German For Hybrid: The 2015 Volkwswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid
The 2015 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL.
As with the just-reviewed 2015 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring, Volkswagen's Jetta Hybrid is taking a different path from the "look at me" hybrids...cars like the Toyota Prius that proclaim their difference with styling that stands apart from more conventional cars. As we've noted before, it's a risky path, as hybrid buyers seem to want to call attention to their purchase so that friends and strangers alike know they've chosen to save gas and pollute less.

Rear 3/4 view of 2015 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL
2015 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL.
The Jetta Hybrid SEL we drove for a week really isn't a direct competitor for either the Prius or the Accord, but rather the Honda Civic Hybrid, which we haven't driven in a while.  Unlike any of them, VW has chosen to put a bit of performance back into the equation by turbocharging the Jetta Hybrid. There's a penalty in that approach, and it comes in the area where most hybrid shoppers will notice it most...fuel economy.  Most hybrids get better city mileage estimates, since low-speed, stop-and-go traffic is where the electric motor will take over from the gasoline engine and where auto-stop will shut off the engine when the car comes to a full stop.  But the Jetta's EPA estimate is 42 city/48 highway.   That's a big drop from the 53 MPG city in a Prius C, the 51 promised by a Prius or the 50 from the Accord Hybrid, but it's very competitive with the Civic Hybrid's 44 city/47 highway.

Interior view of 2015 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL
2015 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL interior.
Another place where the Jetta Hybrid might seem to be at a disadvantage is price.  The base price of our top-of-the-line SEL tester was $31,895.  It does come loaded at that price, so factor in $820 destination and handling charges and you're done at $32,715.  By contrast, a fully-loaded Civic Hybrid with shipping is only $28,255...a $4,460 difference. Some will say it's worth it for the extra fun provided by the turbo, the solid German feel of the VW and the significantly nicer interior.

TireKicker Top Tip:  If you drive significantly more highway miles than city, get the Jetta TDI Clean Diesel.  Only 2 mpg fewer highway than the hybrid (the city mileage drops by 11),  about five grand less expensive and a less complex powertrain that will last a quarter-million miles or more.  If you have to go hybrid and you want German, the Jetta Hybrid is pretty much a class of one.