You know a kind of something I like? Unapologetically cheap things that aren’t terrible. Happily, there are things that definitely still fit into this category: hammers, some burgers, maybe those tiny single-board computers. When it comes to cars, though, this category gets mighty lean. The average price of a car in 2022 is $48,000, and it feels like hardly any carmaker gives a brace of BMs about the low end of the market. But there are still some cars on the low-end of the market worth looking at, like the 2022 Volkswagen Jetta.
[Editor’s Note: I want to try something new here: we have been getting more cars to review, which is great, but our usual deep-dive approach to car reviews just isn’t always the right approach to every car. Some cars just don’t need a 5,000-word review covering every minute detail. So, with that in mind, we’re going to try some Micro-Reviews, like this one here, the first of its name.
In a Micro-Review the goal is to get you the important information and distill down what you actually need to know into two take-aways: first, the three most significant traits of the car, good or bad, and then one final punctum of the car, a term I’m borrowing from Roland Barthes and the art criticism world. Essentially, what it means in this context is what is it about the car that actually manages to get your attention. It could be a detail or one feature or the feeling you have when you walk away from it. It doesn’t have to be rational or qualitative, but it has to be what the essence of that particular car feels like.
So, let’s try this out! – JT]
Price: Starts at $20,415 (Tested the SE trim at $25,240)
Engine: 1.5-liter inline turbo four, 158 hp, 184 lb-ft
Transmission: 6-speed manual available, 8-speed auto, FWD
Fuel Economy: 29 city/42 highway/34 combined
Body Style: four-door sedan
Why Does It Exist?
Volkswagen needed a cheap, entry-level car in America, I assume, and since we no longer get the basic Golf, the Jetta is it. I suppose it’s also an option for the vanishing number of people who still want a traditional three-box sedan, which for VW means either the Jetta or the sleek and premium Arteon.
How Does It Look?
In a word: fine. It looks fine. It’s not exactly memorable or even striking, but I think it can be handsome, especially in profile. You’re not going to be embarrassed by the look of the Jetta, but you also may have trouble remembering exactly what it looks like, too. The color selection is more soporific than terrific, all grayscale except for a lone (but very nice) blue, which is the color of the one I had and the one you should pick.
How About The Inside?
Again, fine. It’s comfortable, I like the design of the door cards and the instrument cluster LCD isn’t trying to pretend to be fake gauges or anything. Center stack screen isn’t huge but it’s good enough. Plenty of physical controls, which is nice. A little dark in the choice of materials, but my one actual complaint is this:
Yep, that’s fake, molded-in stitching on the dash. I thought this kind of goofy shit went out with the Chevette. Who still does fake stitching? You’re better than that, VW.
Other than that minor gripe, it’s pretty roomy, comfortable, and the materials don’t feel like garbage. Oh, and the trunk is a good size, and the rear seat folds down if you need to cram in a taxidermied monitor lizard or something like that.
How’s It Drive?
This was the surprise: much better than you’d guess for an entry level car! Sure, 158 hp doesn’t sound like much, but 184 pound-feet of torque and a weight of 2,989 pounds somehow conspire to make the Jetta actually feel pretty quick. Stomping the gas delivers a satisfying surge, and, maybe by simple virtue of being a lower-than-every-crossover-and-SUV vehicle out there, it feels pretty good to fling around.
I had some fun driving this thing, and then when I decided to pretend to be an adult again, it gave good fuel economy, averaging close to 32 mpg. It’s not life-altering, but it’s good! You can drive it in a fun way, and it responds well, and if you’re not in the mood, it’s as easy and forgettable as anything else out there.
Also, it has the smallest squishy pedestrian-safety engine cover I’ve ever seen. It’s this little foam block, right there in the middle:
Does it Have The Electronic Crap I Want?
Uh, sure, probably. Android Auto/Apple Car Play (though not via Bluetooth), it has IQ Drive in SE and up trim, which is VW’s lane-keeping/emergency braking/adaptive cruise setup, and that all works like you’d expect. If you’re really all about ultra-modern tech stuff in your car, this probably isn’t for you. For most people, though, it’s fine and feels modern enough without making tech the centerpiece of the car.
Three Things To Know About The 2022 Volkswagen Jetta:
- It’s pretty cheap to buy.
- Gas mileage is better than I’d have guessed
- It’s more fun to drive than I’d have guessed
Does It Fulfill Its Purpose?
Yes, I think so. It’s a decent entry-level car that won’t embarrass you and delivers good economy, comfort, and space. It’s not a crossover, and it’s not even trying to pretend to be one. It’s a car, one maybe you can afford.
What’s The Punctum Of The 2022 Volkswagen Jetta?
It’s a fun car going undercover as a rational, practical car. Especially if you get the manual.
>> Android Auto/Apple Car Play (though not via Bluetooth)
Technically, wireless Car Play and Android Auto use Wifi, mostly. ????
Hrm apparently my smile-face emoji turns into “????”
What’s the Otto-score for the Jetta?
Anytime Otto is present for a review, he should be given a couple of lines for his thoughts 🙂
I like this micro review format. One suggestion… just add an ‘as tested’ section that would make it more clear that you not only had the SE trim, but also the automatic.
I figured out from the interior shot that it was the automatic that you had.
Now that you’ve driven the automatic, does it make you want to try out the manual?
I had one as a rental recently and I liked it pretty well. I was pleased not to get the usual Altima or Malibu! I thought it looked pretty good, had a comfortable ride, and a pretty good interior. I’ve heard the manuals are terrible, but I had the auto which is likely what I would want on a car like this anyway.
Now that’s how you integrate a screen into the dash for the radio. Don’t stick on a tablet like the Civic does.
Love the appetizer-size review. One thing I’d like to see is the two closest competitors in the segment and how the reviewed car racks among them.
Nice Review. Love the Micro-Review idea. Just a snippy snippet.
If someone wants more details, then they can go check out Consumer Reports at their library.
It’s a shame that VW decided to stop giving us wagons, because I’d totally rock a Sport trim wagon version of this with the 6 speed in this color. Currently in an ’11 Sportwagen S with a 5 speed and the venerable 2.5 inline 5, and it’s a fairly delightful vehicle for the most part – the slightly irritating NA market cheapening/decontenting aside. I don’t want a Taos – I want to be able to lay down in the back with the hatch closed (I’m right at 6′ tall, and if I adjust the seats forward, I can lay down on my sleeping pad in the back of my JSW). I’ve also put a big ass bookcase in the back of it and closed the hatch successfully. If I want a modern VW I can do that in, I have to step all the way up to a friggin’ Atlas – the Taos is like a foot SHORTER than the JSW.
But alas, VW has axed wagons from the NA market and I doubt they’ll come back because knuckledragging American consumers insist on riding up high with compromised interior space and length… SIGH.
BTW, generally like the idea of this micro review format, but a few more key details, as has been touched on by many other Autopian commenters above, would be nice. A couple extra paragraphs with a little more explication would be a good call for future versions of this format, Torch.
Even Volvo has dropped the standard V60 and only sells the AWD/lifted/plastic-clad Cross Country in the U.S.
Micro-reviews will be fine if you’re going to do a dozen or two rapid-fire, then deep-dive on the important ones. But really, whenever you have access to the car and the time to look it over properly, don’t shortchange your audience.
The Volkswagen Jetta is one I’d like to have as the subject of a full review. As one of the few remaining sedans, it’s unique and interesting in today’s market. It’s also happens to be one I’m currently shopping against other options.
I think it’s a very handsome little car. Is it safe to say that Honda thought so too? Civic? Am I missing a joke? What does that engine cover have to do with pedestrian safety?
Big picture is that if a pedestrian is struck and the hood is deflected downward from the weight of the pedestrian, the engine cover provides an additional “crumple zone” of sorts within the engine bay.
Someone can explain it more eloquently, but that’s the gist of it.
Favorite rental car. I’ve always liked VAG styling as well. Never offensive, at least until the new Atlas came out ????
Torch – one thing for the future (and not just for micro reviews) – we need the golf bag test. Tnak you very much.
I like this format, but I think just a little more technical details would be nice.
For example, is that 1.5 turbo a newer version of the 1.4 TSI or a completely different engine?
8-speed auto, great, but is that still a DSG? Wet or dry clutch DSG? Or a conventional torque converter automatic?
I guess that can be looked up if someone’s interested in the car, but for an enthusiast blog like this one, details like that maybe worth a few extra words.
I think if we’re going into engine lineage, we’ve left “micro review” in the rear view. I like all the details too, but I don’t think it’s the point of these.
As for the transmission, it’s a standard torque converter. The GLI is the only Jetta trim with the DSG option to my knowledge and it’s a 7 speed.
I don’t think VW group has an 8 speed DSG. Last I checked, even the higher end Audi models use a zf 8 speed with torque converter setup. I don’t think their DSG is able to stand up to the torque/HP of the S and RS models.