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Pricing The VW Jetta: Is 16 Grand Realistic?

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On: Thu, Dec 2, 2010 at 3:33PM | By: John Welch


Pricing The VW Jetta: Is 16 Grand Realistic?

Yesterday we reported on Volkswagen's November fortunes. To sum up, things are good. VW's concerted effort to dominate the world's auto industry is working rather well, helped, of course, by the redesigned Volkswagen Jetta. It's no secret that the Jetta has been engineered to a price point. Interior materials are poor compared with the previous Jetta, the rear suspension is twist-beam only, and, at the moment, 170 charging horses are all you can expect to find under the hood of a Bora . . . eherrmm, Jetta. Though sold in Europe, this car is clearly designed to meet North American needs; the 'new' Jetta has a bigger trunk, more foot and knee room, and a slightly wider stance. The most alarming development to come from all of this rearranging? The Jetta is now nearly as cheap as a Scion xD. I assure you, the worst Jetta is still better than the best xD.

But is it worthy of the 40% bump in sales it is allegedly responsible for? The public has spoken, and the public doesn't notice the cheesy dash plastic or the ancient base engine. So there must be something to this new Jetta, right? To see if I could find a sub-$20,000 Jetta that pushes enough of my buttons to be a serious consideration, I clicked over to VW's website and optioned out a new Jetta of my very own. How did things pan out? Ye shall see, inside the post . . .

There are three models of the Jetta. 'S', 'SE', and 'SEL'. Creative. I want a decked-out Jetta, but I don't want to crack twenty grand. That means the SEL is out of the question, pricing for the top tier model starts at $21,395, a bit over our price cap. The S isn't even an option for me. It's powered by VW's version of the push-rod smallblock, the immortal 2.0 liter four. Immortal because it never dies, not because it is exceptional. VW has always paired this engine with low gearing so that, from a stop, the paltry 115 bhp has been adequate for in-traffic driving. Get this sucker on a highway and you will become intimately familiar with your mirrors. It's a turd above 45 mph, no matter what chassis it appears in.

That means no S model either, leaving us with the Jetta SE, comfortably demanding $18,195. Having selected our model, we move on to transmission. The only engine currently available is the 170 bhp inline-five. Not a thriller in its own right, but an significant improvement on the 2.0 wheezebox. Volkswagen offers two transmissions for the Jetta SE, a five-speed manual and a six-speed auto, with manumatic shifting. Natch. The auto out-mpgs the manual in the city, 24 mpg versus 23, but on the highway the manny tranny has the advantage, 33 to 31. The slush box is also slower to 60 by three tenths, destroying any mpg consideration before it is even considered. Add to this the fact that I find the thought of an automatic utilized by anything other then trucks, vans, and Rolls Royces to be offensive and wrong, and you can assume that we will find three pedals in this Jetta. The 5-speed is free, so we are still looking at $18,195.

On to the paint job. Disappointment strikes here, as the color palette provided by VW is depressing at best. A few shades of white/silver, a blue, a black. I select the "Toffee Brown" just because it is different. I wonder what colors I can get on a GTi? There is a Sunroof and Convenience Package, for $2,600, but I can do without the extra weight and possible problems associated with a sunroof. The $1,350 Convenience Package is a much better fit, consisting of 16" wheels (that look just like the base model's steelies, blech!) leather for the steering wheel, shift knob and handbrake, audio and Bluetooth controls on that steering wheel, heated front seats, a six-speaker stereo and 3 months of SIRIUS Satellite radio. The stereo can handle MP3s, and there are requisite inputs for iPads, Pods, and Poodles. All in all, a ton of classy stuff for a pittance.

As is the case with most North American Volkswagens, the interior options are largely determined by the exterior color or vise verse. We are going to have the Cornsilk Beige interior treatment because the Titan Black option is not offered with the Toffee Brown paint job. Uhm, ok, that's fine I guess. Thanks for making my decision VW, very German of you. Either interior treatment is going to be a let down, I have intimate knowledge with MKIII, IV, and V Jettas, and I was always enamored with the materials surrounding me while driving. Hard-anything is going to ruin that for me. Just my opinion, you might not be such a freaking design-nerd. Or plan on owning this car for more than two years.

That's it, our car is complete. The final tally comes to $20,315, a couple bills over our 20 grand threshold. Since I can't get a Jetta S without settling on the 2.0 liter motor, and I can't get my favorite VW features (leather on tactile surfaces, seat heaters) on an SE without breaking my limit, that means that I, personally, won't be buying a Jetta. The lack of color options doesn't help, and I am very aware of the Jetta's compromised suspension design. Big trunk equals an airborne inside rear wheel when cornering hard. Which I would do, no matter what car I bought. For funnsies, lets throw out our budget.

We select an SEL, and choose the same five-speed manual we got in our SE. The options are arranged differently now, the sunroof is a stand-alone option, priced at $900, and there is a new 'Sport Package'. We go with Reflex Silver Metallic for the exterior paint, in a bid to be allowed a look at the Titan Black interior. Cornsilk Beige looks nice and all, but it will show every ding, scratch, and scrape inflicted on it during its life. I'm sort of oblivious; I don't want to look down one morning and find a mess of shoe scuffs and ring marks that I can't place, or do anything about. Black dash for me, thanks. This sucker is way over the original 20 thousand ceiling, so we are going to get the Sport Package- bolstered seats, weird V-Tex Leatherette trim, and some shiny pedals and door sills. Again, who cares about a sunroof? The total for our Jetta SEL? $23,765.

VW has presented people like me with a serious mental cee-eff here. Two screens earlier I saw the VW GTi, but overlooked it because of its price: $23,690. I might need the Jetta's trunk, I might prefer the angular clean lines or the Jetta's sedan profile, but I don't, and there are more like me. The GTi is a hatch, which I don't mind at all, can be had with two or four doors, and carries a big, turbocharged stick. I can have it in freaking Red, and I can accompany that bloodiest of colors with the coolest interior option featured on this or any other car in the world: The 'Interlagos' argyle cloth interior trim.

VW may sell a ton of Jettas, but one has to wonder, will the momentum slow? Are there better options in VW's own stable? Are those better options lost on Americans because they are hatchbacks or wagons? I welcome your feedback, in the comments below . . .


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