Bottom line: The 2014 Jetta SEL and its siblings constitute a good buy for working- and middle-class families in need of safe, reliable, comfortable, attractive and reasonably affordable daily personal transportation.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Good marks in all three.
Head-turning quotient: The look is conservative. This one can disappear in a crowd. But the new interior is much improved.
Body style/layout: The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta is a front-engine, front-wheel-drive compact family sedan with four side doors and a traditional notchback trunk. It is available in five trim levels — base, S, SE, SEL and the diesel-powered TDI.
Engine/transmission: The SEL comes with a 1.8-liter, 16-valve turbocharged direct-injection gasoline engine (170 horsepower, 184 pound-feet of torque) linked to a six-speed automatic transmission that also can be shifted manually.
Capacities: Seating is for five people. Cargo capacity with all seats in place is 15.5 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 14.5 gallons. You can get away with using regular-grade gasoline. But the 1.8-liter is a turbocharged (forced air), high-compression engine. The recommendation here is that you use premium gasoline for best performance.
Mileage: I averaged 35 miles per gallon in highway driving.
Safety: Standard equipment includes front and rear power-assisted disc brakes, four-wheel anti-lock brake protection, emergency braking assistance, electronic brake-force distribution, electronic stability and traction control, three-point safety belts at all seating positions, lower anchors and tethers for child-safety seats, tire-pressure monitoring system, side-protection door beams, and side and head air bags.
Pricing: The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta SEL starts at $25,925, with a dealer’s invoice price of $24,888. Price as tested is $27,345, including $600 for Bluetooth phone connectivity and an $820 factory-to-dealer transportation charge. Dealer’s price as tested is $26,208.