A HYBRID IN WOLFSBURG GEAR
2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sat, May 4, 2013
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Reed Berry Dear automotive industry, I’m sorry. I feel obligated to apologize because I’ve never really been a huge fan of hybrid vehicles. Yes, I realize that they’re very fuel efficient and we should all do our part to conserve finite resources such as fossil fuels but, for a variety of reasons, I have just never been a hybrid lover. It could be that the first hybrid vehicles released didn’t even look like real cars, or possibly it’s because some of the hybrid vehicles I’ve driven have been a bit sluggish. In any event, it seems as though I may have found the vehicle that will make me a believer. The 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL is one impressive ride. Aesthetically speaking, this car seems to be heading down the right road. Jetta is stylish and comfortable without trying too hard. By that, I mean that while some auto makers go for the wow factor with flashy exterior styling or with over-the-top interior luxury, Jetta seems to provide an ideal balance resulting in a vehicle that is practical enough to drive to a family picnic on the weekend, but impressive enough to transport clients to an upscale business dinner. Not many vehicles can offer such versatility.
While the car does look nice, one of the most attractive features about this car is that it helps stretch one’s fuel dollars in a big way. On around-town trips at low speeds, I’m taking advantage of the hybrid’s electric motor. As I accelerate to higher speeds, the turbocharged gas engine kicks in to provide extra power and charge the vehicle’s batteries. Driving a hybrid does take a little getting used to because, very quickly, one becomes fully aware of the fuel economy indicators. I find myself driving confidently but a bit conservatively in an attempt to attain the impressive EPA estimates of 42 mpg city and 48 highway. The interior is quite comfortable. Leatherette seating surfaces provide ample support and I am pleased to discover that the center console armrest which, at first glance, appears to be a bit low is actually height adjustable. The leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and brake lever add a touch of class and enhance the car’s sporty personality, as does the power sunroof above me. The interior is attractive and neatly appointed, although the dash trim that appears to be metal, based on my extensive testing (ok, just a quick finger tap), is actually plastic.
As with many newer vehicles, a multi-function steering wheel puts many important controls right at my fingertips, including those to adjust the volume on the sound system. The sound system is acceptable but is certainly not the star of this show. You can listen to a CD, plug in your iPod or tune in your favorite satellite radio station. When it comes to basic AM/FM channels, FM stations sound decent but AM stations seem to have sound quality not much better than that of two tin cans and a string. I may be exaggerating slightly, but the point is that AM reception is certainly less than impressive. As I make my way from downtown L.A. to Santa Monica, I know that I won’t get lost. There are two reasons for this. I have always lived in the L.A. area so I know where I’m going but, even if I didn’t, I would find my way quite effortlessly with Jetta’s highly functional and easy-to-operate touch screen navigation system. By switching screens, I can see an animated display that shows the energy flow of the hybrid system. It’s interesting to watch and serves a useful purpose in helping one maximize the benefit of driving a hybrid but, in the interest of safety, here’s a helpful suggestion to prospective hybrid owners – keep your eyes on the road, not the screen.
After traveling for several miles at a snail’s pace, traffic on the Santa Monica Freeway has finally opened up, and so have I. I need to see what this car can do when it’s not crawling behind a multi-shades-of-primer 1990s era Dodge Caravan. A 150-horsepower engine (170-hp combined output) may not sound like enough to blow everything else off the road and, honestly, it isn’t. It doesn’t really have to be. This little turbocharged beauty has plenty of power. Acceleration is quick and confident and the faster I drive (within legal speed limits, of course) the friendlier and more fun Jetta becomes. The car is solid and smooth, yet agile enough to give it the feel of a true sport sedan. Another thing that adds to my driving enjoyment is the transmission with which the engine is paired. If you were in my place sitting behind the wheel of this shiny new Jetta, would a five-speed transmission make you happy? Would a six-speed put a smile on your face? Well, this car has a seven-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic and Sport Mode. The automatic transmission is serving me well, but it’s nice to know that I have the option to shift manually if I so choose.
Obviously, while I’m tearing up the freeways I will not achieve optimum fuel economy but, hey, I have to live a little. I’ll make up for it on around-town trips by utilizing Jetta’s “E-Mode,” which allows me to use less fuel by extending the operation of the electric motor. Using E-Mode requires some thought and common sense, however. The battery must be adequately charged, the speed of the vehicle must be kept fairly low and acceleration must be gentle. E-Mode cannot be used when the transmission is in Sport or Tiptronic modes. While Jetta is powerful enough to please, equally impressive is the vehicle’s handling capabilities. You can’t go too far wrong when you combine front wheel drive vehicle stability control and rack-and-pinion steering. As I exit the freeway and continue my scenic drive on Pacific Coast Highway, Jetta corners enthusiastically and handles different road conditions and issues with the greatest of ease. Jetta is equipped with anti-lock brakes for smooth, confident stops.
Jetta is not only fuel efficient and fun to drive, it is practical as well. It has a spacious passenger cabin as you would expect from a four-door sedan. Rear seating is comfortable and leg room is quite generous. Cargo space is certainly acceptable (11.3 cubic feet), considering that a portion of the trunk is taken up by Jetta’s sizable battery pack. Overall, an impressive effort by VW. In an automotive world that includes such popular hybrid vehicles as the time-tested Toyota Prius and more recently introduced Hyundai Sonata “Blue Drive,” the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL, with an MSRP under $30,000, is a serious contender in this competitive market segment. For more information about Volkswagen products, visit www.vw.com Link opened into new tab: formulad.com/schedule/results
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL Price: MSRP: $29,325 As tested: $30,155 EPA Fuel Economy Estimates (city/highway): 42/48 miles per gallon Engine type: 1.4-liter inline four cylinder, 16-valve, TSI (Turbocharged Stratified Injection) Horsepower: 150 @ 5,000 rpm Torque: 184 @ 1,400 – 3,500 Transmission type: 7-speed DSG automatic transmission with Tiptronic and Sport mode Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive Steering: Rack and pinion, electric power assist Brakes: Power-assisted, dual circuit, vented front discs, solid rear discs, Anti-lock braking system Wheels: 16” alloy wheels Dimensions Wheelbase: 104.4 inches Overall length: 182.8 Overall width: 70.0 Overall height: 57.2