2015 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T SE w/ Connectivity & Nav

The Volkswagen Jetta just may be the quintessential car.

The Volkswagen Jetta just may be the quintessential car.

It is the sort of straight-up car that looks like a car, drives like a car, has sufficient room for people and cargo as a (compact) car.

It just is, well, a car.

And I mean that in a good way.

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There is nothing flashy about it. Nothing trendy about it. Nothing that says “Hey, look at me!” about it.

Which some people might not find all that engaging as they are more interested in what a car says than what a car does.

But if you’re more interested in speaking for yourself rather than letting an object speak for or about you, if you’re interested in a car that does what a car should with evident competence, then maybe the Jetta is a car that you ought to take a look at.

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It is a four-door sedan. The car that I had was painted “Platinum Gray Metallic.” It is gray. A nice gray. But an anonymous gray. The interior is black. A leatherette. Not real leather. It seems like real not-top-quality leather. The black plastic materials throughout the cabin have nice texture and graining. They are accented with trim that is a patterned silver metallic plastic material. The backlighting of the gauges and whatnot are red. It is sort of darkroom chic.

The four-cylinder, direct-injected turbocharged engine is mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Sometimes turbocharged engines have a distinctive lag. This 170-hp engine doesn’t. Sometimes dual-clutch transmissions provide a herky-jerky feeling when shifting. This one doesn’t. The engine is nicely responsive. The transmission is seamless.

Again: just what you’d expect from a compact car.

There are some nice touches. Like active grille shutters which improve aerodynamics and contribute to the highly respectable fuel economy rating (25/37 city/highway). Like the available Lighting Package (a $995 option on this trim level—and that name up there in the headline is the actual name of the vehicle, ampersand included) that has bi-xenon headlamps with dynamic cornering (turn the wheel and the lights shift in that direction) along with 15 LEDs in an L-shape for the daytime running lights.

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Nowadays I am surprised if I get into a car that costs more than $20,000 (the MSRP for this one is $23,650) and discover that it doesn’t have automatic climate control. I was surprised with the Jetta.

The trunk is capacious, and at 15.7-cu. ft., it is said to be “class leading.” The other members of the class include the Civic, Cruze, Dart, Focus, and Corolla.

While it might seem as though I am damning the car for being inconspicuous, that is far from being my intent. I actually like the car quite a bit because it is so forthrightly what it is.

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It strikes me as a no-nonsense car but not something that is a punishment or a penalty. Rather, it seems to have been developed by people who said, “What do most people really need in their daily transport existence? Let’s answer that question and deliver on those requirements.”

And that they have.

Selected specs

Engine: 1.8-liter turbocharged I4

Material: Cast iron block, aluminum head

Horsepower: 170 @ 4,800 rpm

Torque: 184 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Steering: Electrical power-assist rack-and-pinion

Wheelbase: 104.4 in.

Length: 183.3 in.

Width: 70 in.

Height: 57.2 in.

Seating capacity: 5

Passenger volume: 94.1 cu. ft.

Cargo volume: 15.7 cu. ft.

Curb weight: 3,124 lb.

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 25/37/30 mpg