Charles Renny

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

New Jetta stuck in middle of gasoline/diesel debate

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

New Jetta stuck in middle of gasoline/diesel debate

"According to Volkswagen, there are buyers who will not purchase a diesel powered vehicle, but will purchase a gasoline/hybrid."

SANTA FE, N.M. - Before the introduction of the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid had even started, the question to which everyone wanted an answer was why the major producer and proponent of diesel engines was introducing a gasoline/hybrid. The answer was simple. According to Volkswagen, there are buyers who will not purchase a diesel powered vehicle, but will purchase a gasoline/hybrid vehicle.

Volkswagen then added that the reason for not making a diesel/hybrid was partly for the above reason and mostly because the cost of diesel technology would have put the Jetta out of its competitive pricing target. Jetta Hybrids will be available across the three trim levels available in Canada. A Trendline equipped Jetta Hybrid will start at $27,875, the Comfortline at $30,415 and the Highline at $34,025. This gives Volkswagen the broadest range of pricing for a single hybrid vehicle line in Canada.

Another trait that Volkswagen insisted on building into the Jetta Hybrid was that it be as much fun to drive as any other Jetta. To this end, VW put the independent rear suspension from the GTI and recalibrated it for the weight and weight distribution of the Hybrid.

Even all decked out, Jetta is a conservatively styled vehicle. In Hybrid trim, the rear deck spoiler and rocker panel cladding from the Jetta GLI provide the idea that this is a more capable vehicle than meets the eye. The only real give away that hybrid technology is used in the Jetta is that the VW badging on the rear and sides are chrome trimmed in blue instead of black.

Inside, the only give away that this vehicle is a hybrid is the efficiency gauge that replaces the tachometer and the fact that you can track your fuel consumption on the information center screen in the center stack.

The Jetta Hybrid gasoline engine is a 1.4 litre turbocharged four that puts out 150 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. Electric motor output is 27 horsepower and 114 lb.-ft. of torque. Power gets to the front wheels via a seven-speed DSG gear box that does its shifting in 4/100ths of a second. According to Volkswagen, both torque and horsepower are limited electronically so the combined totals are not achieved by simply adding the two numbers together.

In a brilliant move, Volkswagen did not equip the Jetta Hybrid with the flappy-paddle shifter that normally gets added to the steering column of DSG equipped vehicles. What Volkswagen did do was add an e-mode driving option to the electronic controls. Under certain circumstances, with speeds below 70 km/h, the Jetta Hybrid will run on electric power only for about two km.

Driving in and around Santa Fe takes me from altitudes of 1,600 meters to nearly 2,500 meters, during which time the advantages of the turbo motor jump to the fore. In addition, the electric assist helps on every uphill climb. Handling on the switchback filled roads is comfortable, precise and easy. Comfortable because Jetta has excellent road manners; precise because the electronically assisted power steering is calibrated so well; easy because with the other two and the Hybrid suspension, I’m often going faster than the posted speed limit without even realizing it.

One unexpected observation is that when I’m behind another vehicle going between 50 and 65 km/h, my fuel economy actually gets worse. It’s as if I were going too slow for a highway and too fast for town. When I manage to get by this roving road block and back up to highway speed, fuel economy improves significantly. Since I am not renowned for eco-friendly driving, my overall fuel economy numbers are not brilliant, but I’m certainly happy with my 6.5 L/100km. A couple feather-foots that arrive later achieve 5.1 l/100 km.

This Hybrid puts a grin on your face when you drive, keeps you in the comfort to which you enjoy, holds five people and is intent on making gas pumps obsolete. What is there to not like?

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Fact file:

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

MSRP range: $27,875-$34,025

Configuration: front engine/ front wheel drive

Available engines: 1.4L turbo 4-cyl. (Net 170 hp/ 184 lb.-ft.)

Available transmissions: 7-spd auto. with sequential shift

Fuel economy ratings (L/100km): Est. 5.2 comb.

Warranties: Exp. 4 years/ 80 000 km (basic); 5 years/ 100 000 km (powertrain); 8 years/ 160,000 km (hybrid components)

Competitors: Honda Insight; Toyota Prius;