Quick Spin: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8 TSI Highline volkswagen car test drives
2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T. Click image to enlarge

Review by Jacob Black, photos by Jeff Wilson

Not too long ago we had the Jetta 1.8T along for our Mega Compact Car Comparison Test, during which many of us fell in love with it for a variety of reasons.

So in love with it was I that I adopted it for the remainder of the week as my daily driver. During our comparison test we were impressed by the Jetta’s well-weighted steering, poised chassis, and impressive handling. Additionally we enjoyed the new, growling 1.8L turbo that replaced the harsh 2.5L five-cylinder.

The Jetta is a truly premium-feeling car to drive in this Highline trim, but at $29,995 as tested you are paying for what you get.

I was most impressed with the Jetta’s boot, which swallowed a red radio-flyer wagon, a carry-on suitcase and some shopping without a hint of trouble. The boot opening is large and wide, though the lip is probably two inches higher than it needs to be. Shave off that inch or two and the boot will be one of the best on the market.

Which is kind of the point of the Jetta 1.8T Highline, to make it a true class-leader, you have to keep shaving things off it, i.e. the price. During the comparison test it was the $5,500 difference between it and the Mazda3 GS that kept it from winning, and the truth is you could wipe a lot of that price off by dropping down a trim level or two without losing too much of that great drive experience.

Every Jetta now comes with four-wheel independent suspension as a multilink setup with coil springs, telescopic dampers and a stabilizer bar now services the rear accompanied by the independent MacPherson struts and stabilizer bar up front.

Quick Spin: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8 TSI Highline volkswagen car test drives Quick Spin: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8 TSI Highline volkswagen car test drives
2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T. Click image to enlarge

As noted by Greg Wilson in his Test Drive of the Jetta 1.8T the Highline gets the speed-sensitive electromechanical power-assisted steering standard instead of the lower-end hydraulic power steering, but you don’t need to go that high in the trim level to get it. Volkswagen makes the “good” steering available in the Trendline+ model, which only adds $2,200 to the base price and also includes the six-speed automatic transmission. The Trendline+ still comes in under $20,000 before freight and PDI.

The Highline we tested had $1,570 worth of options on it too, with the Technology Package adding navigation, Fender premium audio and rear-view camera. That package could easily be turfed by a discerning buyer looking to maximize value in other areas, and not upset enjoyment of the car.

So does that mean you could maintain the drive experience and premium feel of the Jetta Highline for a lower price?

Not quite. Only the Highline trim gets the sensational 1.8L TSI engine with 170 hp at 6,200 rpm and 184 lb-ft of torque at 1,500 as standard – Trendline and Comfortline get the 115 hp, 125 lb-ft 2.0L instead, though you can upgrade to the 1.8L TSI engine in Comfortline trim.

Other significant additions in Highline trim are 17-inch wheels, black mirror surrounds and body trim, an available rear-view camera, leather trim and a 6.5-inch touchscreen with navigation.

But it’s the engine that is truly key here. With this lump under the bonnet the Jetta is a joy to drive. It’s peppy, zippy and responsive in traffic, with a pleasant engine note that hints at more power than is really there. Like the 2.0L, you can run it on regular unleaded too, which is nice. With that engine pulling 1,393 kg the EPA rates the Jetta at 9.4/6.5/8.1 L/100 km city/highway/combined. I scored 8.9 L/100 km in my week of almost all city driving, and most of that was fully laden with wife, kid and in-laws.

Quick Spin: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8 TSI Highline volkswagen car test drives Quick Spin: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8 TSI Highline volkswagen car test drives Quick Spin: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8 TSI Highline volkswagen car test drives
2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T. Click image to enlarge

And I had a blast doing it. Steering feel as mentioned above is great. The brake pedal is not as communicative as it could be, but the pedal throws the anchors out hard and hauls the Jetta to a rapid stop.

The gearbox is not the rifle-bolt DSG found in say, the Golf GTI or Beetle GSR, but it is a fast, smooth and responsive transmission which is well-suited to the this engine.

The cream leather interior gives the Jetta an upscale feel and the large greenhouse makes the whole car feel more spacious and enjoyable. There is excellent ease of entry and exit, and I found everything easy to use. Ergonomically this car is extremely well-sorted, and the radio controls are simple, easy to use and the system provides great sound.

Our whole family enjoyed this car (in-laws included). It’s livable in the best possible way. Easy to use, easy to drive, fun to drive, and good looking. The large and unique wheels add a sense of occasion, as does the interior. The Jetta 1.8T also has good “keeping up with the Joneses” credibility, and looks good in most settings.  The styling might be conservative to some, but elegant to others – I’m in the latter camp.

And after a week longer with the Jetta, I liked it even more than I had after our comparison test. Now, where did I put that score sheet?

Overall
4
Comfort
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4/5
Performance
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3.5/5
Fuel Economy
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3.5/5
Interior
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4/5
Exterior Styling
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4/5

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First Drive: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8 TSI
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First Drive: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid
Test Drive: 2014 Kia Forte SX sedan
Comparison Test: 2014 Toyota Corolla vs 2014 Mazda3

Manufacturer’s Website
Volkswagen Canada

Photo Gallery:
Test Drive: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8 TSI Highline

Pricing: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8 TSI Highline
Base price: $26,890
Options: $1,570 (Technology Package: touchscreen and navigation system, 400-watt Fender premium audio system with 8 speakers and subwoofer, single CD player, rearview camera)
Freight: $1,395
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $29,955

Competitors:
Ford Focus sedan
Honda Civic sedan
Hyundai Elantra sedan
Kia Forte sedan
Nissan Sentra
Toyota Corolla

Crash Test Results:
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)




About Jacob Black

Jacob used to write about motorsport for SPEED TV in Australia but met a girl. Now he writes about road cars in Canada and is married to the girl. He lives a very, very good life. Jacob Black is not a werewolf.