A near-new Volkswagen Jetta can be an excellent purchase for buyers who want a compact sedan that offers Euro style, performance, heritage and flair…

Volkswagen introduced a bigger and made-in-America Jetta for the 2011 model year and in doing so it profoundly altered its sales position.

It was no longer fringe a “Golf with a trunk” but a mainstream stand-alone model. Moving to Mexico allowed VW to slash the start price for the 2011 Jetta by a whopping $6,300, in Canada, compared to the previous year edition. And it has certainly paid-off in terms of sales. Last year (2013), VW Canada sold more than twice as many Jetta models than it did in 2010 and the Jetta’s sales position jumped from eleventh to sixth in the highly competitive small car segment.

Used Jetta buyers should also benefit by getting to choose from a larger pool of previously owned Jetta models on the market. On the downside, this generation Jetta has lost some of its Germanic-built prestige, in the eyes of VW purists.

The redesigned 2011 Jetta’s longer wheelbase allows extra passenger space inside a cabin that boasts best-in-class rear seat legroom, plus its 440-litre trunk is larger than both Honda Civic and Mazda3. Even a base Trendline edition comes with power windows and door locks, 60/60 split folding rear seats, six-way manually adjustable front seats, a height-adjustable telescopic steering wheel, anti-lock brakes and an electronic stability control system.

The entry engine is a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, that can produce 114 horsepower and mated to either a five-speed manual or an optional six-speed (Tiptronic) automatic transmission. Fuel economy is rated at 9.1 L/100km in the city and 6.0 L/100km on the highway.

The other trim levels are Comfortline, Sportline and Highline. A 2.5-litre (170-horsepower) gas engine was optional on Comfortline and standard with Sportline and Highline. This five-cylinder engine is available in numerous VW products and has good low-end power, but sounds a little ragged at the high end of its speed range. Fuel economy is rated at 9.9 in the city and 6.2 L/100km on the highway.

The TDI edition is a popular choice with Jetta buyers. It’s powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine and came in Comfortline and Highline trim levels. Like all diesel engines the torque and fuel economy figures are impressive. It’s rated at 236 ft-lbs @ 1,750 rpm and can sip diesel fuel at a rate of 6.7L/100km in the city and 4.6 L/100km on the highway.

Jetta’s big news story for the 2012 model year was the introduction of a high-performance GLI edition. Subtle exterior styling changes wrap a package of go-faster mechanical goodies that includes a turbocharged (200 horsepower) 2.0-litre TSFI engine and a fully-independent multi-link rear suspension.

Notable standard features in GLI include its dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry and push-button start/stop and a unique flat-bottomed three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel. Surprisingly, the GLI is more fuel frugal (8.8/6.1 L/100 km – city/highway) than the other gas engine versions of Jetta. However, it likes premium fuel.

The 2013 model year brought numerous minor trim changes to Jetta, but a new Hybrid edition was the big introduction. Jetta Hybrid is powered by a full-hybrid system that can run in a pure electric mode. Its E-driving range is limited to about 2 km, but if used wisely, such as stop-n-go traffic, it’s a terrific fuel saver. Jetta Hybrid’s city/highway fuel rating is 4.6/4.2 L/100km respectively.

Although the 2011 and 2012 model years of Jetta received “Top Safety Pick” ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, it got a “marginal” rating in a new small overlap frontal crash test introduced by the Institute for 2013 model year vehicles. This crash test is designed to replicate an offset collision with another vehicle or an object like a tree or a utility pole.

Overall, a near-new Volkswagen Jetta can be an excellent purchase for buyers who want a compact sedan that offers Euro style, performance, heritage and flair, without a premium price tag.

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Price Check: 2011 – 2013 Volkswagen Jetta (May 2014)

Year                    Edition                                                 Expect to Pay Today

2011                  Comfortline                                                $13,000 to $17,000

2012                  Comfortline                                                $15,000 to $19,000

2013                  Comfortline                                                $18,000 to $22,000

Prices vary depending on a used vehicle’s condition, mileage, usage and history. A complete mechanical check should always be performed by a reliable auto technician prior to purchase.

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Safety Recalls: 2011 to 2013 Volkswagen Jetta:

2009/2010/2011/2012: The fuel injection lines may crack and cause diesel fuel leakage, on vehicles equipped with a 2.0L TDI (diesel) engine. Dealers will install vibration dampers on the fuel injection lines and replace them, if necessary.

2011: The converter box may be protected by the same fuse as the horn and the anti-theft alarm system. If this fuse gets blown, the converter box may shut-off applications such as the engine management system, lighting system and wipers. Dealers will separate the wiring for the horn and the theft protection horn from the power supply of the converter box, and route the wires to separate fuses.

2011/2012: Stainless steel exhaust tips, sold as over-the-counter accessories, may extend beyond the original length of the factory-installed exhaust pipes. Dealers will inspect and, if necessary, replace the exhaust tips with updated versions.

2012: Jetta GLI models may have been equipped with a Daytime Running Light (DRL) system that can be deactivated. Dealers will reprogram the Body Control Module.

2013: Jetta hybrid models equipped with the direct-shift gearbox may experience electrical shorts and blown gearbox fuses, as a result of corrosion inside the gearbox due to incompatible gearbox lubricant additives. Dealers will replace the existing gearbox lubricant with an updated formulation.

2013/2014: The factory installed block heater may overheat while in use and potentially result in a fire. Dealers will replace the block heater and advise owners to stop using it in the interim.

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Contact: bob [dot] mchugh [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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