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The Winter of Our De-Content

The 2011 VW Jetta

Okay, let’s get this out of the way right off: Yes, even though it’s a larger car than the previous model (mostly in the rear seating area), Volkswagen actually lowered the base price on the all-new 2011 Jetta. And they did it by de-contenting it. That’s right, one easy way to lower a car’s price is to eliminate some features. So there you go. The cat’s out of the bag.

So what. Perhaps a few other manufacturers should follow suit. Not everybody needs (or wants) a gazillion doodads on their basic transportation. Many of us see a lot of that stuff as nothing more than something else to go wrong somewhere down the line. If it’ll lower the price of a desirable car so that more can afford it, so be it. Here’s a bit of what’s missing on the new Jetta—see if you can live without any of it: the gas struts which held up the hood have been replaced by a rod; the seatbacks have lost the power to their reclining ability; the rear-seat armrest no longer adjusts; the trunklid’s gas struts have been replaced by conventional hinges; front seats no longer have lumbar adjustment; a suspension change and a different type of power steering; the rear disc brakes are now drums. Nothing earth-shattering here, I’d say. And the new Jetta is certainly one heckuva good-looking car. One of VW’s goals is to greatly increase their sales numbers, and they see the new Jetta competing with the likes of Toyota’s Corolla and Honda’s Civic. Most buyers in that category won’t miss the stuff VW has changed on the Jetta, but they may still consider the Jetta to be a premium car compared to the competition. There’s still something about German cars and their perceived craftsmanship—even if they’re assembled in Mexico.

The new Jetta S has a base price of $15,995. With that you get VW’s tried-and-true, 2.0-liter SOHC four-cylinder engine, mated to a five-speed manual transmission, which is EPA-rated at 24/34 miles per gallon city/highway. An automatic will add around $1,100 and make little difference in gas mileage figures. This is the price leader VW is hoping will bring people into the showroom. It also includes A/C, electronic stability control, power windows and heated outside mirrors, AM/FM/CD/mp3 sound system, and a tire-pressure monitoring system. The car, even in its base form, is a very attractive package.

Moving up to the SE ($18,195) brings you VW’s more modern 2.5-liter, in-line, five-cylinder engine, leatherette seating surfaces, cruise, 16-inch steel wheels, and floor mats. The SEL ($21,395) further adds 17-inch alloy wheels, NAV system, heated front seats, leather-wrapped shift knob/brake handle/steering wheel (with BlueTooth and audio controls), keyless access with push-button start, multi-function trip computer, and halogen fog lights. The TDI is at the top of the Jetta chain (for now at least, until we see a GTI version) and starts at $22,995. TDI is VW’s diesel model, which is EPA-rated at 30/42 city/highway. The engine is a 2.0-liter, in-line, four-cylinder clean diesel with direct injection, rated at 140-horsepower, mated to a six-speed manual transmission (a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic and Sport Mode is also available). Distinctive 16-inch alloy wheels, sunroof, heated front seats, and a premium sound system are also part of the package.

I found the Jetta to be roomy (front and back) and comfortable. Ever since the first generation Jetta back in 1982, which was basically a Rabbit/Golf with a trunk tacked on the back, it’s been at or near the top of VW’s sales in North America, although it’s never done nearly as well in the rest of the world. We Americans don’t seem to like our hatchbacks as well as our trunks. Just what are you all hiding in there, anyway?

With the new styling and the new pricing, I see no reason for the new Jetta not to be the best seller yet. De-contented or not.

Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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