The new and improved Volkswagen Jetta is almost here, and it will be here to stay with a youth friendly price tag and amazing sports drive.

The 2011 Volkswagen Jetta ranks 12 out of 33 affordable small cars. This ranking is based on analysis of 25 published reviews and test-drives of the Jetta, as well as reliability and safety data. Volkswagen gives the sixth generation Jetta major updates, but reviewers say some changes – like its cheap interior plastics – aren’t an improvement. Set to hit dealerships in October, the 2011 Jetta is cheaper than the 2010 model, features a roomy rear seat, a modern exterior and an interior quality that doesn’t resemble Jettas of yore.

The most noticeable change is the price. Many consumers shy away from Volkswagens because they’re more expensive than competing models. By giving the 2011 Jetta a starting price of $15,995, Volkswagen hopes to attract buyers who have always wanted a Jetta, but didn’t want to stretch their budgets.

What will buyers get for $1,770 less than the starting price for the 2010 model? More space. VW lengthened the 2010 Jetta’s frame to appeal to more Americans. Reviewers couldn’t be happier with this change. They say the rear seat is very comfortable and will accommodate adult passengers nicely. It even competes with midsize sedans.

But the auto press isn’t as satisfied with other changes. With the price cut, interior quality suffers. Volkswagen has a reputation for building durable and upscale cabins, but the 2011 Jetta doesn’t fit this mold. Reviewers say the plastics are hard, shiny and look like they belong in a cheaper car.

Other amenities Volkswagen featured in previous models are missing. There is no center armrest, and the seats don’t power-recline. Despite the changes, reviewers say the new Jetta is still great for the class, but is no longer superior.

Voicing what most reviewers think, Edmunds says that “while the innards of the new Jetta are fully class-competitive, the interior is not likely to be the differentiator between the Jetta and its Japanese and American competitors that it once was.”

Reviewers say the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta isn’t a stellar performer because it fits the lower trims with cheaper brakes and gives the base model a less powerful engine, which is a huge step down in comparison to the 2010 model. Buyers can choose trims that feature the 2010’s engine, but it will cost more.

With these changes, the ride is stiffer, there’s more body roll and more bumps. But press members say the car is still a good driver, it’s just different than the Jettas they’re used to driving. According to Volkswagen, the 2011 Jetta averages 23 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway, which is unimpressive for the class. There is a fuel-efficient TDI trim that runs on diesel fuel, but it’s more expensive.

In the Volkswagen world, most of these changes are downgrades. However, the automotive press says that the 2011 Jetta is still a good car. It might not drive as well as the 2010 or look as good on the inside, but its price will appeal to a lot more people. If you always wanted to buy a Jetta but couldn’t, now is the time to get one.