When it comes to entry-level sedans, it’s hard to beat the VW Jetta.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Click on any picture to see a larger version.
The Jetta is very happy to compete on price – it starts at a crazy-low $15,995! Usually when you see prices like that, or even prices that creep up to the $20,000 mark like my review car, you don’t expect much. But VW has some tricks up its sleeve and I came away with a new appreciation for budget-priced vehicles.
I have said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m not a huge fan of VW’s current styling direction. There’s not much to get excited about. There’s nothing hugely wrong with it, it’s just that it is so boring! With that said, the Jetta is pretty sleek. The sedan is smartly styled and it looks simple and clean, which suits the car’s character. The lower trim levels, like my review car’s, come with 15-inch steel wheels with “full wheel covers” (read: hubcaps!) which actually look just fine. No, they’re not spanky 18-inch rims, but I was just fine with them.
The modern Jetta’s somewhat ho-hum lines aren’t helped much by my sample’s drab Platinum Grey Metallic paint. Oh well.
Inside you’ll find a spacious cabin with plenty of head room. Certain things will take you back in time, such as having to physically twist a real key to start the Jetta or adjusting the temperature with a manual climate control system. Materials are restricted to hard plastics, but VW has done a great job with the textures, and you’d be forgiven for mistaking some of the panels inside for soft-touch material.
But rather than talking about what you don’t get, let’s focus on this Jetta’s mission to be an excellent value and discuss what you do get for your money.
Like the comfortable heated cloth seats. Or the responsive 6.3-inch touchscreen with an excellent interface. And the satellite radio and Bluetooth phone connectivity, as well as USB and auxiliary inputs and Apple CarPlay. Oh, and a rear-view camera is standard equipment.
There’s plenty of space in the back, and even though there’s a floor tunnel, the middle position could work for a third adult passenger. Rear passengers even get a 12V plug, which is something some more expensive sedans don’t offer – right Mr. Honda Accord?
There’s a big bin under the centre stack with a 12V plug, a USB port and an auxiliary input plug, as well as a bit of space under the armrest lid.
Getting into the trunk is no problem – VW gives you a remote release button on the dash as well as on your key fob. And it’s a big one – 440 litres, to be exact. That’s plenty, but the rear seats fold down (in a 60/40 split) if you need more cargo capacity.
Under the Hood
This is one of the best parts of the Jetta package. The ancient 2.0L engine it replaces was so awful that it wouldn’t take much to improve on it. But VW raised the bar quite a bit. It’s a turbocharged 1.4-litre 4-cylinder, cranking out 150 HP and 184 lb.ft of torque, and it is mated to a 6-speed automatic. The Jetta only comes in front-wheel drive configurations.
I averaged a very impressive 8.5 L/100 km (28 US mpg) during a week where I had a lot of fun driving. And yes, I did step on it quite a bit so I was not driving as economically as I normally would.
Yes, the new engine is awesome. More power/torque, more responsive, better acceleration and better fuel economy. What’s not to like? The 184 lb.ft of torque – yeah, it’s available at only 1400 RPM. The 6-speed automatic is very slick, and the motor/transmission package does a nice job together. But put the transmission into sport mode and this car actually becomes fun to drive. Plenty of low-end torque and surprisingly responsive. It can be shifted manually using the gear selector too.
Oh and let’s talk about this car’s ride. Without a word of exaggeration, it left me impressed in every single situation. It’s very well sorted out, and frankly, cars costing twice as much as the Jetta could learn a thing or two from its suspension set-up. It soaks up any hits, bumps and road irregularities you can throw at it, and always feels very refined with a controlled, smooth, quiet ride. And it also handles really well. Barely any body lean, no drama and happy to be thrown into curves. I think speed-variable steering would be nice, but otherwise, the drive in this car is awesome!
The Jetta’s brakes are excellent, and visibility out of the car is good. And yes, you get cruise control.
If you couldn’t tell, I really liked this car. It’s a refreshingly basic sedan that does everything the vast majority of drivers would ever need.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was high. While she’s not a big fan of sedans, she said this one was a nice size to drive around town, and it felt much more expensive in terms of how it drove and how it felt. She was also surprised at how much space the Jetta offered up.
I don’t know what more you would need for a daily driver, because this Jetta (in this trim) is excellent. It’s a great car. And if you feel like you need things like a sunroof, automatic headlights, or an automatic climate control system, they’re all available in higher trims, of course.
But living with this relatively basic Jetta for a week taught me that it’s fine as it is, and everything I personally look for in a vehicle was to be found here. And the driving experience was consistently better than I’d expect any $20,000 car’s to be. Nice one, VW – way to raise the bar! Now hire some new designers and pick it up in the styling department and we’ll be set.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by VW Canada.
If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out my other vehicle reviews under the car reviews tab at the top of my blog.
Pricing: 2016 Volkswagen Jetta
Base price (Trendline+ trim): $20,195
Options: $400 Connectivity package
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $22,300