The more I read about Volkswagen's 2011 VW Jetta's cost savings measures, the less excited I am to actually see it. I always appreciated those small touches that set it apart from domestics.
The nice, soft-touch dash of the old Jetta has been replaced by hard plastic (although most of the other trim is similar in quality from old to new). The hood no longer stays up on its own and the trunk uses more intrusive hinges.
Hmm ... I'm not sure all Volkswagen Jetta TDI advocates are going to like some of these 'cost cutting' changes? See James Healy's comments in his USA Today article.
Among changes to keep costs down, items likely to be vilified as evidence Jetta has been "dumbed down" to get more mainstream buyers:
•Rear suspension is a so-called "semi-independent torsion beam" instead of true "multi-link" independent rear suspension on the previous version. The latter is valued because, when properly executed, it improves ride, handling and steering. A GLI sport version due next spring will have independent rear suspension.
•Rear brakes are old-style drums on most models, not the discs of the 2010. (VW insists third-party tests show its drums stop as well as, or better than, rivals' discs.)
•Trip computer, the device that tells you miles per gallon, miles to empty and so on, isn't offered on the lower models, though is standard on the top version.
•Far fewer combinations of equipment and trim are available — 18 vs. 148 previously, not including color choices. Such simplification is cheaper for VW. It also makes it more likely a dealer will have one you want in stock — if your wants are defined by the 18 choices.
•No leather upholstery is available, even though rivals such as Civic offer it. VW insists that its "leatherette" (textured vinyl), perforated to let your backside breathe, is just as handsome and comfortable. It did seem more than OK in our drives.