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Jetta Hybrid is sporty, affordable gas-saver

January 5, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The Japanese and even American car companies have a pretty good head start on building hybrid vehicles.

But now, the German auto industry is getting in on the action too. The newest gas-electric hybrid is from Volkswagen -- the Jetta Hybrid.

We've already seen hybrids out of Germany, but they've been expensive. Mercedes-Benz and BMW both have them, and they're marketed as upscale luxury vehicles.

This isn't even VW's first hybrid, but their Touareg SUV with hybrid power is around $60,000. They're breaking new ground with the Jetta, as it's priced from the mid $20,000s to the low $30,000s -- about what other compact hybrids tend to cost.

The difference in theirs, says Volkswagen, is driving dynamics. Hybrids typically lack sportiness, but the Jetta hits the road with a turbo engine and an advanced dual-clutch automatic transmission.

"It's a fun-to-drive, driving-dynamics oriented, real, pure Volkswagen DNA interpretation of a hybrid," said Ranier Michel with Volkswagen of America.

The hybrid gauge in the dash shows what happens when you stomp on the accelerator. The turbo engine and electric motor combine to push nearly 180 horsepower to the wheels.

But fuel economy is still key here: 45 miles per gallon in combined driving, right up there with other hybrids.

The Jetta Hybrid isn't the first or only fuel-saving version of this car. There's also the Jetta TDI Diesel. But what about combing diesel fuel and hybrid for an ultimate fuel-saving package?

Cost is the main factor. Adding a diesel engine is more expensive, and so is adding the hybrid system. Trying to combine the two would price this car out of the moderate range. Plus, not everyone's big on diesel power yet.

"We know that even if we are very successful with diesel, not every customer is ready to go for diesel," said Michel.

So for now, you'll have to take your pick. A diesel which returns superior highway economy, or the new hybrid Jetta, that can keep you away from the gas pump, on the road or around town.