Volkswagen Jetta In Snow & Winter Driving? (Explained)

The Volkswagen Jetta hits just the right spot for those looking for an affordable, practical sedan with good handling and German build quality.

Despite being the cheapest model in the VW lineup, it offers a lot of value-added features plus the added cachet of a relatively prestigious European brand. 

Of course, to be a good daily driver, it also needs to perform well in snowy and icy conditions. 

In this article we’ll take a closer look at the Jetta’s winter driving ability…

Here is the short answer to whether the Jetta is good for snow and winter driving:

The VW Jetta will perform just as well as any modern front-wheel drive (FWD) vehicle in light to moderate snow. It has decent ground clearance for a sedan and has an array of modern driver aids such as stability control, traction control, and ABS that will help you keep control of the car even on very slippery roads. 

Is the Volkswagen Jetta Good in the Snow?

The Jetta will do very well in light to moderate snow, however to get the best possible performance we would advise investing in a good set of snow tires. 

Snow tires or winter tires will give you more traction which will make the FWD Jetta more reliable and safer to drive in deep snow and on icy roads. They’re especially helpful if you’re trying to go up steep inclines and when trying to slow down your car.

In general, FWD cars like the Jetta will have an advantage in winter over rear-wheel drive (RWD) vehicles since the weight of the engine over the front drive wheels gives the tires more grip. 

The power sent to the front wheels also pulls the car forward, making it more predictable and easier to control. 

RWD cars have a tendency to slide around in slippery conditions since the unweighted back tires have less grip.

Jettas also have advanced stability and traction control systems that keep the car in check if it senses that the tires are slipping and you’re about to lose control of the vehicle. So this should give even less experienced drivers more confidence while driving.

But you still have to drive carefully on icy roads especially if you’re not using snow tires.

Really deep snow will be an issue however, due to its limited ground clearance of 5.6 inches.

The Jetta has decent power and torque for its class — thanks to its turbocharged engine.

This will help you power your way out if you find yourself stuck in deeper snow.

What Features Will Improve Winter Driving?

Although the Jetta looks like a regular car, it actually has a lot of driver aids that will make it perform better on snowy and icy roads.

It also comes with a couple of extra features that make it nicer to drive in the winter when the temperature drops.

Let’s take a look at some of the more significant winter driving features the VW Jetta has to offer.

Electronic Stability Control

The Jetta’s Electronic Stability Control (ESC) or Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP) system automatically applies the brakes to the correct wheels and cuts engine power to prevent you from losing control in slippery conditions. 

The ESC uses different sensors to detect the following: 

  • Steering angle
  • Yaw angle (the direction the car is headed)
  • Wheel speed
  • Vehicle speed

When it detects that the car is about to slide and lose control, such as on slippery surfaces, it will apply the brakes to the appropriate wheel and reduce engine power to slow the vehicle down and make it easier to control. 

In the snow and ice, stability control will keep the car in check if you’re going too fast in the corners and during emergency situations when you need to swerve.

Traction Control

Traction Control or Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR), is an electronic system that can reduce or prevent wheelspin. 

During the winter, when the roads are extremely slippery, your wheels are more likely to spin and could potentially make you lose control of the vehicle. 

In addition, spinning tires don’t really have any traction and will actually keep you from moving forward. 

When the traction control system detects that a tyre has lost grip and is spinning, the cars on board computer will momentarily limit the engine’s output in order to slow down the wheel to help it gain grip once more.

Antilock Braking System

The Jetta’s Antilock Braking System (ABS) is extremely useful in the winter because it prevents wheels from locking when you step on the brakes too hard – which can cause skidding and loss of control.

ABS works by quickly modulating the brakes on and off to keep the wheels from locking up which will make the tires lose their grip. 

Electronic Differential Lock

The VW Jetta also comes standard with an Electronic Differential Lock (EDL) which is designed to improve traction and handling. 

  • It uses ABS sensors on the driven wheels to determine if one wheel is spinning faster than the others.
  • It uses the ABS system to momentarily apply braking to balance out the traction needs of the driven wheels.

Related: where are VW Jetta made?

Electronic Brake Force Distribution

EBD is a system that stabilizes the amount of braking force on each wheel of the car, and is fitted as standard on the Jetta.

This works in conjunction with ABS to shorten braking distances, which is extremely important on snowy and icy roads.

Normally, more stopping power is required for the front wheels because that’s where most of the grip is.

In addition to the weight of the engine and the driver pushing down on the tires, the car’s weight shifts to the front when applying the brakes. 

But when there’s additional weight in the back due to cargo or passengers, the EBD system compensates for the extra load and grip on the rear tires by sending more brake pressure to the rear.

Engine Brake Assist 

The Jetta’s Engine Brake Assist keeps you from sliding on icy roads when the car downshifts too fast by reducing the amount of available engine braking. 

Engine braking through downshifting is normally quite effective at bringing the vehicle to a stop faster. 

But when it’s done too quickly while the engine is revving higher, it can introduce unnecessary braking forces and cause the tires to skid, especially when you’re going downhill on a slippery surface.

Hydraulic Brake Assist

In addition to the braking assists mentioned, the Jetta also comes with hydraulic brake assist. 

This system monitors how fast the brake pedal is being depressed and applies additional brake pressure when it detects an emergency braking situation.

It’s helpful in preventing accidents because some drivers let go of the brakes too early or don’t step on the brakes hard enough even when trying to avoid a collision.

You may also be interested in our article: How Long Do VW Jetta’s Last?

Heated Seats, Mirrors, Steering Wheel and Windshield Wipers

Most Jettas, aside from the base models, come with heated front seats, side mirrors and windshield wipers. Better optioned ones also come with heated rear seats and steering wheels.

Heated seats and steering wheels are a welcome creature comfort especially if you’ve just gotten into the vehicle and are about to drive off.

It takes away a lot of the discomfort caused by the cold weather outside. They’re also extremely handy on longer trips as it keeps you more comfortable and relaxed. 

The heated mirrors and windshield wipers help with visibility, and thus, your overall safety when driving in freezing temperatures. 

Remote Start

Jettas can also be equipped with a remote start accessory by the dealer. It’s activated via the VW Car-Net app using a smartphone. 

With remote start, you can turn on the engine and the heater to let it warm up first.

It will also loosen the doors when they’re frozen shut which tends to happen when it’s freezing outside.

And it works even if you’re really far away from the vehicle (up to ¼ mile). 

Does a Volkswagen Jetta Have Snow Mode?

The VW Jetta does not have a snow mode.

Snow Mode buttons are usually fitted on SUVs, crossovers and other All-Wheel Drive (AWD) cars, and is designed to reduce wheelspin by reducing throttle sensitivity.

Can You Turn Off Traction Control?

Sometimes, you’ll also need some wheelspin to get moving if you find yourself stuck in snow.

You can turn off the traction control (ASR) by going into the Jetta’s vehicle settings menu.

Older Jettas also have an ‘ESC Off’ button which will do the same thing.

On Jettas without either of these options, you can follow this procedure to turn off traction control:

  1. Turn the key to the ‘Accessory’ position
  2. Switch on the hazard lights
  3. Step on the gas pedal 5 times (or more)

Keep in mind, when you turn off traction control this way, it will automatically turn back on as soon as you start moving a couple of feet.

Can You Install Additional Snow Gear on a Jetta?

You can put all sorts of snow gear on the Jetta without any trouble, providing its legal to do so in your region. 

If you live in an area where the roads can get really slippery when winter hits, you should swap out your all-season or summer tires for dedicated snow tires. 

For really harsh winter conditions where it’s below freezing most of the time, you might also want to consider more extreme snow gear such as:

  • Tire chains
  • Snow socks
  • Studded tires
  • Engine block heater
  • Battery warmer

Volkswagen dealerships also offer Cold Weather Packages for the Jetta which include:

  • Heated front and rear seats
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Heated wiper
  • Heated windshield washer nozzles
  • Remote start

You may also be interested in our article: 11 Volkswagen Jetta Facts & Statistics You Should Know

How Much Snow Can a Volkswagen Jetta Handle?

The standard Jetta has fairly decent ground clearance for a sedan which stands at 5.6 inches. The Jetta GLI, which is the sportier version, sits a little lower at 5 inches. 

These ride heights should be able to get you through most winters as long as the roads are paved and aren’t covered with more than 6 inches of snow. 

Trying to go through roads with snow that’s higher than the ground clearance of the vehicle will most certainly get you stuck. 

The lack of an AWD version definitely limits the Jetta’s ability to plow through deep snow or climb up slippery inclines. 

If you’re concerned with the Jetta’s snow handling capabilities, you should definitely have a set of winter tires ready to go when the temperature drops. 

If you only have to deal with light to moderate snow from time to time, you should at least make sure you have good quality all-season tires on.

How Does the Jetta Handle Low Winter Temperatures?

All modern Jettas are fuel injected which significantly helps with cold starts and engine performance.

In fact, Jettas have been using fuel-injected engines since they were first introduced in the 1980s.

If you’re going to leave your Jetta out in the freezing cold for long periods of time without driving it, the battery can go flat.

Of course, this will happen with any vehicle. So make sure your battery is in good condition if you need your car to go somewhere important.

Here are some other things you can do to prepare your Jetta for really cold winters:

  • Change your oil for something that’s rated for cold weather
  • Keep your car garaged inside
  • Use a battery tender if you’re not going to drive it for weeks at a time
  • Install an engine block heater
  • Have a full set of snow tires on cheap steel wheels
  • Keep accessories like tire chains, a jump starter and a tow cable in the car

You may also be interested in our article: Infiniti Q50 in Snow & Winter Driving

Can a Volkswagen Jetta Drive on Ice?

Since all Jettas come standard with modern driver aids such as traction and stability control, and ABS, they should provide control even when the roads get really icy. 

It’s also relatively lightweight which makes it easier to bring to a stop compared to bigger SUVs and trucks. It’s lower center of gravity also makes it easier to handle even when there’s not much available grip and less prone to roll-overs.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you can floor it and stomp on the brakes whenever you feel like it. It’s still very important to be gentle with the controls when driving conditions are less safe. 

Does the Volkswagen Jetta Have 4WD?

Jettas only come with FWD. Unlike its hatchback counterpart, the VW Golf which has had several AWD variants, the Jetta has only been available with FWD ever since it was first introduced.

Front wheel drive cars can provide good amounts of traction in the snow due to the weight of the engine sitting over the driven wheels.

What About Older Volkswagen Jetta Models and Winter Driving?

Older Jettas share many of the same characteristics as the newer ones that make them a decent car in the winter. 

They’re all lightweight and front-wheel drive which makes them relatively easy to handle in the snow compared to a heavy rear-wheel drive truck or SUV.

Since 2009, all Jettas came with stability and traction control as standard.

Many older models dating back to the 1990s also came with these driver aids as options. 

Even without these modern driver aids, all you’ll really need is a good set of snow tires to make older Jettas decent winter vehicles. 

Does the Jetta Need Snow Tires?

If you regularly have to drive on snowy and icy roads, or if your winter temperatures tend to drop below 40 for several weeks, winter tires are a must.

The stock all-season tires that come with most Jettas will work decently in moderate winters or if you only have to deal with a couple of snow days a year. 

But in cold temperatures, all-season tires start to harden up and lose their traction.

Because of this, snow tires will offer more grip even when there isn’t any snow or ice on the ground. 

Snow tires also have deeper grooves and special tread patterns to provide more grip in deeper snow. 

Without proper snow tires, you’ll have more trouble with acceleration, braking, cornering and going up steep hills. 

Can You Mount a Snow Plow on a Volkswagen Jetta?

Although there may be contraptions that will allow you to mount a snow plow on a Jetta, we don’t recommend doing so, unless you’re willing to damage your bumper and bodywork. 

Snow plows should be mounted on to vehicles that use ladder frames, e.g., large trucks and SUVs. Jettas, on the other hand, have a unibody construction and don’t have the proper mounting points. 

Jettas also don’t have enough ground clearance to safely go through really deep snow. They also lack a proper four-wheel drive system with lower gearing to push through heavy snow banks. 

Related: 7 Most Common Volkswagen Jetta Problems (Explained)



  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...