2017 Jetta: Sport-tuned sedan

UIf you want basic transportation from point A to point B, then the Jetta isn’t your car. There’s nothing boring about this compact sedan.

The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta, a sporty little number with three turbocharged four-cylinder engine choices, has long been Volkswagen’s best-selling vehicle in the United States. There are at least three pretty good reasons why: it has sporty European styling, an engaging drive, and good fuel economy.

VW has simplified the model offerings to four: S, SE, SEL, and the performance-oriented GLI. Also new for 2017, all Jetta models get a standard rearview camera, and blind-spot monitoring is now standard on SE trims.

The base S and mid-level SE trims get a 1.4-liter engine that develops 150 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque, while the SEL trim gets a 1.8-liter engine that develops 170 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. Finally, the GLI gets a 2.0-liter turbo-four that kicks out 210 horses and 207 lb.-ft. of torque.

Available transmissions in the front-wheel-drive Jetta include a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. The GLI model gets either a six-speed manual or a fast-shifting six-speed dual-clutch automatic. These proven powertrains help make the Jetta an enjoyable ride with good fuel economy.

With the manual transmission, the base Jetta with the 1.4-liter engine earned an EPA rating of 28 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. The 1.8-liter promises 25 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway, and the 2.0-liter is rated at 24 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the road.

The Jetta has a firm ride, especially in the GLI with its sport-tuned suspension. Our test Jetta just felt planted on the road, with linear steering and scant body roll in hard cornering. It was fun to drive and didn’t disappoint when I pressed the throttle.

The new Jetta also has a roomy and comfortable cabin with generous rear-seat legroom and headroom. Headroom in front is 38.2 inches. The second row boasts 37.1 inches of headroom and 38.1 inches of legroom. The trunk is a sizable 15.7 cubic feet, which can be increased by folding down the 60 / 40-split rear seatbacks. I climbed into the back seat and found it comfortable for my 6-foot-1 frame, while my hair barely brushed the headliner in the back row.

Lots of soft touch materials adorn the dash and armrests. Even entry-level Jetta models are well-equipped with standard air conditioning, cruise control, one-touch power windows, remote keyless entry, Bluetooth connectivity, rearview camera, and power-heated mirrors. I found the Jetta’s controls and switches simple and intuitive to use.

Stepping up in trim, features include a six-way power driver’s seat, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, sunroof, V-Tex leatherette seating surfaces, and heated seats.

Infotainment is via MIB II with a 6.3-inch touchscreen. Our test Jetta GLI boasted comfortable front sport seats, navigation system, unique red stitching, and a blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert and park distance control. The Fender Premium Audio System cranks 400 watts of power through nine speakers and a trunk-mounted subwoofer.

When it comes to safety, the 2017 Jetta is about as safe as a sedan can be. The Jetta earns five out of five overall safety stars from the government and was named a Top Safety Pick Plus from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Jetta has a full complement of airbags, including side curtains.

Volkswagen also offers Car-Net Security & Service, which allows owners to remotely access their vehicle from a compatible smartphone. The service includes automatic crash notification, a manual emergency call, roadside assistance, and stolen vehicle location assistance.

Finally, the Jetta also offers Family Guardian, a suite of features that allows parents to keep track of how their young drivers are performing behind the wheel. Parents can also set speed and virtual boundary parameters and if either is exceeded, they will be notified.

The base S Jetta with the automatic transmission starts at $18,995, the SE starts at $21,995, the SEL starts at $24,995, and the GLI starts at $28,995. You can subtract $1,100 if you want the manual transmission.