2013 Jetta Hybrid SEL Premium review: Decisions, decisions

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

Decisions, decisions. You were about to spring for a new Volkswagen Jetta TDi, what with its fuel efficient diesel engine. The Jetta TDi has an EPA fuel economy rating of 30/42 mpg city/highway, and you know that by our experience at CarBuzzard that the Volkswagen Beetle TDi recorded 39.7 mpg, and that model trades aerodynamics for personality. But on the other side of the showroom…what’s that? It’s a 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid.

It’s almost weird. However it’s not the Jetta Hybrid that’s odd, but rather its very existence. With Volkswagen’s affection for Herr Diesel’s compression ignition engine, the Hybrid seems out of place. It’s sort of like putting a diesel engine in a Prius. Yet there it is, and it gets, at least according to the EPA test procedure, 42/48 mpg city/highway, and on gasoline at that, even if premium is required. Without even trying very much, we recorded an average 41.2 mpg in mixed exurban/highway driving in a hilly area, which eats fuel economy, especially for hybrids.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid engine

The 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid drivetrain combines a 1.4-liter engine, electric motor and DSG dual-clutch transmission. (click to enlarge)

Of course, none of this comes free. The hybrid Jetta come with a substantial premium even over the diesel, which costs more than the base Jetta S powered by the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine at $16,720 or even the more common Jetta SE, with its five-cylinder 2.5-liter engine, starting at $19,015. To get into the diesel-powered Jetta TDi means ponying up at least 23,055. The 2013 Jetta Hybrid starts at $24,995, and our well-equipped top-of-the-line 2013 Jetta Hybrid SEL Premium came in with an MSRP of $31,975.

Naturally, the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid shares most of the characteristics of the many versions of the compact German sedan, and although not as aggressive as the Jetta GLI, for example, the Jetta Hybrid shows its heritage with its agility on winding back roads.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid instrument panel

The 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid replaces the tachometer with an energy meter. (click to enlarge)

Volkswagen calls the Jetta Hybrid “the hybrid for turbo fans.” Don’t get carried away by that because the Jetta Hybrid won’t blow you away. It’s quicker at full throttle than most other hybrids in its class, but the engine, even if turbocharged, is only 1.4 liters, and with the electric motor working along with the gas engine, maximum output is 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft or torque. Maximum torque, however, is at 1000 rpm, thanks to the electric motor’s boost. The high torque at low rpm gives the Jetta Hybrid considerable scoot around town.

The Jetta Hybrid drives its front wheels via a standard-equipment DSG twin-clutch seven-speed automatic, something unique to the VW hybrid. It provides a sportiness typically missing with hybrids with a continuously variable transmission, even if it has a sometimes clunky take-up from a stop—not uncommon for a DSG.

The interior of the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

The interior of the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid in “Cornsilk Beige.” (Click to enlarge)

The 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid differs from other Jettas with different instrumentation, including the usual-for-hybrids multi-information display in the center stack with the option of showing hybrid operation details, including power flow/charging diagrams showing what power is being created/used where and for what, the amount of charge available and a bar graph of zero emissions driving.

In the primary instrument panel, instead of a tachometer, the Jetta Hybrid has a charge/power gauge that, unlike similar gauges in other hybrids has a “turbo” section. In the Jetta, the gauge has the numbers zero through ten around the edge, with zero at off, proceeding to energy regeneration under braking, through the most energy -efficient  driving, to gasoline engine while charging the battery, to the gasoline engine with no battery charging, and at “10,” under turbocharger boost.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid badge

The 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid has “hybrid” badges front, side and rear, just so you know. (click to enlarge)

The 2013 Volkswagen can run up to 37 mph on its electric motor alone, as long as the driver keeps the pedal out of the carpet. When the gasoline engine is not running, the DSG transmission can completely declutch the gasoline engine, disconnecting from the drivetrain to reduce fuel economy-sapping mechanical drag. The system can turn off the engine whenever it’s not needed to maintain speed, helping the Jetta Hybrid attain its outstanding fuel economy.