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First Drive: 2011 Volkswagen Jetta

German engineering challenges Japanese pricing.

by on Aug.09, 2010

An all-new look for the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta.

There was a time when Volkswagen was the most successful import brand in the country. These days, it lags well behind the top Japanese marques, as well as Korea’s Hyundai.

So, it can’t be understated just how important the launch of the new 2011 Jetta is to the German maker – which hopes to more than double its U.S. sales volumes, in the coming years, to 800,000 annually.

Along with the New Midsize Sedan, or NMS, the codename for the all-new model that will be built at the new VW plant in Tennessee, the sixth-generation Jetta will play a critical role in rebuilding the Volkswagen brand here in the U.S.  And to get things rolling, the German maker is lifting a move right out of the competition’s playbook.

The 2011 Volkswagen Jetta line will feature a new base model, the Jetta S, which carries a base price of $15,995, nearly $2,000 less than the starting price for the 2010 sedan.

That also puts it within easy reach of the best-selling entries in the U.S. compact sedan market, the $15,655 Honda Civic and $15,450 Toyota Corolla – both of which offer a fair bit less for the money, it should be pointed out.

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But the question we asked as we got off the plane in San Francisco, recently, for the first drive of the new VW offering was just how well it would stand up to the crowd-pleasing Asian competitors.

Very well, we quickly discovered, whether you’re looking at the relatively stripped-down 2011 Volkswagen Jetta S, or the more lavishly-equipped SE, SEL and TDI models.

(more…)