2022 Volkswagen Jetta 1.5T SE Review

A decent case for the affordable, not-so-small sedan


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Feels refined in its driving manners, conservatively handsome, remarkably roomy for a compact sedan, better infotainment than the ID.4 and Golf R, big trunk.
Negatives: A bit floaty in the turns, lackluster transmission, some cheap-feeling controls on the center stack, a lot of grey plastic in the cabin.
Bottom Line: The Jetta will work for most people. It's easy to drive, seriously roomy, and has tech that's very user-friendly. It might not be a head-turner, but it will still look good in ten years.
The Jetta doesn't sell in huge numbers, mostly because it's a sedan and not a crossover. Plus, it has to compete in a crowded field against the likes of the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Hyundai Elantra, and the Nissan Sentra. But the Jetta happens to be the only German offering in the affordable compact sedan segment. It also happens to be the roomiest. The base engine is no thriller, however, and the 158-hp turbo four is merely passable even though it comes from the new Taos crossover. For 2022, some of the front fascia trim has been tweaked for a mild update, and some nice standard features have been added to the base model including automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and an 8.0-inch digital gauge cluster. We got to drive the mid-pack 1.5 SE for a week. Read on for all the details.
 

Driving Experience

6.9

 

The Jetta isn't what we would call sporty, but it rides smoothly and is more than just competent daily transportation with good braking and respectable steering. The car reveals its limitations when pushed, however.

Ride Quality: The Jetta feels downright refined over road imperfections. It feels more solid than much of the competition.

Acceleration: The engine's 10 more hp over last year's model sends the car from 0 to 60 in 7.6 seconds. While it has improved over the last model, it is still behind the Corolla, Elantra, and the Mazda3.

Braking: The brakes feel progressive and stopping distances are about average. We had no trouble modulating the pedal or coming to a stop without drama. Take note, however, that braking distances are a bit worse than the previous model.

Steering: While it's not as sharp as the Jetta GLI or the Golf GTI, the steering in the regular Jetta is pretty good with precision and on-centeredness.

Handling: The Jetta is floatier than we would like for a VW, but its manageable. The body roll is noticeable, but it never feels unbalanced or with excessive oversteer.

Technology

7.3

 

Having driven VWs with the newer and largely touch-based system in vehicles like the ID.4 EV and the Golf R, it's clear that VW didn't exactly think things out for its latest infotainment user experience. The Jetta's isn't sexy, but it's way easier to use.

Infotainment System: The 8" color touchscreen isn't exactly big or vivid, but it works very well with decent physical controls that flank the screen.

Controls: There's nothing wrong with conventional, and the Jetta's shift knob, steering wheel controls, and infotainment controls all work easily. The climate control knobs are fine, but they do feel a bit on the cheap side.

Styling

7.7

 

Small revisions to the front and rear fascias might not be very noticeable, but they make the Jetta look a bit more upscale than before. The styling of the Jetta isn't as noticeable as the Elantra or the Sentra, but we find it attractive in a low-key kind of way. The interior is very monochromatic.

Front: The most noticeable change is grille, where the old car's three bars have been reduced to two closely spaced parallel bars in the center. The LED DRL shape has also been slightly changed. The lower fascia is also more contoured and uses quite a bit of black plastic, a bit of a downgrade from last year's.

Rear: The taillights are pretty much the same, but the tailpipes now exit out the bottom instead of out the back. We're not big fans of this look.

Profile: The Jetta is a truly handsome car from this view. Its lack of chrome makes it more sporty looking, and the five double-spoke wheels look great. It's also well-proportioned, and the single crease along the body is nicely done.

Cabin: There's a lot of grey plastic and upholstery, but the layout is very well done. We especially like the way the center stack is canted towards the driver.

Comfort

8.2

 

The Jetta is one of the best in the segment when it comes to space. It feels like an early-generation Passat in the back. It actually has more legroom than that car. Ergonomically, it's also pretty easy to operate, although some of the controls could be larger and easier to operate while driving.

Front Seats: The front seats have a nice balance of cushioning and bolstering. The seating position is also very good.

Rear Seats: 37.4 inches of rear legroom is almost as good as the Hyundai Elantra. The outboard seats are flat but comfortable.

Visibility: Visibility all around is quite good with manageable pillar size and large windows.

Climate: We had no trouble cooling off or getting warm with the Jetta's system. It's no nonsense and airflow is good.

Safety

6.9

 

The Jetta actually does very well in crash tests, and its standard safety tech set is pretty impressive. It does, however, get dinged in non-crash test related areas, which brings its score down.

IIHS Rating: It nailed all the crash test in exemplary fashion, but it failed to get any awards due to poor and marginal headlights (based on trim).

NHTSA Rating: Not tested.

Standard Tech: Our tester came with an Intelligent Crash Response System, Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, Rearview Camera System, Hill Hold Control, Travel Assist semi-automated driving assistance, Adaptive Cruise Control w/ Stop & Go, Lane Assist, Emergency Assist, Front Collision Warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking w/ Pedestrian Monitoring, Active Blind Spot Monitor, and Rear Traffic Alert.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

8.1

 

There's a ton of cargo room in the Jetta, and the interior storage spaces are pretty good. Buyers will have no problem finding a space for small daily items in the front row.

Storage Space: The cabin has a medium-sized armrest, a grippy open cubby in front of the shifter, and good door pockets that are plenty long and deep.

Cargo Room: There's 14.1 cubic feet of trunk space, which is at the top of the heap. Only the Elantra is bigger, and only by a smidge. The opening is wide and low enough for easy loading.

Fuel Economy

8

 

We drove the Jetta pretty hard and used the Tiptronic feature often. In light of that, the fuel economy numbers were surprisingly good. The fact that you can squeeze out 40 mpg highway for a gas engine is impressive. Keep in mind, however, that the last model was able to get 30 city/40 highway/34 combined, while the new one with the updated engine loses 1 mpg in both city and combined efficiency.

Observed: 28.7 mpg

Distance Driven: 144 miles

Audio

6.7

 

The stock audio system isn't something to write home about, but it at least is without distortion at higher volumes and has decent clarity. There's distinct lack of solid bass, however.



Final Thoughts

For daily transportation, the Jetta does very well, indeed. Those who aren't keen on sharp handling or blistering acceleration won't notice the Jetta's performance deficits. It rides very comfortably, and there's a ton of interior space. Tech is easy to use, and the trunk has ample cargo capacity. While it might not be a stunner like the Mazda3, its more practical for cargo and passenger space.
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