Since its debut in 1979, the Volkswagen Jetta has steadfastly endured the ebbs and flows of the auto industry. It’s now a quarter-century old, a half-dozen editions into its legacy and enjoying a resurgence with the upgraded model for 2014.

With competition in all car segments increasingly keen, VW for 2014 Jetta replaced the former 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder model with a 170-horsepower, turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder.

2014 Volkswagen Jetta
The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta is available in five trims. Picutre in the SE. Images © James Raia/2013

The Jetta is the little sedan that could and continues to do so, which is why it’s VW’s best-selling car. With the engine change, the Jetta is now more versatile while maintaining its value pricing. The gas engine model (a diesel engine is optional) can now also run on E15 (a mix of gas and ethanol).

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

About a half-dozen times per year and for nearly the past decade, I’ve driven my weekly drivers on the round-trip, 400-mile trip from Sacramento to the Monterey Peninsula.

With the exception of driving an SUV off-road or a high-end sports car on a winding country road with no one in sight, the trip to the Monterey Peninsula affords a vast array of driving circumstances.

I can’t think in recent memory of any car that handled the open road, the winding, oddly cambered roads near San Luis Reservoir and the around-town city treks better than the Jetta.

Part of my enjoyment of the Jetta is that my SE model (with connectivity), one of five available trims, was equipped a five-speed manual transmission. Combining the fun factor of a tight-shifting transmission and the new turbocharged engine, the Jetta has a little sports car in its personality.

In addition to a good share of standard features from the base model, the SE (with connectivity) is upgraded with 16-inch alloy wheels, heated washer nozzles, heated front seats with driver lumbar adjustment, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and Car-Net telematics.

That list further adds to the sportiness and solid driving feel of the Jetta. On Interstate 5, where theflow of traffic often exceeds the sped limit, the Jetta fared well. On narrow, abrupt ascents and descents on highways 152 and 156, the Jetta maneuvered like it knew the way. On the downtown city streets of Monterey and Carmel, I parallel parked with ease, fit in tight driveways and shifted smoothly after stop signs on inclines.

Likes

Spacious interior and trunk.

Smooth ride quality.

Steady acceleration from 5-speed manual transmission.

Good gas mileage.

Good maneuverability.

Large numbers and read-out on radio.

Dislikes:

Odd mix of construction: U.S./Canada, (11 percent); Mexico (40 percent); Final assembly, Mexico; Transmission: Argentina.

Slightly tight front seats.

Interior console materials not the best quality.

Facts & Figures: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 7.3 seconds.
Airbags: (6).
Fuel economy: 26 mpg (city), 36 mpg (highway), 30 mpg (combined)
Horsepower: 170
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $20,420.00
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.vw.com.
Price As tested: $21,240.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 12 years/unlimited mileage; Roadside Assistance, 3 years/36,000 miles.

What Others Say:

“Overall, though, we do feel the 2014 VW Jetta merits consideration alongside segment leaders, which is something we haven’t been able to say for a while.” — Edmunds.com.

‘The Jetta is VW’s best-selling vehicle, so it’s easy to understand why the company has introduced its newest engine across the broadest range in that model. Thanks to the heart transplant, the Jetta has gone from a recommendable but relatively ho-hum compact sedan to one that gives us something to be excited about, especially for buyers on a budget.” — KBB.com.

“Jetta sedan’s interior is clean, stylish and comfortable, while being smart, accommodating and functional. There’s good headroom front and rear. Rear-seat legroom is first in class at 38.1 inches, nearly as much as a BMW 7 Series.” — AOLAutos.com.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“With a cost of about $10,000 less than the average cost of a new car in the United States, the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta is hard to beat for buyers seeking a value-priced sedan with a dose of spunk.”

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