“At first glance the 2015 Jetta looks like a warmed over update but below the surface is substantial change…”

Volkswagen has had an impressive ride here during the past few years, gaining market share and selling record numbers of cars – its best-selling car being the Jetta.

When the last VW Jetta was introduced in 2011, it represented a major shift in the company’s sales philosophy. The decision was to make a larger sedan, yet drop the price to compete right in the heart of Canada’s compact segment, our largest sales category. With a starting price under $15,000 the Jetta is the biggest car in the compact class, offering a gateway into owning a German car, yet having the space and comfort North Americans expect. For 2015 VW continues with the same philosophy but ups the ante to include new engines, styling and interior amenities.

Looks

It would be easy to overlook the substantial updates to this new Jetta because the exterior tweaks are so subtle they need pointing out. The front grille, bumper and headlamps have all been replaced to include a bigger air opening and LED marker lights, plus xenon headlights are available. The back also receives a minor update that includes a new bumper, trunk and tail lamps. With a starting price of $14,990, the Trendline comes with hubcaps on 15-inch wheels. The midlevel $20,090 Comfortline can be equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels and the $25,490 Highline is fitted with 17-inch alloys. Then there are the TDI diesel versions that range from $22,490 to $27,790. Volkswagen has a wide range of prices, equipment and engine choices to suit. The most popular is the Trendline Plus at $17,190 that includes the must have…heated front seats!

Inside

What isn’t obvious on first inspection is just how far the Jetta interior has come unless you know the previous model. It was a practical car but hardly luxurious or even sporty – spartan might be a good word. That has all changed with the new 2015 model thanks to new switches and dials that looks and feel first rate. The upper dash on all but the base Trendline is now fitted with soft-touch materials and the base model even comes with a 6.5-inch touchscreen that also doubles as a backup camera. Bluetooth is optional on the Trendline plus but becomes standard on Comfortline and above. The top highline features leather, a bigger 8-inch screen and push button start. What all Jetta’s come standard with is a huge back seat, massive trunk and plenty of room side-to-side. This really is a mid-size car that starts at a compact car price.

Drive

The drive event for the all-new Jetta was held in Middleburg Virginia, which I later discovered is in the wealthiest county in the United States. Huge homes on rolling farms, with stone fences and colonial designs reminds visitors that this is historic country; Middleburg witnesses action during the Gettysburg campaign of the American Civil War.

The Salamander Resort was the backdrop for the introduction, an equestrian themed luxury resort that would make any new car look good. Surrounding it are rolling hills and winding roads, a perfect place to exercise the new suspension and engines in the Jetta. The previous car was recently updated to a full independent suspension and that carries over, as do disc brakes on all four wheels. The big news is a new 1.8L direct injection, turbocharged 4-cylinder with 170hp but an impressive 185 lb.-ft of torque. Speaking of torque, the new TDI diesel engine pumps out a whopping 236 lb-ft of torque and now comes with “AdBlue” exhaust after treatment to improves tailpipe emissions by forty percent.

Verdict

After driving both the new engines back to back I’d be hard pressed to choose. I love the torque of the diesel and the impressive efficiency. (It is rated at just 6.7L/100km in the city and 4.7L on the highway.) But the new turbo gasoline engine is a more spirited unit provides a more enthusiastic experience. This engine delivers 8.1L/100km in the city and 5.6L on the highway. If I drove a lot, the diesel would be the way to go, but for more, fun the new 1.8L is impressive. Still in the mix is the old 2.0L 4-cylinder with 115hp offered in all Trendline and Comfortline models. This engine has been around since Moses was a boy, but it is a proven engine and offers a great starting price.

At first glance the 2015 Jetta looks like a warmed over update but belowunder the surface is substantial change. The highlights are the new interior and wonderful optional engines. Diesel or gas? – That’s a tough decision.

Contact: zack [dot] spencer [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

The Lowdown

Power: 2.0L with 115hp, 1.8L with 170hp and 2.0L diesel with 140hp.

Fill-up: 8.1L/5.6L/100km (city/highway)

Sticker price: $14,490-$27,790

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