Volkswagen's Jetta was repositioned a few years ago to compete more directly with other economical compacts. That meant a lower price, simplified equipment choices, and greater emphasis on fuel efficiency. Despite its roomy interior and grown-up looks, the Jetta remains the most affordable route to putting a new VW in your garage.
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2016 Volkswagen Jetta Overview
What's New for 2016
Last year's base engine has been replaced by a more powerful turbocharged unit. The dash receives a new touchscreen interface, and more safety tech features are available.
Choosing Your Volkswagen Jetta
The current Jetta is known for its generous interior dimensions. Passenger and trunk space come close to midsize levels, and so does the new base engine. The 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder puts out 150 horsepower and delivers up to 33 mpg in combined city and highway driving. As before, you can upgrade to a 1.8-liter turbo with 170 horsepower. Both engine come standard with a five-speed manual transmission, and a six-speed automatic is optional.
At the top of the engine roster is a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that achieves 210 horsepower. The 2-liter can be paired with a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automated manual.
Trim levels correspond to engine size:
The entry-level S is clearly a better deal this year thanks to the installation of the 1.4-liter turbo. That said, most buyers will still be more comfortable with the SE, which feels like a complete car.
2016 Volkswagen Jetta Review
The Volkswagen Jetta is a compact sedan and one of the most popular models from this German automaker. Introduced in 1980 in two- and four-door sedan configurations, the latter composition is the only body style currently offered. A previously provided sport wagon has been moved to the Golf model line.
Pricing and Equipment
Starting at $17,680 (plus an $820 destination charge) for a Volkswagen Jetta S 1.4L with a five-speed manual transmission, this model approaches $30,000 for a top-end GLI SEL edition. Six trim levels are available (including a hybrid) for a model offering three turbocharged gasoline engine choices. For 2016, no diesel engines are available as a result of Volkswagen flouting diesel emission regulations.
Standard equipment for the model tested included:
- Fifteen-inch steel wheels
- Cruise control
- Cloth seating surfaces
- Manual air conditioning
- Touchscreen sound system
- Bluetooth with audio streaming
- Available Mirrorlink, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay
- The all-new base 1.4-liter turbocharged engine is energetic, delivering 150 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. It comes paired with a quick-shifting five-speed manual or an available six-speed automatic transmission.
- The 2016 Volkswagen Jetta offers outstanding fuel economy, making 28 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway when outfitted with the base engine and the manual transmission.
- Our testers praised the Jetta’s handling, noting that it is the “driver’s car among compacts.” Credit this model’s four-wheel independent suspension for making a big contribution to its fun-to-drive characteristics.
Our testers found nothing of consequence to suggest a performance downside for this model.
- Clean lines and well-organized controls highlight the Volkswagen Jetta’s interior. Where some competitors deliver complicated layouts, the Jetta’s is easy to decipher and use.
- Our testers were pleased with the classic Volkswagen gauges, featuring a large, circular design.
- The rear seat is spacious, offering room that rivals some larger cars. The Jetta’s 15.2 cubic foot trunk matches what some midsize sedans offer.
- The low starting price for the 2016 Jetta translates into a sparsely contented model. Most buyers will find themselves looking at a different trim level.
- The standard 5-inch center console display is small, although not unlike the standard displays found in competing models. The navigation system is dated and outclassed by its competitors. A simpler and more advanced system is warranted.
The Most Pleasant Surprise
Despite no diesels in the lineup, what remains is a strong family of gasoline-powered cars, including a base engine with a 40 mpg fuel economy rating. The Jetta Hybrid is the fuel efficiency champion, delivering 48 mpg on the highway.
The Least Pleasant Surprise
The Volkswagen Jetta’s design is getting “long in the tooth.” Our reviewers said it looked “old, plain and staid,” especially as newer entries with “racier lines” are available. Despite the styling shortcomings, the Jetta remains the most popular model for Volkswagen in North America.
The Bottom Line
If you can look past the bland styling and forgive Volkswagen for its emissions cheating, the VW Jetta remains a strong competitor in the compact sedan segment. All three turbo engines provide superior boost with the base engine combining that with excellent fuel economy. Price creep, however, can drive the cost of the Volkswagen Jetta to a level matching some entry-level luxury models. Shop carefully and you should find a well-equipped model for about $25,000.
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