First Drive: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

Prius beware.

by on Nov.07, 2012

The 2013 VW Jetta introduces the line's fifth powertrain option.

If there isn’t an award for California Car of the Year, someone should invent it.  And we’re ready to bet the new 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid would be not only in the running but at the head of the pack.  It comes close to being the perfect car for Golden State motorists. Stylish, efficient and fun to drive this 45 mpg hybrid is one destined to give the Toyota Prius – currently Calfornia’s most popular car — a run for its money.

Starting price for Jetta Hybrid is $24,995 – even when loaded with a surprising range of features, such as Bluetooth and dual-zone climate control – the VW Jetta Hybrid has plenty going for it beyond mileage.  That includes surprisingly brisk acceleration, sporty handling, plenty of room in the cabin and the trunk, and more.

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The Hybrid becomes the fifth powertrain in the U.S. Jetta line-up. But beyond its badging, it retains the sleek, upscale, and timeless styling present in the rest of the model line. While the most obvious differences are the blue-highlighted VW emblem and unique wheels and front grille, the Jetta Hybrid adds a number of key features that help maximize aerodynamic efficiency and minimize road resistance.

At 45 mpg, other gas stations may go out of business, as well.

A Hybrid-specific air intake provides a flush seal and controls the flow of cooling air passing through the engine compartment. A custom trunk lid spoiler and front air dam have been designed exclusively for the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid’s aerodynamic needs, as have the extended side skirts. The differences carry over to the car’s underbody, where additional trim panels and end plates serve to guide the back to a diffuser at the rear, which helps reduce turbulence and control the flow and separation of passing air. The result of these changes is a Coefficient of Drag (Cd) of 0.28—the standard Jetta has a Cd of 0.30.

(Beyond the techno-speak, that reduced drag adds up to a couple miles per gallon.)

The SE model is differentiated from the entry-level Hybrid by LED taillights, while the SEL gains 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. The topline SEL Premium is marked out by 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, Bi-Xenon headlights with distinctive LED Daytime Running Lights, and foglights.

The 2013 VW Jetta Hybrid competes at a number of levels, including interior space.

The Jetta Hybrid’s advanced powertrain is highlighted by a unique set of displays inside the car. Taking the place of a traditional tachometer is the Jetta Hybrid’s “Power Meter”, which is a novel rethink of traditional instrumentation.

On the SE model and above, the radio/navigation system’s touchscreen in the center console also doubles as a detailed visualization of the powertrain’s operation. One example of this is the emissions statistics screen, which displays a bar graph showing the minute-by-minute percentage of zero-emissions driving in relative percentages (the previous 30 minutes are shown). The display also shows a diagram of the car and its underlying powertrain, with orange and blue areas (gasoline and electricity, respectively) representing exactly where power is coming or going at any given time and in any given drive mode. The display also includes the monitor for the rearview camera on the SEL Premium model.

The Jetta Hybrid's energy flow can be followed on this display.

All Jetta Hybrids are well equipped, with high-quality materials and plenty of chrome accents. The entry-level Jetta Hybrid has Climatronic® automatic dual-zone air conditioning, which is able to operate without the engine running. It also incorporates a “Max AC” feature, which removes any guesswork and simply achieves the desired temperature as quickly as possible. The cabin’s cooled air is subsequently fed into the hybrid battery pack for cooling. Other features on the Hybrid include standard Bluetooth connectivity and a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel.

The SE model adds a Media-Device Interface (MDI) with iPod® cable, the Premium VIII touchscreen radio, keyless access with push-button start, and SiriusXM® Satellite Radio. The SEL has a six-way power driver’s seat and the RNS 315 radio/navigation system, while the SEL Premium has the Fender Premium Audio System as standard equipment. The result of an exclusive collaboration between Volkswagen and one of the music industry’s most iconic brands, this 400-watt system features a 10-channel amplifier. In turn, this s four tweeters (two mounted in the A-pillars, two mounted in the rear doors), a 50-watt woofer installed in each door, and a 100-watt subwoofer box mounted under the rear shelf.

The star of the Jetta Hybrid show is unquestionably a powertrain that’s unique in the compact hybrid segment. Combining a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine with a 27-horsepower electric motor, the Jetta Hybrid is able to achieve a perfect balance of power, efficiency, and cleanliness.

The 2013 VW Jetta Hybrid's battery drive soul.

The gasoline engine is one of Volkswagen’s latest EA211 series of small engines. This features many improvements over the previous EA111, including lightweight aluminum construction, an integrated (into the head) exhaust manifold, and a toothed-belt drive for its double overhead camshaft valvetrain that incorporates variable intake timing.

The 1.4-liter TSI engine in the Jetta Hybrid features a 10.5:1 compression ratio, direct fuel injection, and turbocharging to produce 150 hp at 5000 rpm. This engine’s turbocharging system offers incredible boost response thanks to its cleverly designed intake manifold, which enables the use of a surprisingly small, single-scroll compressor. The intercooler, uniquely, is integrated directly into the injection-molded induction pipe. This design generates maximum torque of 184 pound-feet at 1600 rpm.

A hybrid also needs electric power. For that, the Volkswagen engineers employed an innovative hybrid module—a single, integrated unit that incorporates both the electric motor and the clutch that connects it to the engine. This water-cooled motor can add 27 horsepower (20kW) to the mix, as well as a constant 114 lb-ft of torque. Combined, the system puts out 170 hp at 5000 rpm and184 lb-ft of torque at an impressively low1000 rpm, giving the car incredibly smooth acceleration. (The maximum torque is limited by the transmission.)

Unlike the Prius, you'll likely have to catch this badge to know you're looking at a Jetta Hybrid.

An 11.9-gallon fuel tank provides gasoline for the engine, and a high-voltage battery placed above the rear axle powers the Jetta Hybrid’s electric motor. This 60-cell system produces a total voltage of 220 V, rated energy of 1.1 kWh, and pulse power of 32 kW.

An industry first, the Jetta Hybrid connects its powerplant to the pavement via a seven-speed, DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox. This unit can be operated as a pure automatic (“D” mode) or shifted manually. There is also a sport setting (“S” mode).

Thanks to the refined powertrain and features such as a newly designed exhaust system, an acoustic windshield, and thicker front side windows, the Jetta Hybrid is the quietest car Volkswagen has offered in the compact sedan class.

The Jetta Hybrid starts up as an electric vehicle and will remain like this up to speeds of 37 mph, dependent on how hard the driver wants to accelerate and on the topography. In this mode, the gasoline engine is stopped and is actually entirely disconnected from the drivetrain to eliminate any loss in efficiency through parasitic drag.

Though it can run in battery-only mode, the new Jetta Hybrid's turbocharged 1.4-liter engine also delivers a brisk launch.

Above 37mph (44 mph in E-Mode), when the battery level is low, or there’s a demand for additional power, the Jetta Hybrid taps into the turbocharged engine. Once the driver has depressed the gas pedal the required amount, the clutch immediately and seamlessly closes, thus starting the gasoline engine. Once operating, the engine delivers more power than is needed in order to charge the battery pack.

While the gasoline engine charges the battery during non-boost states, this requires energy and thus, fuel (albeit a minimal amount). The only truly “free” way of sending charge back to the battery is through regenerative braking. This process occurs whenever the driver applies the brakes, causing the Jetta Hybrid to convert the kinetic energy (in the form of heat) generated by braking into electricity in the battery.

The Jetta Hybrid is able to achieve excellent fuel economy: the manufacturer estimated combined figure is 45 mpg. Despite this impressive efficiency, the vehicle is still able to reach 60 mph from a standstill in 8.6 seconds, and continue on to a top track speed of 125 mph (electronically governed in the U.S.).

The 2013 VW Jetta Hybrid starts at less than $26,000 - including delivery and destination charges.

The Jetta Hybrid features a suspension designed for lively handling, as well as comfort and stability. The front end employs damper struts with lower control arms and an anti-roll bar. At the rear, the car uses a multi-link, independent layout featuring gas-pressurized dampers and separate coil springs. Combined with Volkswagen’s latest electric power steering system, the Jetta Hybrid offers predictably precise, sporty road manners without sacrificing smoothness or comfort. This is an especially noteworthy achievement in a segment that has historically stressed efficiency at the expense of an enjoyable drive.

Like the rest of the Volkswagen family, the 2013 Jetta Hybrid places a strong emphasis on safety. This begins with an extremely strong body structure that uses hot-formed steels and is meticulously designed to optimize the vehicle’s performance in front, side, and rear impact crashes.

The Jetta Hybrid's LED accented headlamps.

The Jetta Hybrid comes standard with front and side airbags for front-seat occupants, as well as Side Curtain Protection airbags for both front and rear seats. It also features numerous electronic driving aids and safety systems, including Anti-lock Braking (ABS), Electronic Brake-Pressure Distribution (EBD), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), and Hydraulic Brake Assist (HBA). Additionally, the Jetta line employs Volkswagen’s Intelligent Crash Response System (ICRS), which unlocks the doors and turns on the hazard lights, as well as shutting down the fuel system in certain types of collision.

The Jetta Hybrid SE starts at $26,990, and adds several significant features over the Hybrid. These include LED taillights and keyless access with push-button start, as well as the Premium VIII touchscreen audio system with color energy flow display in the center console. Also included is the Media-Device Interface with iPod® cable and SiriusXM® Satellite Radio.



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