For 2013, Volkswagen introduced the very first Jetta Hybrid.
It comes in the same four trim levels as the standard Jetta, but the gasoline-electric drive system adds $5,000 to the prices, which range from $24,995 for the basic model to $31,180 for the SEL Premium, which I tested.
According to EPA ratings, the Jetta Hybrid should achieve 42 mpg in the city and 48 on the highway. On my tester, the dash computer showed my consumption was 37.3 mpg, based on using just under a tank of gasoline.
Each trim level builds on the previous, starting with interior and exterior hybrid-specific features, Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, and a six-speaker audio system on the base model.
Even the entry-level hybrid has high-quality materials and nice amenities such as the dual-zone climate control, which can be operated without the engine running. I like that, especially if I am going to wait in the car while hubby visits his favorite electronics store.
The Fender audio system is an exclusive to Volkswagen. The 400-watt system features a 10-channel amplifier that feeds two tweeters on the front body pillars -- with the Fender logo -- and two in the rear doors. There is a 50-watt woofer in each door and a 100-watt subwoofer under the rear shelf. As always, we enjoyed some of our favorite music via the iPod interface and satellite radio.
The Jetta's navigation system was simple to operate, with easy-to-follow directions. The display is not very detailed, but it has enough information to do the job.
In electric mode, the Jetta hybrid starts as an electric vehicle and continues that up to 37 mph under light acceleration. Although the gasoline engine is stopped and disconnected from the drivetrain in electric mode, the climate control, audio system and other electrical systems continue to operate. All-electric driving is good for more than a mile under the right conditions, VW says.
I felt some hesitation as I accelerated, possibly due to switching of the electric motor to the gasoline engine. When the engine engaged, there was a noticeable jerk and clunk. With the Jetta, I also had to apply more pressure to stop and deceleration was jerky.
The combination of the 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder direct-injection gasoline engine and the 20 kilowatt electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery pack produces 170 horsepower.
Overall, my experience with the Jetta Hybrid was pleasant, although for more than $30,000, I would expect more high-end electronics and conveniences.
2013 VOLKSWAGEN JETTA HYBRID
Base price: $24,995
Price as tested: $31,180
EPA fuel economy: 42 mpg city; 48 mpg highway
Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine; 20 kilowatt electric motor
Power: 170 horsepower
0-60 mph: 9 seconds
Wheelbase: 104.4 inches
Height: 57.2 inches
Width: 70 inches
Bottom line: A pleasing gas miser.