2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid Handsome Little Dedan >

Road trips from our hometown of Long Beach to the Sonoma wine country can be grueling – and expensive – with fuel prices taken into account. For a recent trip to Sonoma Raceway and the NHRA drag races we were fortunate to access a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL Premium dressed in platinum gray metallic with titan black interior (a gray-black combo).

The big question mark is how effective this hybrid would be in a lineup that tends to focus on diesel-powered vehicles. As this four-door front-wheel-drive sedan already had 12,500 miles on its odometer, it was nicely broken in and ready to travel.

VW’s Jetta continues to be a handsome little sedan with just-right space for five adults and good cargo space – even with the hybrid battery pack removing four cubic feet of trunk area, there’s still 11.3 cubic feet including a shelf area at the front of the cargo hold (with the battery pack below). We fit two camera bags, a track bag and a 22-inch suitcase. There was definitely room for more.
Volkswagen uses a 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine as base for its Jetta hybrid and adds a 20kW electric motor that makes 170 total horsepower at 5000rpm together with 184 lb-ft of torque at a very usable 1,000 rpm. It’s mated to a quick-shifting true 7-speed DSG auto manual shiftable transmission that is unlike any hybrid I’ve driven as most have vague CVT transmissions.

This VW hybrid’s suspension is sporting, its brakes are excellent and steering feels quick and direct, again unlike any hybrid I’ve driven thus far. This sedan weighs 3312 pounds, which makes it a veritable lightweight in its class of car.

VW touts EPA mileage ratings of 42/48/45 mpg for the 2014 Jetta hybrid using premium fuel in the 11.9-gallon tank. We didn’t do quite that well, but then, we were traveling at speeds a wee bit above the limit, keeping up with traffic. In town, using the E-mode button that allows pure electric motoring, our average was close to 50mpg; over the road it fell to the low 40s – but the former type of driving is what this car was made for, not the latter.

Even so the VW Jetta Hybrid, in SEL Premium trim, is an extremely comfortable, economical and interesting car to drive on a long trip. The air conditioning on our hot summer voyage was excellent, the navigation system worked properly – albeit with a rather small screen – the backup camera is crisp and clear, audio includes satellite radio so something interesting is always available when human company isn’t, seats are supportive (power for driver) and should the weather turn chilly, heated seats are a nice feature.

VW uses a soft-touch proximity key that recognizes the fob in a driver’s pocket, allowing access to the trunk without opening any other doors. It also features pushbutton start/stop on this model. While there’s no air outlet for rear seats (boo!) there are cupholders in all four doors and two in the rear, pull-down armrest. The two-way power sunroof opens fully or partially with the flip of a roof-mounted wheel and very little wind noise intrudes.
As you might expect, it’s plenty quiet inside this Jetta Hybrid SEL Premium, which has a list price (no options) of $32,265. The seams on this VW are uniform and all doors close with a solid thunk. Inside there are both fuel and trunk releases on the door and the multi-function steering wheel holds audio and phone (easily paired) on the left and a really good info center on the right.

After nearly 1000 miles, I felt content with this vehicle. There’s hardly anything to bitch about, other than the fact that I really like VW’s diesels better than any hybrid vehicle. So there, I’ve said it. If a hybrid is in your plans and you do like to drive – as opposed to operating a motor vehicle – take a look at the Jetta Hybrid, particularly in SEL trim. It’s a honey of a car.

Words and photos by Anne Proffit