2015 VW Jetta SE Review – Fun Driving Experience

NOTE: Our guest writer Tim Esterdahl got to test drive the new 2015 VW Jetta SE and wanted to share his experiences with the car on our site. Hopefully you find it interesting.

The recently redesigned 2015 VW Jetta offers new styling and an upgraded TDI diesel engine. It is has just as much German charm as you would expect for a really low entry-level price.

2015 jetta se side view

Likes:

  • New Exterior Styling in Upper Trim Levels
  • Fuel Economy
  • Price

Dislikes:

  • Interior Features
  • Plastic Interior
  • Bland Styling Overall

Fun, Spirited Driving

VW has long been known as the “diesel automaker” in the U.S. with their TDI Diesel engine, renowned for its fuel economy and power. While this has helped VW create a niche in the market, it isn’t a good long-term plan to keep growing marketshare in country where diesel isn’t well thought of. Pushing more gasoline engines and touting their performance is arguably a better approach and with this in mind, VW sent a 1.8L turbo-charged gasoline engine. Adding in the fun factor, this gasoline engine was mated to a 5-speed manual transmission.

The driving experience with this gasoline engine is spirited when taking off and cornering thanks to the front and rear independent suspension tuning and VW’s speed-sensitive power steering. While it doesn’t have a lot of top-end power with only 170 HP, it does offer an impressive 184 lb-ft of torque.

I spent a lot of time driving city streets during my time with the 2015 VW Jetta SE and found it to be a fun car off the line and when making sharp corners. While burnouts weren’t really possible, it did have enough low-end torque to make it a fun car for running errands. On the highways, it does an ample job of getting up to speed and it won’t put you back into your seat while passing other vehicles.

The lack of power does help in one key area – fuel economy. The 2015 Jetta 1.8L TSI is EPA-rated at 25/37/29 MPG city/highway/combined. Getting nearly 40 MPG highway for less than $20,000 really is something to think about.

The 2015 VW Jetta with the 1.8L TSI gasoline engine may not provide the same driving experience as their renowned TDI Diesel, VW has narrowed the gap between the two engines. While I still prefer the TDI Diesel, the TSI gasoline is the more cost-effective choice.

Passat-Like Exterior

2015 jetta se rear view
2015 jetta se side view

Keeping in line with its current styling direction, the 2015 VW Jetta has been reshaped to mirror the look of the VW Passat. This is readily apparent from the front-end with a distinctive LED light strip, split spoiler and grille that is shared with the Passat. The look isn’t bad per se, it is really just a toned-down look meant to attract a large variety of buyers.

This new design resembles more of what Toyota was doing a decade ago. It is the less frills, more bland styling direction which appeals to the largest variety of buyers. For VW it is a good approach with U.S. sales still lagging behind other parts of the world

The bland design is really distinctive on the sides and the rear wraps with a curt tuck job for the trunk.

While the SE model isn’t visually that appealing, when shopping look for the GLI trim level in the SE or SEL trim. Also, the Sport edition. These trim levels offers better wheels and a better front-end with the GLI SEL offering Bi-Xenon headlights and Corner-illuminating foglights.

Utilitarian Interior

2015 jetta se interior
2015 jetta se interior

These days the automotive market is filled with compact cars offering plush interior materials, fancy technology features and unique dash treatments like fancy graphics. The 2015 VW Jetta SE doesn’t really fit any of these descriptions. Instead, the interior is a bit of a throwback with plenty of plastic, base technology features accented by a red light treatment at night.

On the upside, this interior is perfect for a true commuter or a college student. It can withstand wear and tear better than more plush cabin materials found in competitors vehicles. Also, it is ripe for customization with plenty of space for after-market stereos and other products. Finally, it has a start/stop button and heated front seats. Both of these are really nice convenience items.

Also, the SE tester isn’t the top trim level that VW offers in the Jetta and if you are looking for a more plush interior with navigation and touchscreen display, they do offer it.

The reality is there is ample space for commuters or small families, the seating is on par with other competitors and it starts at only $18,995.

Perfect Car, For Right Buyer

2015 jetta se engine

The 2015 VW Jetta SE is ideal for the right buyer who wants a fuel efficient, commuter car that will provide the basics. As the entry-level option for the Jetta, the SE provides a good value without the pricey upgrades. If you are in the market for a compact car that doesn’t cost and arm and a leg, the 2015 VW Jetta SE is for you. If you need a few more features, check out the other trim levels in the Jetta.

Specs:

Model: 2015 VW Jetta 1.8T SE

Powertrain: 1.8L TSI Turbocharged gasoline, 4-cylinder with a 5-speed manual transmission

Options: Lighting Package $995

Price as tested: $20,810