Let's take a moment and consider the Volkswagen Jetta. A well-known name. At one time, the hip choice among compact sedans. The Jetta has a considerably lower profile these days. The all-new Honda Civic is soaking up most of the buzz in the segment this year, though the Jetta's perceived glory faded before that.
But let's face it---at its heart, the compact sedan segment isn't about buzz. It's about adults who need to get to and from work with as little of the household budget as possible going to car payments, insurance and fuel. If it makes a good road car for weekend trips and vacations, even better. Some style and creature comforts to salve the ego over not being able to justify something flashier can't hurt.
And the 2022 VW Jetta SEL---a mild refresh of last year's car---ticks every last one of those boxes. You can get a Jetta (the base S model) for $20,365 before delivery. The Sport is $21,265, the SE $24,095. But for just four grand more---$28,095---you can get the SEL---the Jetta with everything.
All Jettas are created equal under the hood---with a 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder making 158 horsepower (replacing last year's 147-horsepower 1.4 liter). The S and the Sport come standard with six-speed manual transmissions. The SE and SEL have eight-speed automatics.
Zero to 60 is a mid-seven-second proposition, which is quicker than the Civic. In the SE and SEL, the EPA fuel economy average is 29 city/40 highway, and that squares with our real-world city street and urban freeway average:
As mentioned above, $28,095 gets a Jetta SEL and the SEL comes standard with navigation, leather seating surfaces, heated and ventilated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, wireless phone charger, and an upgraded Beats audio system.
And unless you drop $395 for one of the two extra-cost paint colors or engage in dealer-added options, that's it. So with $995 destination charge, you end up with a very nicely equipped vehicle for $29,090. Bonus points---the Jetta still has VW's previous-generation infotainment and HVAC systems. They've been replaced by a maddeningly complex touchscreen on the GTI this year.
The Jetta may no longer be the hippest small sedan on the planet, but there's a lot to recommend it. And it could even be a solid go-to for people who would have bought its now-departed larger sibling, the Passat.