2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T
2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

If Volkswagen’s objective in replacing the Jetta’s 2.5L five-cylinder engine with a new turbocharged 1.8L four-cylinder engine was to improve fuel economy and enhance performance at the same time, they have largely succeeded.  On average, the Jetta’s new turbo 1.8L engine is about 10 percent more fuel efficient than the 2.5L engine with most of that gain in improved highway fuel economy.  According to the EPA, the 2014 Jetta 1.8 TSI (auto) offers 9.4 city/6.5 highway/8.1 combined L/100 km (25/36/29 US mpg), while the 2013 Jetta 2.5 (auto) only managed 9.8 city/7.6 highway/9.0 combined L/100 km (24/31/26 US mpg).

And cheers to this: unlike many turbocharged engines that require premium gasoline (including VW’s own 2.0L turbo in the Jetta GLI), the new 1.8-litre turbo can use cheaper regular grade gasoline.  In my neighbourhood, Premium costs 15 cents more per litre.

The 1.8 turbo is also a better performer:  it makes the same horsepower (170) as the 2.5, but it offers considerably more torque much earlier in the rev range (184 lb-ft from 1,500 rpm to 4,750 rpm vs 177 lb-ft at 4,250 rpm).  This gives the Jetta 1.8 TSI more immediate throttle response at low and mid-range speeds, and is particularly noticeable in urban driving when zipping in and out of traffic and when accelerating onto the freeway.  With the automatic transmission, VW claims a decent 0 to 60 mph time of under 8 seconds.  The new engine revs more freely than the old five-cylinder engine and sounds better too – more of a growly buzz than a coarse growl.

2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T
2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T. Click image to enlarge

But it’s disappointing that the available transmissions remain the same as last year:  a standard five-speed manual and optional six-speed automatic with Tiptronic manual shift capability and Sport mode.  With VW’s six-speed manual and six- and seven-speed DSGs readily available, you have to wonder why VW didn’t upgrade.  My guess is that they wanted to keep the price down to stay competitive with cars like the Mazda3 GT and Kia Forte 2.0 SX.

Still, in some ways the standard automatic transmission is a better choice for daily commuters than the six-speed DSG.  While the DSG offers faster shifts, they are crisper and the DSG does tend to surge at slower speeds; the regular automatic transmission just slides cleanly between gears and shifts are less noticeable.  As well, the standard six-speed automatic has a Sport mode (just below D on the shift gate) with revised shift timing that keeps the engine revving higher for quicker acceleration.  And there’s a manual shift gate – pull back to shift down, push forwards to shift up.  No paddles shifters, though.

2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T
2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T. Click image to enlarge

All the attention paid to the Jetta’s new 1.8L turbo has somewhat overshadowed another important upgrade for 2014: all Jettas now have the independent multi-link rear suspension that was previously restricted to the GLI.  With all wheels sprung independently, the Jetta 1.8 TSI feels more controlled over humps and bumps and more stable when cornering over uneven surfaces.  On a winding road, the Jetta 1.8 TSI was well planted with very little body lean.  The suspension is firm though:  broken pavement and potholes create road shock vibrations that can be felt and heard inside the cabin.  Still, the Jetta’s German-engineered poise and stability at high speeds makes for satisfying long distance freeway drives.  At a steady 100 km/h in sixth gear, the engine turns over just 1,750 rpm.  At cruising speeds, there’s very little engine or wind noise but quite a lot of tire noise from the Continental Conti-Pro Contact 225/45R17-inch all-season radials on our test car.

In our unscientific braking tests, we found the Jetta’s standard four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and brake assist provided short, controlled stopping distances and a firm brake pedal feel.

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