2021 Volkswagen Jetta

2021 Volkswagen Jetta Review: Polished Modesty

The Volkswagen Jetta stands out from the diminishing sedan crowd for being one of the most well-rounded family-friendly budget cars on the road. And that's saying a lot, considering its competition includes the Hyundai Elantra, Honda Civic Sedan, and Mazda 3. With newer sedans showing off attractive modern designs and value-rich feature consignments, VW saw it fit to improve the Jetta with some minor exterior enhancements and interior provisions to keep it competitive for 2021. A 1.4-liter turbo-four engine still propels the front wheels of every model in the lineup, ceding outputs of 147 horsepower via either an eight-speed automatic or six-speed manual gearbox. With its reasonable pricing, top-notch safety ratings, and high expectations for reliability, the Jetta remains an ideal car for those looking for a sophisticated yet family-friendly daily cruiser.

2021 Volkswagen Jetta Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 Jetta?

Not much is new for the VW Jetta, with only a few cosmetic enhancements and minor alterations applied for the 2021 model year. The S gets 16-inch alloys with a new two-tone design. The steering wheel and shifter in the SE and SEL are enriched with contrast stitching while the driver's seat in both is installed with power-adjustability. The SEL and the top-of-the-line SEL Premium feature VW's latest MIB3 infotainment software, which provides for improved navigation with voice recognition, wireless App-Connect with compatible multi-phone pairing, SiriusXM radio connectivity with 360L streaming, and USB-C charging.

Pros and Cons

  • An affordable everyday sedan
  • Very frugal fuel consumption
  • There's still a manual gearbox
  • Practical everyday commuter
  • Affordable packages and options
  • There's just one engine
  • Mundane performance
  • Unoriginal outer design

Best Deals on Jetta

2021 Volkswagen Jetta Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
S
1.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Manual
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$18,995
R-Line
1.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Manual
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$22,795
SE
1.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$22,895
SEL
1.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$25,745
SEL Premium
1.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$28,045

Volkswagen Jetta Exterior

Predominantly unaltered but still undeniably attractive, the Jetta comes outfitted with chrome detailing for a more eye-catching look. The chrome dual-bar grille upfront (blacked-out for the R-Line) is complemented by these additions along with the chrome beltline. The grille is flanked by integrated LED headlights and underscored by a blacked-out air intake and two air dams on either side of that. Wheel designs and sizes vary between the variants - the S gets freshly styled 16-inch alloys, the SE also has 16-inch items, and the R-Line, SEL, and SEL Premium get larger 17-inchers.

2021 Volkswagen Jetta Front View Volkswagen
2021 Volkswagen Jetta Rear View Volkswagen
2021 Volkswagen Jetta Front Angle View Volkswagen
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VW Jetta Sedan Dimensions

Built on Volkswagen's MQB platform, the Jetta's dimensions are suited to the compact sedan classification. There are 185.1 inches between the prow and stern, with 105.7 inches making up the wheelbase. Total height comes in at 57.6 inches and width at 70.8 inches. Those measurements are on par with most competitors in the class. Curb weights are either 2,895 pounds for the manual or 2,965 lbs for the automatic, making the Jetta one of the heavier vehicles in this segment. In its lightest configuration, the Hyundai Elantra comes in at 2,725 lbs, while the Honda Civic sedan tips the scales at 2,771 lbs.

  • Length 185.1 in
  • Wheelbase 105.7 in
  • Height 57.4 in
  • Max Width 70.8 in
  • Front Width 60.7 in
  • Rear Width 60.4 in

Exterior Colors

There are eight exterior paint colors presented for the new Volkswagen Jetta, although some trims are limited to a reduced palette. Cost-inclusive hues include the typical - Black, Pure White, and Tornado Red, all of which are available to all but the top-tier variant. Metallics, including Platinum Gray, Pyrite Silver, and Habanero Orange are also accessible to all, the latter at a surcharge of $295. Silk Blue Metallic is offered for all but the R-Line, which gets Deep Black Pearl instead, while dispensing with Black. Deep Black Pearl is also offered for the SEL Premium and it's the hue we'd go for. Otherwise, the Habanero Orange is certainly worth the money.

  • Habanero Orange Metallic
  • Silk Blue Metallic
  • Black Uni
  • Pure White
  • Pyrite Silver Metallic
  • Platinum Gray Metallic
  • Tornado Red
  • Deep Black Pearl

Volkswagen Jetta Performance

Most sedans these days are designed with a sporty flair but, in reality, they're all relatively sedate in nature. This is true for the Jetta too, as its 1.4-liter turbo-four mill powers it from 0 - 60 mph in a fair 7.7 seconds, based on independent testing. That figure remains constant with either of the transmissions. The performance-focused Jetta GLI is the vehicle to go for if you're looking for something a bit more fun to drive, with a sprint time to the 60 mph mark of below six seconds. The regular Jetta is, nevertheless, considerably faster than the Elantra off-the-line with that sedan managing the sprint in a time closer to ten seconds. The Jetta's top speed is 127 miles per hour, which is typical for vehicles in this entry-level segment.

The Jetta R-Line model, as the sporty trim-line, is in no way any more athletic than the other trims. It is equipped with an XDS differential which simply improves traction at the limits, but doesn't improve straight-line acceleration in any way.

2021 Volkswagen Jetta Front View Driving Volkswagen
2021 Volkswagen Jetta Side View Driving Volkswagen
2021 Volkswagen Jetta Wheel Volkswagen

Engine and Transmission

Every Jetta in the 2021 lineup comes with the same powertrain spec - a turbocharged 147-hp and 184-lb-ft 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine, with a front-wheel drivetrain. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard-fit in the base model S and the R-Line, while an eight-speed automatic, which is standard in all other models, is optional.

Acceleration from a traffic light or stop sign is strapping by virtue of the engine's high torque output, but that power tapers off pretty quickly at higher speeds when highway merges and overtaking becomes more strenuous. There's no turbo lag exhibited from the mill at any rate, and both the transmissions cooperate effectively with the motor. Benefits with the manual include a more engaging drive, something to consider if you've got your eye on the R-Line. The automatic is perhaps a little smoother with its shifts, making it the choice for those seeking as much of a leisurely drive as possible.

  • Engine
    1.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmissions
    6-Speed Manual, 8-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain
    FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Comfort is prioritized for the Jetta, but as with any lower-cost vehicle, it isn't even nearly perfect. Cruising down the highway is a smooth and soft affair with only the engine's slight lack of power proving to be somewhat of an annoyance. Minor road abrasions and speed bumps are dealt with appropriately in town but bigger bumps will rattle the cabin and its occupants. The Civic and the Mazda 3 take the lead in this department, delivering a far more compliant and unhindered ride quality overall.

The Jetta's handling is good, but certainly not the best. It's an easy sedan to commute the daily grind with, especially around town where its mill works optimally. It feels appropriately nimble around corners, which can be taken confidently at low- to mid-speeds, while maneuvering out of tight spots is effortless, too. Some front-end understeer is exhibited at higher speeds along with some body lean, but the steering tightens up nicely for added control. The R-Line with its XDS differential is a little more precise and poised through the bends, benefitting from some added traction.

All in all, the Jetta is a viable pick for those who simply seek a straightforward cruiser they can use on a day-to-day basis. It's by no means an enthusiast's car, but as a sedan that focuses on being practical and dependable, it's more than adequate.

Jetta Gas Mileage

As with most compact cars, the Jetta performs impressively in terms of frugality in most regular scenarios. The manual is marginally more efficient, returning EPA-rated gas mileage of 30/41/34 mpg city/highway/combined. The automatic is nearly as frugal and will manage 29/39/33 mpg.

Both the Hyundai Elantra and the Honda Civic are a little more economical, however, with the Civic returning best EPA estimates of 36 mpg in combined scenarios and the Elantra an even better 37 mpg. One should be able to get up to 459 miles from the Jetta on a full 13.5-gallon tank of gas.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    13.2 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 30/41 mpg
* 2021 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T S Manual

Volkswagen Jetta Interior

VW is pretty good at giving its vehicles a high-quality impression, and this is impressively carried through into the Jetta despite its budget appeal. The cabin is surprisingly commodious and while there are hard-touch plastics utilized here and there, they've been finely integrated not to ruin the premium feel. There are a lot of angular shapes and sharp edges portrayed in the dashboard and doors, giving the interior a modern and minimalist aesthetic. The driver's instrument cluster and the infotainment touchscreen, which is located in the upper center dash, are nicely molded together, too, resulting in an ergonomic setup focused on the driver. This is mostly the case with the larger digital cockpit on the upper-tier trims. The overall cabin impression is outstanding all-round, but there's a valuable and noticeable difference in the design and quality as of the R-Line trim and upward.

2021 Volkswagen Jetta Dashboard Volkswagen
2021 Volkswagen Jetta Steering Wheel Volkswagen
2021 Volkswagen Jetta Dashboard 1 Volkswagen
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Seating and Interior Space

Five passengers can comfortably ride along in the Jetta with minimal complaints about overall room. Headroom is ample, with 38.5 inches in front and 37.2 inches at the back. Legroom up front is plentiful, too, with 41.1 inches of stretch room provided. Rear passengers get just 37.4 inches for their legs, so only the tallest of humans may find some discomfort. The seats, whether upholstered in regular cloth as in the S, or V-Tex leatherette, as is in the SE, R-Line, and SEL, or genuine leather, as in the SEL Premium, all look classy and feel comfortable and supportive. They're spacious, too, and the front passengers are afforded plenty of seating adjustability. Ingress and egress to and from any of the positions is effortless thanks to appropriately wide doors and a comfortable step-in height.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 41.1 in
  • Front Head Room 38.5 in
  • Rear Leg Room 37.4 in
  • Rear Head Room 37.2 in

Interior Colors and Materials

In the base trim, a vinyl steering wheel is stock. It doesn't feel all that great and, along with the few hard-touch elements in the cabin, can bring attention to the cost-cutting measures VW took to keep the Jetta affordable. The leather steering wheel is a lot more pleasing. The cloth seating upholstery in the S is available in Titan Black or Storm Gray, depending on exterior hues selected. The V-Tex leatherette in the following three trims looks a lot better; in the SE and SEL it can be had in either Titan Black, Storm Gray or Dark Beige, while the R-Line has two-tone seats. The SEL and SEL Premium are the only trims that come with ten-color ambient LED lighting and the latter also gets genuine leather seating surfaces, also finished in either Titan Black, Storm Gray, or a combination of Titan Black and Dark Beige.

Volkswagen Jetta Trunk and Cargo Space

For a regular compact sedan, the Volkswagen Jetta is reasonably practical. There's only 14.1 cubic feet available in the trunk, but that's not too far off from what the main competitors offer. By comparison, the Civic offers 15.1 and the Elantra 14.2, so there's no real bragging rights when it comes to who can haul more things. One should be able to manage four medium suitcases into the trunk of the Jetta, but if more space is required, the rear seats can be folded flat in a 60/40-split configuration.

In-cabin stow-away solutions are rather minimal. The passenger-side glove box is decently sized and the door-side pockets are acceptable, but that's all you get for your larger items. There's a small-items tray ahead of the shifter and two cup holders between the front seats, and in all but the base variant, rear passengers get two cupholders located in the backrest of the center seat, too.

2021 Volkswagen Jetta Dashboard 2 Volkswagen
2021 Volkswagen Jetta Sunroof Volkswagen
2021 Volkswagen Jetta Rear Angle View Volkswagen
  • Trunk Volume
    14.1 ft³

Volkswagen Jetta Infotainment and Features

Features

Every trim comes with an appreciable list of features. In the S, a multifunction steering wheel, a multifunction driver's display, a manually-adjustable driver's seat, manual air conditioning, and cruise control are all standard. The SE allows for keyless entry and push-button start, and is upgraded with heated front seats, a power tilt/sliding panoramic sunroof, and dual-zone automatic climate control. The driver-assist selection is enhanced with forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking, rear traffic alert, and blind-spot monitoring. The R-Line simply features some cosmetic changes, including a leather-wrapped steering wheel with an R-Line badge, a black headliner, and a two-tone seat design. In the upper two models, VW's digital cockpit improves the visuals, there are steering wheel heating functions, heated rear outboard seats, high-beam control, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keep assist. Finally, the top-tier cruiser comes outfitted with an eight-way power driver's seat with memory, and both front seats are ventilated as well.

Infotainment

The small 6.5-inch touchscreen that's integrated into most models is a little disappointing. It's rather small and it just looks tacky, especially when compared to the larger and fancier MIB3 system with an eight-inch display in the SEL and SEL Premium. Both screens display high-quality images nonetheless, and full smartphone integration, which includes compatibility for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, is inclusive as of the S. There's AM/FM Radio connectivity and VW's CarNet App suite, along with Bluetooth functions. The SEL and SEL Premium receive SiriusXM radio, HD Radio and wireless device charging, while the top-of-the-line model gets onboard navigation. A stock four-speaker sound system is standard-fit in most models with the top two trims featuring an eight-speaker BeatsAudio setup.

Volkswagen Jetta Problems and Reliability

The USA's 2021 Volkswagen Jetta remains ironclad, having been subject to absolutely no recalls as yet. The 2020 variant has, however, been subjected to two recalls, the first pertaining to potentially loosening brake caliper bolts and the second to a front seat backrest that may not have been welded properly. With an overall rating of 83 out of 100, J.D. Power expresses no concern for the dependability of the latest Jetta. If that doesn't inspire your confidence, VW sells the Jetta with a four-year/50,000-mile powertrain and basic warranty. Along with this, the automaker includes two years or 20,000 miles of complimentary scheduled maintenance.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    7 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Maintenance:
    2 Years \ 20,000 Miles

Jetta Safety

The latest VW Jetta's crashworthiness reviews are superb. The NHTSA's review of the current version resulted in an overall five-star overall safety rating. The IIHS is yet to review the 2021 Volkswagen Jetta, but last year's version received top scores of Good for all six of the crashworthiness evaluations it underwent, which should carry over to this year's version.

US NHTSA crash test result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Key Safety Features

VW has included a fair number of protective features for the Jetta; all models come outfitted with the essentials such as electronic stability control, anti-slip regulation, electronic differential locking, engine brake-assist, hydraulic brake assist, ABS, EBD, and a tire-pressure monitoring system. All also feature six regular airbags; dual front, front side thorax, and side curtain airbags. Cruise control and a rearview camera are also standard across the range. In the SE, forward-collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is added. The top two models get high-beam control, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keep assist.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Volkswagen Jetta a good car?

For anyone looking for an affordable, practical, and relatively stylish means of transportation for themselves or a small family, the Volkswagen Jetta is sure to appease. It's a typical casual commuter with a less-frills approach to design and performance. A true driving enthusiast would get little joy out of this car and would do themselves a favor looking elsewhere; the Honda Civic, for instance, is a far more enjoyable cruiser at a similar price. The Jetta is a more comfort-oriented vehicle, offering a sedate driving experience and a ride quality that is pleasant and makes passengers feel safe and secure. It also comes with all the creature comforts and conveniences required to keep all its passengers happy. Unfortunately, one does have to opt for one of the pricier higher-spec trims to get the better infotainment setup and advanced driver-assist tech. Ultimately, VW has specced the Jetta just enough for it to pass as one of the better budget vehicles, but it's rather forgettable overall. We'd suggest taking it, and a couple of its core rivals, out for a test drive to establish a solid opinion before pulling the trigger.

🚘What's the Price of the 2021 Volkswagen Jetta?

The Jetta is Volkswagen's budget-sedan and as such is priced reasonably low for the budget-conscious market. The S, equipped with the manual gearbox, comes in at a base price of $18,995, while the automatic variant comes in at $19,795. The SE follows at an MSRP of $22,895 - that includes the auto gearbox as standard. The manual-equipped R-Line brings with it a slightly sportier aesthetic for a price of $22,795, while the automatic option costs $23,595. If you're looking for a little more comfort and convenience, the SEL asks $25,745 and the top-of-the-line SEL Premium goes for $28,045. All prices exclude tax, licensing, registration, and a $995 destination charge.

2021 Volkswagen Jetta Models

As before, five variants make up the 2021 Volkswagen Jetta lineup; the S, SE, R-Line, SEL, and the SEL Premium. All are outfitted with the same engine - a 1.4-liter turbo-four mated to a six-speed manual gearbox in the S and R-Line and an eight-speed automatic gearbox in all the rest. The latter is optional for the S and R-Line. A front-wheel-drive setup is standard across the board.

Base specifications in the S include all-LED exterior lighting, full-power accessories, and 16-inch two-tone alloy wheels. On the inside, there's a vinyl steering wheel, a manually-adjustable driver's seat, cloth upholstery, and basic aircon. A 6.5-inch touchscreen with full smartphone functionality, AM/FM radio connectivity, and Bluetooth covers infotainment, along with four stock speakers. Safety features here include cruise control, a rearview camera, and an automatic post-collision braking system.

One can enter the SE using keyless entry and start things up with push-button ignition. Upgrades include V-Tex leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a panoramic sunroof. Protection measures are bolstered with forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, and blind-spot monitoring.

For some sportier styling, there's the R-Line, featuring bespoke front and rear bumper cues, an XDS differential for improved traction, and 17-inch alloy wheels. It also gets a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The SEL is fitted with LED projector headlights, VW's digital cockpit, a heated steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated rear seats, and ten-color ambient cabin lighting. It also gets adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist. Infotainment is upgraded with an eight-inch touchscreen display, an eight-speaker BeatsAudio sound system, and wireless charging.

Finally, the SEL Premium comes with an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with heating and ventilation, memory settings for the driver's seat, genuine leather upholstery, and built-in navigation.

See All 2021 Volkswagen Jetta Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

It's difficult to escalate the Volkswagen Jetta's base price too much as VW provides only a couple of additional packages and standalone options for the lineup. VW did increase the cost of the Driver Assistance Package by $50, for 2021 but it's still value-packed at $500.

The Driver Assistance Package is optional only for the S and installs forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking (front assist), blind-spot monitoring, rear traffic alert, and heated side mirrors.

For $500, the SE and R-Line can be installed with the Cold Weather Package, which includes remote start, a heated steering wheel, heated washer nozzles for the windshield, heated rear outboard seats, and a windshield washer fluid indicator. Opting in the automatic gearbox will require a $800 surcharge on these two trims.

All models can also be fitted with 16-inch Merano Winter wheels for $250, and 17-inch Trenton or Diamond Cut Multi-spoke wheels can be opted on for $437. However, the tires are sold separately.

🚗What VW Jetta Model Should I Buy?

At a price of around $28k, the top-of-the-line SEL Premium packages the most value for the money. It gets VW's attractive digital cockpit, which looks phenomenal alongside the eight-inch infotainment touchscreen - a defining factor for the overall impression and quality of the Jetta's cabin. The BeatsAudio sound system is also a major upgrade. Opting for this model does mean that you don't get the option of the manual gearbox and will miss out on the improved dynamics of the XDS differential in the R-Line, but the Jetta is more of a leisure-mobile than anything else, anyway, so taking full advantage of its appeal as a comfortable family car just makes the most sense.

Check out other Volkswagen Jetta Styles

2021 Volkswagen Jetta Comparisons

Volkswagen Passat Volkswagen
Honda Civic Sedan Honda
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Volkswagen Jetta147 hp30/41 mpg$18,995
Volkswagen Passat 174 hp23/34 mpg$22,995
Honda Civic Sedan 158 hp30/38 mpg$21,250

2021 Volkswagen Jetta vs Volkswagen Passat

The Passat is essentially the larger, more expensive version of the Jetta. It's a midsize semi-luxury cruiser offering more power from its 2.0-liter turbo-four mill. It doesn't feature any manual transmission options like the Jetta with only a six-speed automatic coming standard. It's not nearly as economical as the Jetta, however, returning EPA figures of 24/36/28 mpg. As the larger vehicle, it's naturally the more spacious and practical sedan, presenting rear passengers with more room overall and a trunk capacity of almost two cubic feet more than the Jetta's. Standard and available features for the Passat don't quite match up to those offered with the Jetta, however, and the latter even gets a slightly larger infotainment screen. Overall, the Passat offers only a minor advantage in acceleration responses at higher speeds, while being more spacious, but the Jetta certainly packages a whole lot more value for the money.

See Volkswagen Passat Review

2021 Volkswagen Jetta vs Honda Civic Sedan

At a starting MSRP just over the $20k mark, the Honda Civic Sedan is just a little more expensive than the Jetta. For that little bit extra, you do get a whole lot more though, at least that is if you're actually into driving. The Civic sports a far more engaging chassis paired with a dynamic suspension setup, resulting in a more performance-centric driving and handling experience. It gets the pick of two engines, with one being a brilliant 174-hp turbocharged engine, and there is a manual gearbox. You still benefit from the available CVT as well, and with it, the Civic returns leading gas mileage figures of 36 mpg in mixed driving scenarios, beating the Jetta's 34 mpg. Honda has also included most of its advanced features into all of its Civic models, along with high-end accouterments in a cabin that is a bit more commodious than the Jettas. The Civic's trunk is a little more spacious, too, which, along with all its other winning perks, makes it the sedan to go for.

See Honda Civic Sedan Review

Volkswagen Jetta Popular Comparisons

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