First Drive: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid volkswagen reviews hybrids green scene green reviews greenreviews first drives
2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

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Jetta Reviews

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2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

Santa Fe, New Mexico – For many, the notion of a Volkswagen hybrid is about as far-fetched as that of a Prius diesel. Volkswagen, after all, has been the purveyor of affordable diesel vehicles for decades, with diesels being a pillar of the company’s reputation and branding. And while it’s true that Volkswagen did introduce a Touareg Hybrid to the US market in 2010, it’s in very limited production and was never available in Canada.

But that Touareg must have been a hybrid toe in the water for Volkswagen, because starting at the beginning of 2013, just in time for January’s Montreal Auto Show, you’ll be able to buy the all-new 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid at a price of $27,895 for the entry-level Trendline model. And just to be clear, it’s a gasoline hybrid, not a diesel hybrid.

Does this mean Volkswagen’s abandoning diesel as its alternative fuel of choice?

“Not a chance,” according to Volkswagen Canada’s Public Relations Manager Thomas Tetzlaff. “We’re introducing a hybrid,” he explained at the Jetta Hybrid’s international launch in Santa Fe, New Mexico, “because there are people, especially in North America, who want to buy a hybrid. If the market’s there, and we believe it is, we have to be in it.”

First Drive: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid volkswagen reviews hybrids green scene green reviews greenreviews first drives
2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Okay, but what can Volkswagen bring to the hybrid market at this point, as opposed to Toyota, Honda and other established hybrid manufacturers? When you think about it, other companies have already done the research-and-development heavy lifting with hybrid technology. Late-comers like Volkswagen arguably have an advantage as they can refine the technology without being wedded to existing platforms or engineering.

So it is that the Jetta Hybrid uses a turbocharged 1.4L, direct-injected (TSI) engine combined with a 27-hp electric motor and a compact 1.1 kWh battery that in combination make 170 hp at 5,000 rpm and 184 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm. This is not an underpowered car, in other words, which is already a departure for small hybrids.

True, the use of a turbocharged, direct-injected engine in a hybrid vehicle is not completely new, but it’s very rare (the BMW 7 Series Active Hybrid uses twin-turbocharging, but it costs over $100,000). What is completely new to the market is mating such a hybrid powerplant to a seven-speed, double-clutch automatic transmission, which is standard on the Jetta Hybrid. No CVT for this car!

First Drive: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid volkswagen reviews hybrids green scene green reviews greenreviews first drives
2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

As a full hybrid, the Jetta Hybrid will operate at up to 70 km/h for two kilometres in electric vehicle (EV) mode, which can be activated by an e-Mode button on the centre console. But that’s not the most effective use of this capability. In everyday driving EV mode is most likely to be implemented when stuck in stop-and-go traffic for an extended period. In those situations, you’ll be running on zero-emissions electricity captured by the hybrid system when decelerating, and stored in the battery that sits behind the rear seat.

Because of the hybrid battery’s location, the fuel tank is smaller than other Jetta models, holding 45 L of gasoline rather than 55 L. But the Jetta Hybrid will be advertised as Volkswagen’s most fuel-efficient vehicle (yes, even more fuel efficient than the TDI, although that really remains to be seen). Regardless, the official Canadian numbers are not out yet, but Volkswagen suggests 4.4 L/100 km for highway driving is its target.

Other differences between the Jetta Hybrid and its Jetta siblings are the use of a multi-link rear suspension (shared with the Jetta GLI), unique wheels, a new exhaust system, an enclosed grille, air dam, and standard rear spoiler. In combination, the exterior modifications reduce the Jetta’s coefficient of drag from .30 to .28, contributing to overall fuel economy, according to Volkswagen Canada.

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