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Speed, power unexpectedly define 2013 VW Jetta SE

Channing Chea / For The Lantern

As the 2013 shipments start rolling in, Volkswagen’s lineup hasn’t changed very much, but this hasn’t stopped the car company from making impressionable vehicles. The competition might be struggling to create newer innovative cars, but VW has a different approach.
Call me cynical, but I’ve always considered the Jetta to be the Wonder Bread of the auto industry. Yeah, it’ll fill you up, but if you could choose between that and something more wholesome, why not go for the wheat, right?
Well, the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta SE left a surprisingly satisfying taste in my mouth after I was given the opportunity to sink my teeth into the treat that was the driver’s seat.
As expected, there was nothing special about the cabin of the car. It was pretty bland, actually. The dashboard and music controls had the same boring look as the previous model, and headroom left much to be desired. It was almost an issue until I remembered that I could jack down the seat and give myself a little more head space.
Redeeming qualities of the interior? The steering wheel for one, with its comfortable grip. The sound system was also very clear. I was pleased enough with the radio’s screen display (available for multiple trim models) that I would give the interior a pass on its lack of showmanship.
Now comes the fun part: performance. The Jetta SE is packing a 5-cylinder engine – a design unique to certain German cars. It might not sound like a whopper, but it sure felt like a V8.
Acceleration and handling for the car were pleasant, and I have the nighttime, traffic-less Hamilton Road to thank for giving me the chance to test the Jetta thoroughly. Honestly, I was surprised that this model was so popular as a family car, considering how much fun it could be to drive recklessly in it – but I digress.
Unlike most family cars, the Jetta’s responsive acceleration, effective anti-lock braking and nimble steering made me nearly take back all I said about the car being boring. As for highway travel, there’s something calming about going 80 mph without hearing the roar of an engine. Could it be that a police siren is easier to hear? Possibly, but it did make for a comforting ride.
That’s enough of my adventures on Interstate 270. I’m obligated to tell about the stuff parents want to hear too.
The turning radius was impressive. Making a three-point turn on a small two-lane street was ridiculously simple, and doing donuts (which I swear I didn’t try) would have been an interesting experience too. The G-forces usually felt when turning corners quickly weren’t very noticeable. I don’t know what technology these car companies are using to negate gravity, but whatever it is, it’s working.
As for safety, the Jetta is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Pick. It has a surplus of security systems including the mandated tire pressure monitoring system, anti-lock and hydraulic brake assistance, and V-dub’s Intelligent Crash Response System. This disables the fuel pump, unlocks the doors and turns on the hazard light automatically in the event of a crash.
That being said, I suggest you start with that tidbit of info when you suggest this car to your parents. (They probably won’t know what any of that means either, but it’ll sound legit).
All in all, I was impressed with Volkswagen’s new edition to one of its classic cars. The Jetta’s been around for a while, and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. Since Christmas is coming up soon, you might want to push for a vehicle for making those long winter commutes home.
Your car might not look like a hip piece of Americanized German engineering, but who’s going to judge you for it, the people in your rearview mirror?  

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