2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T SE First Test
1.8T Can Never Lose
There is a popular Internet meme about old VW 1.8T-powered cars that is essentially “NEVAR LOSE!” It is a self-fueling runaway explosion of negativity fed by the introduction of forced induction hot hatches and the incendiary nature of Internet car forum fanaticism. The meme still smolders in tiny glowing embers, even as Volkswagen has gone through a couple of generations of 2.0T engines. Hang on for round two as VW is replacing the old 2.5-liter I-5 with an all-new 1.8-liter turbocharged I-4.
The Americanized Mk6 Jetta arrived to mixed reviews in 2011. Previous Jettas had been criticized for being too small, not having enough features, and being too expensive. VW addressed all the concerns us journo types raised, including the ridiculous-looking chrome battering ram on the front of the Mk5, and wouldn’t you know, most of us still complained about the car. This time the complaints were, “How dare they cheapen the car!” “Why is it so big?” “Why is it plain-looking?” Well, we are now in the last days of the Mk6, with the refresh expected to be seen later this year at the New York auto show. As a last hoorah for this Jetta, VW has introduced the new 1.8T that will be the go-to engine for the Golf, Jetta, and Passat models. It is an entirely new engine with different bore and stroke than the 1.8T introduced in the Mk4 cars.
This new engine still has a cast-iron block with an aluminum head, 16 valves, and dual overhead camshafts with variable valve timing on the intake cam. Those cams are now driven by a chain rather than the previous 1.8T’s belt drive. Most important, for both fuel efficiency and power, is the addition of direct injection. The new engine is rated at 170 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 184 lb-ft of torque delivered between 1500 and 4750 rpm. While 170 horsepower is obviously a little short of the old 180 horsepower, it seems VW is being a little modest with the numbers. Independent dyno testing shows 162 horsepower and 190 lb-ft at the wheel with drivetrain losses. It certainly feels stronger than 170. The engine comes bolted to either a five-speed manual or a six-speed traditional automatic.
The rest of the Jetta is basically the same car that launched in 2011. Some of the interior materials have been upgraded and the rear suspension is now multi-link. We had the SE model with Connectivity. That means a fairly bare-bones car with the addition of heated front seats, Bluetooth audio streaming, a few extra leather touches inside, and the Volkswagen Car-Net System, which is German for OnStar. It also includes 16-inch wheels, which we will lament later. While the overall package is decent, it is showing its age. Not only have VW’s newer competitors leapfrogged the Jetta with more features, but the new Mk7 Golf I saw at the Detroit auto show makes the Jetta look downright plebian. The new Golf is full of nice materials and new features. It is a big step up in terms of compact luxury, and the Golf is now roomier than this Jetta. But, with this Jetta on its way out to pasture, this becomes more of a powertrain review than anything else.
The as-tested price of our Jetta SE with Connectivity and automatic transmission came in at $24,315, putting it in the neighborhood of the last Kia Forte EX we tested at $25,615 and the Mazda 3i Touring at $23,435. The Kia comes equipped with a naturally aspirated 173-horsepower 2.0-liter I-4, and the Mazda also uses a 2.0-liter I-4, but with only 155 horsepower. If you have been looking for an argument for smaller turbocharged engines, you have just found it. The Jetta ran from 0-60 mph in 7.3 seconds while the Kia took 8.1 seconds and the Mazda 8.2 seconds. One downside of all that torque is being able to put it to the ground through narrow 205/55-16 all season tires. While the 7.3-second run sounds fast, it could have been faster. In the quarter-mile, the Kia and Mazda turned in 16.2 seconds at 86.3 mph and 16.4 seconds at 86.4 mph respectively. The force-fed Jetta ran 15.5 seconds and trapped at 90.5 mph. As a fun comparison, we tested a GTI 1.8T with a manual transmission and way lower gearing and did a 15.3-second run at 93.1 mph.
We were impressed with the Jetta’s suspension tuning on our figure eight. Our testing guru, Kim Reynolds, called the Jetta “fun and genuinely entertaining.” The numbers, however, are representative of the all-season tires recording a 27.3-second lap time. The Kia and Mazda did the same laps in 27.6 and 27.2 seconds. The Jetta weighs in a rather hefty 3103 pounds, while the Kia is 2948 pounds and the Mazda a feathery (by modern standards anyway) 2889 pounds. The Jetta rotates nicely on turn-in. It will bring the tail around with a little lift of the throttle and the undefeatable stability control won’t intervene unless you get it really out of shape. The steering is communicative and the seat of your pants tells you what the rear-axle is doing.
So you’re saying, “Great, a big power engine in a car that is supposed to be economical.” Well, the Jetta is rated by the EPA at 25 city, 36 highway, and 29 combined mpg. Like with the horsepower numbers, it appears VW is being a little conservative with the distance its car can cover on a gallon of regular unleaded. Yes, you read that right: a turbocharged German car that doesn’t require premium. Our Real MPG testing yielded some surprising results. With the test equipment strapped to it, we recorded 28 city, 40 highway, and 32 mpg combined. To put that into perspective, we tested a 2014 Toyota Corolla Eco Plus and got 31/39/34 mpg. That’s in a car that is a full 2 seconds slower from 0-60 mph.
As we wave good-bye to this Jetta, the expectations for the next Jetta are pretty high. Obviously the performance won’t be an issue. If the new Golf is any indication, the interior won’t be an issue either. If VW can add just a few more standard features and keep the price where it stands, it might have the next big winner, and the Jetta will NEVAR LOSE AGAIN!
|2014 Volkswagon Jetta 1.8T SE|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$24,315|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||1.8L/170-hp/184-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3103 lb (60/40%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||182.2 x 70.0 x 57.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.3 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.5 sec @ 90.5 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||124 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.82 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.3 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||25/36 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||135/94 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.67 lb/mile|