2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid
Instrumented Test

How many hybrids get high marks for driver enjoyment? Besides the cost of the hybrid system, another price you pay for maximum mpg is generally tepid performance and languid handling. Measured against that anemic standard, VW’s new Jetta hybrid strikes a refreshing note. It’s quick by compact-hybrid standards—7.9 seconds to 60 mph—and its responses compare favorably with those of the Jetta GLI, the hot rod of VW’s compact-sedan lineup.

Hybrid Heart

This latest Jetta sandwiches an electric motor between the internal combustion engine and the transmission. (It joins the Touareg hybrid in VW’s gas-electric stable.) Like many systems, the motor adds punch to the powertrain on demand and doubles as a generator when the car is decelerating to help replenish the lithium-ion battery pack. But the VW system has distinctive elements. The engine, for example, a new all-aluminum DOHC 1.4-liter four-cylinder, is turbocharged and intercooled. That’s unique among compact hybrids, and so is the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The gearbox is even unique among Jettas, as the automatic options for the other models top out at six forward ratios. (It’s worth noting that, although the TDI diesel and the GLI can be had with dual-clutch boxes, the regular car offers only a regular torque-converter automatic.)

The turbo four is a long-stroke design with a 10.5:1 compression ratio, which is high for a force-fed engine. It apportions fuel via direct injection and generates 150 hp at 5000 rpm and 184 lb-ft of torque at 1800. The electric motor is rated for 27 hp and 114 lb-ft. Total system output is rated at 170 hp and 184 lb-ft, with peak torque being limited to save the transmission.

The efficiency payoff is big in EPA testing, with ratings of 42 mpg city and 48 mpg highway. That’s an unusual skew for hybrids, where the city number usually meets or exceeds the highway number. Of course, your mileage may vary. By a lot. Ours did. We logged 38 mpg—impressive at first blush, but far off the sky-high EPA figures and somewhat of a disappointment considering a good portion of our driving was executed on the freeway.

The Hybrid Difference(s)

There’s not much to distinguish the hybrid from other Jettas—badging, a slightly different grille, a revised front air dam, and various underbody aero tweaks that contribute to a claimed 0.28 Cd versus 0.30 for the rest of the Jetta family.