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Back To Diesel Products> Volkswagen unveils bigger, cheaper redone 2011 Jetta

The redesigned 2011 Volkswagen Jetta will be bigger and mainstream-priced to challenge category sales leaders such as Civic and Corolla head to head. CAPTIONLeica Camera On the road in New York with Drive On's James R. Healey:

U.S. buyers have a long history of preferring bigger vehicles, but lately they've begun to crave the fuel economy of smaller cars. How to play to both?

A big little car, of course.

Volkswagen is trying that with the 2011 Jetta and due in showrooms this October for about $16,000 to start. VW will do a public unveiling this morning in Times Square with major hoopla and a morning TV tie-in.

The redone VW Jetta for 2011.CAPTIONLeica Camera The new Jetta is about 3.5 inches longer than the 2010 and has what VW brags will be the roomiest back seat in the compact class. In fact, its 38.1 inches of rear legroom (up 2.6 inches from 2010) could trump some mid-size sedans on paper at least.

Spec legroom of about 36 inches is enough to fit most adults comfortably, depending on the rest of the interior layout. Less than 36 begins to get tight. Less than 30 -- as in some SUV third rows -- is ridiculous. Of course, specs can be deceiving. Creative design of the backs of the front seats can make a rear seat more comfy than one in another car with a higher number on paper.

The new Jetta is a critical part of VW's plan to dramatically boost U.S. sales. U.S. CEO Stefan Jacoby calls the new Jetta "the beginning of a new era for Volkswagen."

More room is one part of the strategy. Offering it for less money is another. The 2011's base price of about $16,000 is down significantly from the 2010 Jetta ($17,735 to start) and puts it more in line with compact category sales leaders -- such as Toyota's Corolla ($15,540 to start for 2010) or Honda's Civic ($15,665 for 2010) -- and Chevrolet's all-new 2011 Cruze ($16,995 to start). And the base Jetta will have features such as air conditioning that you don't get till you move up to, for example, the $16,405 Civic.

More details of the 2011 Jetta revealed by VW:

  • Size: 182.7 inches long, 57.1 inches tall and 70.1 inches wide, or several inches longer and a little wider than Corolla or Civic.
  • Engines: Four engines will be available, including a 2.0-liter base gasoline 4-cylinder, a 2.5-liter gas 5-cylinder, a turbocharged gas 2.0-liter (in the sporty GLI model) and a turbocharged diesel 2.0-liter TDI model. Full power specs on all engines weren't given, but VW did say the diesel is expected to generate about 235 pounds-feet of torque and take the new Jetta from 0 to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds.
  • Transmissions: Six-speed DSG automatic optional, manual standard on all models (five speeds for most, six for the GLI and TDI).
  • U.S. model range: S, SE, SEL, TDI diesel and turbo GLI, about parallel to current lineup.
  • Safety: Electronic stability control and tire pressure monitoring continue to be standard (not true across the board in the class). Six air bags.
  • The wagon: The Jetta SportWagen (with an E), based on the current Jetta sedan, will continue in its present form into 2011. It is a half-year or more behind the sedan in the product cycle.

More space also is being designed into the Passat replacement coming later. Passat is now on the small side for midsize cars. The new VW midsize sedan (name TBA) was described at a VW session in Germany last fall as "a match for Camry." Later, VW clarified that it meant for Camry's size -- NOT for Camry's less-than-sporting personality.

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