Story and photos by Jim Robinson
Metroland Media/WheelsTalk.com -
Not content with offering affordable low consumption gasoline and diesel cars; Volkswagen has added a third option with the 2013 Jetta Hybrid.
You would think a small displacement diesel and gas vehicle would be enough for the fuel efficiency conscious, but Volkswagen is convinced increasing numbers of buyers feel some form of hybrid should be their next choice.
On top of that, VW believes buyers will accept paying about $4,000 more over the Jetta 2.5-litre because of the perceived fuel savings over the longer term.
So the next question you might ask, and I did, was why not go all out with a diesel hybrid?
VW said they have looked at it but the extra cost of a hybrid and a diesel is more of a premium that consumers are currently willing to pay.
A 1.4-litre inline four-cylinder turbo direct injection gasoline engine producing 150 hp and 184 lb/ft of torque powers the Jetta Hybrid. This is combined with a 20 kW (27 hp, 114 lb/ft) electric motor for a total 170 hp and the same 184 lb/ft of torque.
According to VW, the Jetta Hybrid uses about 20 per cent less fuel than an equivalently sized sedan with a gasoline engine. In city stop/go driving that goes up to about 30 per cent. In pure electric mode that Jetta Hybrid can hit up to 60-70 km/h and travel up to 2.0 km depending on driving conditions.
The hybrid system borrows technology from the Touareg Hybrid CUV using a clutch that decouples the gasoline engine when in electric mode or “coasting”.
Besides regenerative power being routed back to the battery when braking, when the driver lifts off the accelerator at speeds up to 100 km/h and coasts, this also serves to provide power to the lithium-ion battery.
The 220-volt lithium-ion battery is located under the rear seat and weighs 163 lb. By watching the weight, the Jetta Hybrid comes in at just 221 lb more than the standard sedan.
Even the seven-speed dual clutch transmission is trimmed down in size and weight.
There are about three separate ways of monitoring your fuel conservation.
When driving, it is hard to take you eyes off the ePower meter that is part of the overall hybrid energy flow display integrated into the multi-info readout found in the main instrument cluster.
Here’s where it gets cool.
The Power Meter is an additional multifunctional display that replaces the tach on the left side of the instrument cluster. It informs the driver of the momentary operating state of the Jetta Hybrid.
You can watch the “tach” needle swing up and down as the engine kicks in or when regenerative power is replenishing the battery. Lastly, when you give it the gas and the battery adds its thrust, the needle swings all the way to the right in the “boost” mode.
But wait, there’s more.
Part of the audio system also helps coach the driver with messages on the audio display.
For instance, the audio display’s ‘Zero Emissions’ menu offers a graphic of the car’s zero emissions driving time. The zero emissions values are shown in the form of percentages in a bar diagram, where the measurement interval of one bar represents one minute of driving.
A value of 100 per cent means that the car was driven with zero emissions throughout the driving minute, i.e., with the TSI engine shut off. The effective time period for this is 30 minutes.
Lastly the audio monitor can also give an instantaneous depiction of the flow of energy back and forth between the engine and battery.
It’s pretty extensive but surprisingly easy to live with when driving, despite all the information vying for attention of the driver.
My co-driver and I could have read the manual but decided that, only if the system was intuitive, would it work for the wide of range of drivers and their experiences who would encounter the system.
The Power Meter was simple enough, but at first all we could get was the average and instantaneous fuel consumption reading in the ePower readout between the Power Meter and speedo on the right.
Then we figured out the iPod-like click pad on the right spoke of the steering wheel and then it all came together with all kinds of info a click or two away.
The roads selected for the Jetta Hybrid debut seemed odd in that the 7,500 foot high roads around Santa Fe, New Mexico, have a thinner atmosphere which is taxing on any engine burning gasoline, even a turbo.
Nevertheless, even with the oxygen-taxing atmosphere I was able to average (US) 42.5 mpg or (Cdn) 54.2 mpg which equates to 5.2L/100 km. VW Canada has an estimated combined consumption rating of 4.4L/100 km.
Driving time was limited but the Jetta was a pretty peppy performer. Handling is always a VW virtue; the Hybrid being no exception with my co-driver commenting the electric steering did not have a “wooden” feel.
Despite all the different ways of minding your consumption, I found the Power Meter more than sufficient. Cruising along the highway and watching how the battery’s boost would phase in and out helped me, in the short time I drove the car, modulate my right foot to get more from the system.
When it arrives in Canadian showrooms early next year, the Jetta Hybrid will be offered in Trendline ($27,875), Comfortline ($30,175) and Highline ($34,025) trim levels.
The Jetta still boasts the biggest interior passenger volume in the compact segment and, despite the battery back intruding into the trunk, cargo volume is still adequate at 11.3 cu ft.
There is no doubt electrification of the automobile is no longer a novelty but part of the route to greener, cleaner transportation.
With the Hybrid added to the gasoline and diesel Jetta lineup, Volkswagen is on the right road to that goal.
Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid 2013 at a glance
- BODY STYLE: Compact hybrid sedan.
- DRIVE METHOD: front-engine/electric motor, front-wheel-drive.
- ENGINE: 1.4-litre four-cylinder inline turbocharged (150 hp, 184 lb/ft of torque); 20kW (27 hp, 114 lb/ft); combined 170 hp/184 lb ft
- FUEL ECONOMY: (Est.) 4.4L/100 km combined
- CARGO CAPACITY: 11.3 cu ft (0.32 cu m)
- TOW RATING: Not recommended
- PRICE: Trendline, $27,875; Comfortline $30,175; Highline $34,025.