|The 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid whispers its green credentials rather than shouting them.|
The de-gimmickification (give me until this afternoon to make a Wikipedia entry) of hybrid vehicles has been a tricky thing. As we noted in our review of the Toyota Prius C, the vast majority of hybrid buyers seem to want to call attention to themselves. The "big" (compared to the Prius C) Prius has attained a good chunk of its best-seller status by being instantly identifiable as a "green" vehicle. Honda, a strong candidate for major player with the environmentally sensitive, has struck out with its hybrid offerings thus far, the Impact and CR-Z being too small to be practical and mainstream and the Accord and Civic hybrids having been virtually invisible...looking for all the world like regular Accords and Civics with "hybrid" badges on them...never mind what was under the hood and what wasn't coming out of the tailpipe.
So it's a huge surprise to this writer that Volkswagen, out to conquer market share in leaps and bounds, has taken the Honda Civic approach with the Jetta Hybrid.
Like the Hondas, you'll never know the Jetta Hybrid is a Hybrid unless you get close enough to read the very discreet badge on the trunklid or catch the subtly different aero grille in your rearview mirror.
And once at the wheel, there's very little to tell you you're in something different...it's quiet when rolling on pure electric power, but that's a novelty that wears off fast. Within a day or two of our week and 600 or so miles, I was forgetting this was a hybrid. They even make the proof of performance a "look if you want to" type of thing.
Front and center in the instrument cluster? No, that's too flashy...the whiz-bang animations showing how much fuel you're saving and how little you're polluting share space with your audio and nav systems. You'll forget it's even there.
There's really only one reminder that this Jetta is a hybrid...its fuel economy. The EPA estimate is 42 MPG city/48 MPG highway and for all the controversy these days over cars not meeting their numbers, the Jetta Hybrid we drove did.
The price? Well, hybrids always cost more, and compared to a stock Jetta's under $20K price tag, the $26,999 base price for the Jetta Hybrid is a jump, but VW has gone out of its way to bump up the value equation...making its nicest interior appointments standard equipment. And that makes the car very complete. All that was added to ours was a first aid kit and the delivery charge. Bottom line: $27,820. Which undercuts most of the Priii we've driven lately by anywhere from $2,000 to $6,000.
The Jetta Hybrid's a fine piece. It'd be on our short list if we were in the market for a hybrid. Let's hope for them that VW can find a thus far untapped market of green folks who don't need to shout about it with styling.