, while giving up .3 of an inch in height.
Inside, the new Jetta is, well, all-new. A new center console is now inclined slightly towards the driver and features newly-designed controls for climate, entertainment and navigation systems.
For 2011, the Jetta will feature a choice of four engines.
To keep the price of the base S trim level under 16K (the current S starts at $17,735), VW will introduce a new (to the U.S.) 2.0-liter single overhead cam 8-valve inline-four. Producing 114 horsepower, it features a cast iron block and an aluminum cylinder head. Volkswagen gives it an EPA combined rating of 28 mpg.
Stepping up to the SE and SEL trims gives you VW’s 2.5-liter, 168 horsepower in-line 5-cylinder that also boasts of 177 lb.-ft. of torque at 4250 rpm, while the GLI will feature the turbocharged 2.0-liter 197 horsepower TSI engine that generates 207 lb.-ft. of torque at 1800 rpm.
Finally, choosing the Jetta TDI will give you – no surprise here – Volkswagen’s 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection diesel with 138 horsepower and a generous 236 lb.-ft. of torque starting at just 1750 rpm.
"Today marks the beginning of a new era for Volkswagen and for Jetta," said Stefan Jacoby, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. "The all-new 2011 Jetta is a class-up driving experience with the kind of styling, design and power under the hood normally found in more expensive luxury cars. At an extremely attractive price, this car is sophisticated, fun to drive and practical."
Roughly translated, this means that in order to meet its U.S. sales goal of 800,000 units per year by 2018, the company needs to compete price-wise and size-wise with the Toyota Corolla, the Honda Civic and, to a lesser extent, the Mazda Mazda3.
Looking at the raw numbers, it’s a bit hard to tell how the newest Veedub will stack up. At 182.7 inches, it is 2 inches longer than the Mazda3, 4 inches longer than the Corolla and nearly 5.5 inches longer than the Civic sedan, giving it the all-important edge in rear seat room.
With just 114 hp on tap for the base model, it could be a rough go when comparing it to the Civic DX’s 140, the Mazda 3S’s 148 and even the Corolla LE’s 132, which means that true sporting types will certainly find themselves on the short end of the performance stick if they opt for the cheap seats. Handling, however, could easily close the gap between a lack of horses and, say, the utterly numbing driving experience of the Corolla, while style may very well sway those customers looking at either the Mazda (with that preposterous “smiley” grill) or the Civic (and its utterly repugnant dashboard layout).
Which brings us to the new Jetta’s trump card - its style. Squint hard enough (and for 16K we can do a lot of that) and, especially from the back, you can easily see an Audi A4 (which starts at roughly twice the price). And the similarities don’t end on the outside. Inside, expect to find one of Volkswagen’s traditional best-in-class interiors, as well.
The bottom line – Volkswagen appears to have a winner on its hands with the newest Jetta and we can’t wait to get our hands on it. Expect to see it in dealer showrooms in October with the aforementioned entry price of $15,995.