What can we expect when the master of dynamic Diesel cars, Volkswagen, decides to make a hybrid version of one its most popular models in combination with a gasoline engine?
It certainly means that the bar is set high, very high indeed. In terms of economy, responsiveness, high speed pulling power, performance, you name it.
We therefore were very anxious to drive this Jetta Hybrid, and see and feel how it performs, and whether it can convince the Diesel aficionados…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The Volkswagen engineers decided to build this Hybrid their very own way, using the well proven 7 speed DSG automatic transmission, coupled to the equally well known 1,4 litre TFSI four cylinder petrol engine, delivering 150 healthy horsepowers.
They proved masterfully that a Hybrid car does not necessarily need a CVT transmission to deliver smooth, efficient and economical power to the front wheels.
Of course they also reverted to using the most modern battery technologies, like lithium-ion for example. Actually, the battery, which is housed behind the rear seat and takes up minimal boot space, consists of 60 cells of 5Ah each, which produce a nominal tension of 220 Volts and have a capacity of 1,1 kWh. It only weighs 35,8 kg.
This battery is powerful enough to propel the car over a distance of 2 kilometres. The Jetta Hybrid will select electric power automatically when driving at constant speeds up to 60 km/h, and will do so up to 70 km/h when you press the button “E-mode” next to the gearlever. The engine is then of course decoupled from the transmission.
The Jetta also recuperates energy when braking. The electric motor then functions as an alternator, and the amount of electricity generated depends of course on the brake pedal pressure. The system works well enough, we only found that when braking very lightly and progressively, the braking force of the generating engine tended to increase a bit too much, forcing you to decrease the pedal pressure when you want to continue to brake smoothly and with a constant deceleration.
We mention this especially because hybrid driving in our opinion is also about smooth driving, indeed, thanks to the silence and progressiveness of electric power, hybrid driving is also about giving the man/woman behind the wheel a “zen” feeling, and therefore we are especially critical about any jerks, irregularities or (minute) shocks in the drive line. We find that the DSG transmission adapts itself very well to the required hybrid smoothness, and delivers indeed a constant power flow.
The powerful engine in combination with the efficient transmission delivers of course brilliant performance. Total system power is a good 125 kW, and this results in an acceleration from 0 to 100 in less than 9 seconds, and you don’t have to be an experienced rally driver to achieve it. Just floor the accelerator, or put the gear lever in the “S” position..
The consumption is, as can be expected from any VW product, excellent, and the average consumption of 5,2 litres as given by the manufacturer is easily achievable. The results are especially impressive considering the excellent dynamic qualities of the car, with, as said, ample power available in any situation. We also mention here the "coasting" function, in this sense that when one lifts the throttle at speeds below 135 km/h, the engine is decoupled from the transmission, and the car actually coasts on its kinetic energy alone, not hindered by any transmission drag.
The chassis is also excellent, the car steers and handles with precision and agility, also greatly enhancing the driving pleasure which this Hybrid VW. Of course the car sports the usual driver assistance systems, and ESP, ABS and not less than six airbags enhance passive security.
The bodywork has also been improved aerodynamically, with a new front and rear spoiler. This allowed to lower the Cx value of the Jetta by not less than 10 %. The classic VW emblem also rests on a grille with blue accents, unique to the Hybrid version.
If you want to drive a Hybrid with lots of dynamic performance and handling, the Jetta is the one for you. The factory succeeded admirably in combining the DSG transmission with both the electric and petrol engine, the Jetta also achieves very creditable consumption figures, even when driven with verve.
Add to this the excellent workmanship and finish of the car, its practicality and useable passenger and boot space, and we can conclude that the Jetta is certainly worth considering when making your choice.
Hans Knol ten Bensel