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Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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VW delivers a jazzier Jetta

Volkswagen’s Jetta has always been the McDonald’s Happy Meal of the new car market. Terrific value, generously proportioned, nicely packaged and always lip-smackingly satisfying.

And with prices kicking off at less than $17,000, it’s been easy to forgive its chain saw-rough engines and Model T rear suspension design.

But forgive no more. For 2014, the folks at VW have re-jigged and re-fettled the Jetta, endowing it with a feisty new turbocharged engine and new multi-link rear suspension.

The result? A Jetta that’s way more fun to drive, more fun to live with.

And the best part is that despite these two major, high-expense upgrades, this improved Jetta lineup stickers for pretty much what it did before.

This new engine is truly a big deal. The previous 2.5-liter five-cylinder was well past its sell-by date even when it was new.

In its place, this new 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder offers the same power as the 2.5 — 170 horses — but with increased torque. Remember, it is torque that makes a car fun to drive.

It’s also less thirsty at the pump. On the highway it’ll average an excellent 36 to the gallon, which is a 5 mpg improvement.

What’s it like on the road? I just had a quick spin in latest 2014 Jetta 1.8T SE with the optional six-speed automatic. At $20,815, including destination, it’s the best-seller in the Jetta range and a great value.

That new engine really does heighten the fun factor. It feels lively and responsive, punching the Jetta from zero-to-60 mph in 7.9 seconds, which is around 0.7 secs quicker than before.

Yet it’s smoother and more refined than the old five-cylinder ever was.

And with the new multi-link rear suspension and electric-assist steering, the car feels more nimble and agile through the turns; more like the European sports sedan the Jetta used to be.

Open the doors and there’s still amazing stretch-out space for five. Legroom in the back is especially generous. Pop the trunk and you could load up a month’s worth of groceries.

Yes, the appeal of Volkswagen’s Jetta has always been strong. But these changes are the icing on an already yummy cake. Or an even bigger portion of fries in that Happy Meal.

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