Review and photos by Mark Stevenson

Spring is a time for celebration on Canada’s Atlantic coast. Gone are the ice floes and chills of winter, replaced by dollar-spending tourists and the reopening of attractions enjoyed by locals and non-locals alike.

Road Trip: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Turbo Hybrid to Nova Scotia’s South Shore
Road Trip: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Turbo Hybrid to Nova Scotia’s South Shore. Click image to enlarge

To do a road trip during the winter in Nova Scotia – or any Atlantic province for that matter – is a Powerpoint in showing what people do to survive harsh winter elements as opposed to enjoying the snow-covered winter wonderland. Nova Scotia’s south shore is no exception.

It isn’t a road trip without the proper company; a co-pilot who can provide a third hand for in-car duties and another set of eyes to keep us out of harm’s way. Also, it’s important to drive something either fun or fuel efficient, with an emphasis on comfort either way.

For this trip, our chariot of choice would be the brand new Jetta Turbocharged Hybrid – a car criticized in normal, non-hybrid form for being quite cheap (in construction) to be cheap (-er, on the sales lot). And guess what? It’s working for dealers as the Jetta enjoys the strongest sales it’s ever had, VW loyalists be damned. With that new lower cost of entry, flexibility in models is gained, and a hybrid Jetta can be offered for less than $29,000 versus probably $3,000 more if it were built upon the Mk. 5 Jetta platform.

Needless to say, I was expecting great fuel economy but no fun attached due to Volkswagen’s hack and slash treatment of the new Jetta.

Road Trip: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Turbo Hybrid to Nova Scotia’s South ShoreRoad Trip: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Turbo Hybrid to Nova Scotia’s South ShoreRoad Trip: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Turbo Hybrid to Nova Scotia’s South Shore
Road Trip: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Turbo Hybrid to Nova Scotia’s South Shore. Click image to enlarge

As we set off from Truro, westbound along Nova Scotia’s highway 102, I noticed two massive surprises. First, the Jetta Turbocharged Hybrid is equipped with the now-popular seven-speed DSG transmission, VW’s dual clutch affair, which has an automatic mode or – should you dare – lets you shift from the stick (no paddles make for a lack of fun). The second surprise, and probably the most annoying one of all, the tachometer isn’t a tachometer; VW interior designers and engineers went on a John Lennon–style vacation to India before designing the instrument panel, and instead of displaying a traditional tach, an “engine output gauge” was their preferred solution.

But, there’s a massive problem with this double-D design decision: it’s a hybrid with an incredibly quiet 1.4L turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a transmission that provides the option of being manually shifted. If I can’t hear the engine and can’t see the revs, when the hell do I shift?

My editor is reminding me this is a road trip story. Time to get back on topic…

The towns of Lunenburg and Mahone Bay provide the stereotypical east coast backdrop for your small town–themed seafood commercials. Bright colours lavish old homes and businesses while large churches with small congregations provide a community focal point, their steeples reaching up into the heavens and viewable from almost anywhere in town.

Road Trip: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Turbo Hybrid to Nova Scotia’s South Shore
Road Trip: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Turbo Hybrid to Nova Scotia’s South Shore. Click image to enlarge

Our first stop was Mahone Bay, about 45 minutes from Halifax. If you’ve never been there in person, grab a copy of Dolores Claiborne on DVD. That’s Mahone Bay, not Maine.

Exiting the highway into Mahone Bay takes you through a short ribbon of pavement lined with mature, overgrown wood and a tourist trap advertisement every 50 feet. It’s short lived, thankfully, as the bush opens up to the glorious sight that is the Bay. Across the inlet, three churches, all of significance, line the main road on your way into downtown. The view is good enough for a postcard, and it is, in fact, on many.

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