Test Drive: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid Highline volkswagen car test drives hybrids
Test Drive: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid Highline volkswagen car test drives hybrids
Test Drive: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid Highline volkswagen car test drives hybrids
Test Drive: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid Highline volkswagen car test drives hybrids
2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid Highline, sunroof, dashboard. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Jacob Black

Volkswagen’s 2014 Jetta is a bit of a tidy rig. For some it might be uninspiring but for me the crisp, clean lines of this generation of V-Dubs work well – and this one is genuinely striking in pearlescent white. In hybrid form there are some neat blue accents that help elevate the overall image and coupled with rear lip spoiler and 17-inch alloys give the Jetta an ultra-modern air.

The clean styling also minimizes the size of the Jetta – it is classed as a compact but seriously, this rig is big. I’ve been known to fill the trunk of a regular Jetta with a week’s shopping and a red radio-flyer wagon. The trunk in the Hybrid, obviously, is a little smaller, but the cover over the battery pack actually makes for a useful secondary storage shelf inside the boot. Total cargo capacity is cut from 440 L to 330 L and the split-fold rear seats are now blocked by that shelf. They’re still there, so you can still use an expanded cargo area, but anything higher than about 10 inches won’t fit through the gap.

The interior is spacious for the segment – you can fit three adults in the back, though for best results you should only take two. The wide and high centre tunnel cuts into the usability of the middle seat significantly – why do cars that are FWD have transmission tunnels anyway?

Interior volume is the same 2,665 L found in the non-hybrid Jetta so there is no green penalty for your passengers. The leather seats are supple and comfortable, with deep side bolsters especially in the front. The steering wheel has some gorgeous leather with stitching and the brushed-metal accents are a neat touch. They are dressing, though, on the very cheap base interior – so while they elevate the Jetta Hybrid, its budget roots are still visible.

I drove this car for five hours straight, three hours on a highway and two on an extremely winding road and never once felt uncomfortable. On the main highways, I was supported and comfortable, on the twisties I had grip and security. These seats really do set a good balance – in fact, the whole car does.

The sacrifices of the hybrid format are small, there is a drop in power from 170 to 150 hp, and an increase in weight of 124 kg over the regular Jetta. You also get skinnier tires, the 225s are replaced with 205s. But then the good news starts; you get the same amount of torque, 184 lb-ft, but it comes in earlier at just 1,000 rpm, or in other words: instantly. And, instead of a six-speed slushbox you get a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automated manual. You even get high-intensity headlights for those of you who enjoy seeing in the dark.

On the winding roads the electric steering of the Jetta still gives good feedback, and the chassis is nimble and taut. The skinny, low-rolling resistance eco tires are a letdown though. They always are. I was running late for an event so I had to hustle, allowing me to experience the handling and braking capacity in genuinely trying conditions. There was a little bit of pitch and roll, but neither end felt disconnected at any point, understeer was easily corrected with a light lift-off and was prevented by trail braking into the corner. After a little while the brakes began to fade – but that’s not unexpected. Also, does anyone who buys this car really buy it because it is quick on winding roads? I doubt it.

Test Drive: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid Highline volkswagen car test drives hybrids Test Drive: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid Highline volkswagen car test drives hybrids Test Drive: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid Highline volkswagen car test drives hybrids
2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid Highline seating, trunk. Click image to enlarge

No, people buy this car because it’s practical, sensible and gives good fuel economy. The only real-world thing that most regular people will appreciate from my little winding-road jaunt was the Bluetooth telephone and hands-free dialing.

Test Drive: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid Highline volkswagen car test drives hybrids
2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid Highline. Click image to enlarge

“Wait, what?” See, on my cross country bullet run I came upon a slow-moving pickup truck, and I was running late. No matter, it was a professional truck with a phone number on the back.

“Dial 456 789 1234”
Brrring brrring.
“Hello?”
“Um, hi mate. I’m right behind you in this Jetta, and I’m running really late, is there any chance I could please get by you?”
“Ah, I thought you came up on me quick! No problem. Be careful up there though, it is really windy.”
“Thanks!”

And that’s the story of how a convenient and sensible bit of car-to-phone technology helped me achieve a polite, safe and reasonable overtaking maneuver on a remote country road.

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