As a car guy myself, I have always been adamantly against hybrid cars. When I think of cars, I want them to have a fuel-injected engine, make vroom-vroom noises under the hood, and spit out fire out the back of the exhaust. Obviously, since I am comparing Jetta’s it’s clearly not going to be throwing flames, but never mind that.
Statistically speaking, the Volkswagen Jetta is one of the best selling Volkswagens of all time. Since 2010, Volkswagen has sold, on average, around 10,000 Jetta’s per month in the United States. It’s an affordable car for all, gets pretty great gas milage, averaging at around 26 or 36 mpg depending on the trim you get-or above 50 mpg if you were to opt for the hybrid version. With the SE version that I got to test, comes a 1.8L turbocharged engine that is good for 170 horsepower and 184 lb/ft, which isn’t too bad for a small sedan. The turbocharger, though it is a very “modest” little thing, produces an extremely satisfactory noise at around 3500-5000 rpm. Since the car only weighs around 3000 lbs and has a relatively humble powerfigures, even with tires that are only 205/55-16, it can be quite good fun in back roads. There are no surprises or major freak outs, the steering has a good feel to it, and overall, it’s a solid little car.
In the 21st century, however, there’s a “fad” going on. Everyone seems to prefer hybrid cars and if they got the option, majority of people would opt for the hybrid version of the car-at least it seems like it. Of course, there’s the obvious benefit of higher gas milage when it comes to hybrid cars. Just like many others, the Jetta Hybrid is fitted with a battery that, combined with the 1.4L turbocharged engine. Interestingly enough, the powerfigures are almost identical with the Jetta SE, only the max torque produced is at 1,000 rpm versus the Jetta SE’s 1,500. The electric motor is integrated into the combustion engine; while it can be used on fully electric mode, it can also provide the combustion engine with a little bit of extra electric power to increase torque. With the help of the instant-torque from the electric motor, the Jetta Hybrid has a quicker pickup both off of the line, and better overall acceleration.
I guess the question I get to at this point is if the $25,000 MSRP on the Jetta Hybrid worth it? For the extra few grand, you get a smaller engine, less turbo whistle, less trunk space, and a heavier car. The electric battery on the hybrid isn’t externally chargeable and it is only refilled from regenerated energy from the combustion engine, and if you were to drive in full electric mode, you could only drive a mile or so until the battery goes flat and the 1.4L Inline 4 engine kicks back in. And also since the battery is refilled mostly from breaking and the energy produced while the car is coasting, the brakes on the Jetta hybrid is unnecessarily sensitive and takes a while to get used to. On top of that, I am not a huge fan of the fact that you feel like you’re being almost “held back” as the car regenerates battery while coasting. Lastly, while the car is stopped the gas engine shuts off to save gas–which is a great idea and various higher-end cars have been implementing that system into their cars for years–but if it’s stopped on a hill, its reaction is completely unpredictable as the car starts rolling back like a manual drive car until the hybrid system decides to start the engine again; it feels like hours go by before the engine prevents you from going straight into the car behind you. It really doesn’t help that I’m from Seattle either.
There is no denying that overall, they’re both perfectly good, small, sedans. They both have great features especially for the money that you pay for them. Features like Hill-start assist, individual climate control all around, and key-less entry/button start are things that are usually associated with higher tier vehicles. If one were to own the Jetta hybrid for decades, I guess the relatively steep price could pay itself off, eventually. But knowing life span of an average Volkswagen, let alone a hybrid one, I personally don’t feel like the Jetta hybrid is worth the extra few thousand dollars; if I was given the choice, I’d take the 1.8L turbocharged engine every time.