When I first started my search for a new car, I looked at Honda, Hyundai, Toyota, Volvo and Volkswagen. I was in the market for a small car that was fun to drive, was loaded with luxury features and was easy on the wallet. After months of test driving and research I was unimpressed by the cookie cutter vehicles Toyota and Honda had to offer, but was impressed by the luxury features of the 2011 VW Jetta SE (loaded) and 2011 Hyundai Sonata SE (base). After weighing the pros and cons of both vehicles and dealerships, I decided to purchase the 2011 Jetta SE with the convenience and sunroof package.
I opted for the automatic transmission with tiptronic. The car has three modes of drive, regular drive, sport and tiptronic; tiptronic allows the driver to change gears while driving for faster acceleration and deceleration. The 2011 Jetta SE shares the previous 170 HP, 5-cylinder, engine from the previous model. With an acceleration rate of 0-60 in about 8.9 seconds, the car is quick and has excellent passing power on the highway. Although the gear switching is very smooth on the regular drive mode, it does have the sporty longer shifts at higher RPMS on the sport mode. Overall, the 2011 Jetta is quick, fun to drive and never feels underpowered.
Stepping into a fully loaded 2011 Jetta SE is like going into a stripped down Audi A4. The interior features, V-Tex seating (leatherette), touch screen media player, Bluetooth connectivity, power sunroof with multiple adjustment preferences, power everything except seats and heated seats. The leatherette seating was my preference over leather because it looks and feels very similar, is easier to clean and does not crack with age the same way leather does. The touch screen, media player with the 6-speaker surround sound and satellite radio is phenomenal and was a big buying point. Every genre of music sounds incredible and when I have passengers in the back seat, they always comment about how good the music quality is for rear speakers.
Although the interior is relatively Spartan, it provides many of the luxuries that you would expect of an entry-level luxury car. When VW allowed the press to test-drive the Jetta and comment many reviewers commented on the downgraded luxury of the new Jetta compared to the previous edition, and the hard plastic surfaces. The hard plastic surfaces only occur on the dashboard, but in my opinion do take away from the luxury feel; however, this was done to reduce costs, which I am more than okay with. As far as the toned down luxury feel, I have not found that at all (besides the plastic). I have test drove the 2010 Jetta SE and was impressed, but the amount of buttons made me feel overwhelmed. However, the knobs do feel cheap in certain areas, such as the exterior mirrors with turn with a spring-loaded button. Overall, the interior is excellent for the price.
VW redesigned the 2011 Jetta from the previous 2005-2010 year model. The result, a vehicle that blends in with the crowd, but looks very similar to previous Audi A4 models. The similarities between the upscale A4 and the Jetta are not a complaint; I have had numerous people ask me if the car was an Audi when looking at is from the side. However, the VW tags on the front and back quickly remind us that we are driving a VW and not an Audi. I am pleased by the redesign, but I do agree with other reviewers that the exterior does not stand out from the crowd, but in this class, it is not supposed to.
Having clocked in 2,000 miles on the odometer, I have relatively few complaints. The interior is amazing for the price point; it resembles an entry-level luxury car for half the price and has numerous convenience features. The stereo system is a high point, but costs extra and is only included with the convenience and sunroof package, costing about $2,000 extra. The exterior design from internet photos is underwhelming, but the vehicle looks much better in person. Overall, I am very pleased with the purchase, and would recommend one to anyone looking for a small entry-level vehicle. However, be warned that the commercials advertising the Jetta for $15,995 is reflective of the very base model, whereas the vehicle I reviewed here had a sticker price of $22,999.