Overview

 

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Written By James Hamel

Overview

(Overall Grade after 8 Categories: B+)

Yes, we all know that Volkswagen is embroiled in a worldwide scandal known as "Dieselgate" due to their cheating during emissions testing on their diesel TDI 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engines which up until now were hot sellers for the brand in the Golf, Sportwagen, Passat and of course, their bread and butter Jetta compact family sedan.

But for this review, we cannot hold the sins of one engine against a car that comes with four other perfectly good powertrains—they are the Jetta hybrid, all new base Jetta gasoline 1.4 turbo with 150 horsepower/184 lb. feet of torque making it decidedly superior to the "so ancient it required carbon dating to learn its age" base 115 horsepower motor from last year and again we also see the return of the 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder sporty engine in the GLI sedan which pumps out 210 horsepower/207 lb. feet of torque.

Now while we would always be tempted by the well proven, GTI worthy and reliable 2.0 liter GLI model we think that since that variant can get up near the $30,000 mark to many that will place it just out of reach, however worth the price it may be. The 1.8 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder which puts out a fiery feeling 170 horsepower/184 lb. feet of torque when mated to either the five-speed manual or six-speed automatic both of which we have tried with this motor in SEL and Sport trim.

If you are one of the people out there who refuse to even consider a Volkswagen because of the diesel scandal, we say that is well and truly your own personal decision to make but right now the German automaker is offering some truly amazing deals on this fun to drive compact family sedan with some of the best gas engines in its class. And we ask you this, did you also boycott General Motors after the recent shift interlock recall which killed hundreds or Ford because of the Firestone/Explorer or Pinto recalls? Not to single those two brands out but we don't feel every individual who works at an automaker should be held responsible for the actions of a few individuals.

So if you can separate the Jetta from the Volkswagen scandal, what you have before you is one of our favorite four door sedan buys on the market today. Read on to find out more.

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What we loved about the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta


  • The new base 1.4 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder replaces ancient 2.0 liter unit


 

  • The Sport trim level at just over $20,000 represents a tremendous value


 

  • The wide availability of Apple Car Play and Android Auto Infotainment Connectivity


What we didn't love about the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta


  • No TDI diesel option this year due to emissions scandal


 

  • Wish manual transmission was more widely available across trim levels


 

  • Reliability should not be just average for such an iconic car


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Exterior View (8 out of 10)

Some may say the exterior of the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta looks exactly the shape of the box it was shipped in on its way to the dealership. But not everyone loves spurious style slashes running down the sides of their new car that exist only to make a car look dated faster than a Kardashian gets a new reality show. No, in the simple yet timelessly strong lines of the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta we see the image of a German automotive icon in this country.

It is a car that has always managed to be affordable, European and sporty all at the same time and the look positively reflects that. For 2016, the Jetta is available with a new lighting package which not only adds higher powered swiveling headlights for easier night driving but it also adds LED light accents to both the front and rear light clusters adding serious character to the vehicle when seen at night.

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Interior Comfort, Quality and Ease of Use (9 out of 10)

The 2016 Volkswagen Jetta is so roomy inside that it actually qualifies as a midsize sedan and not a compact sedan which models like the Mazda3, Kia Forte and Ford Focus all still manage to be less spacious inside than the Vee-Dub. Not only is rear legroom ridiculously ample, the trunk space at 15.7 cubic feet manages to shame some full size sedans two classes above.

There is now more room in the center console as Volkswagen has finally seen fit to install a USB port instead of using the VW-specific MIDI cable that used to eat up a lot of the space in that usually handy storage area. Otherwise cupholders are perfectly sized, the glovebox is large and air conditioned and the door bins are wide and lined to keep your junk from sliding around. Even the rear seats get an armrest with two cupholders meaning in addition to the ones in each door pocket, you can bring plenty of beverages along with you on any road trip.

But mostly what we noticed was the vast improvement in interior quality for the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta which in our SEL model came with leatherette seats so nice they could have easily been mistaken for cowhide and made a nice complement to the new soft touch dashboard, updated infotainment unit and handsome steering wheel taken from the Golf. The Sport model went a step further by covering the seats with highly stylish tan and black leatherette covering that really gave the interior a really upscale, unique and dare we say "sporty" look.

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Technology (10 out of 10)

Every 2016 Volkswagen Jetta barring the most basic model comes standard with a composition media touchscreen sound system which allows for connectivity to both Apple Car Play if you use an iPhone or Android Auto if you are an Android smartphone user. Volkswagen is one of the first to offer both of these amazingly well integrated systems into all of its models and we applaud their efforts to offer it in as many trim levels as possible. These infotainment set-ups are truly the future and we are glad Volkswagen sees that.

Fuel Economy (9 out of 10)

Both 2016 Volkswagen models we tested featured the 1.8 liter turbocharged motor which returns an EPA estimated 25 city/37 highway and overall we averaged 31 miles per gallon in both of our Jetta testers, one of which took us from Laguna Beach on the ocean to the desert of Palm Springs and back on one tank of gas. The 1.8-liter turbo motor runs of regular unleaded gas as does the new 1.4-liter turbo which promises even greater efficiency. Sadly, the sporty 2.0-liter turbo in the GLI recommends premium unleaded.

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Predicted Reliability and Initial Quality Rankings (6 out of 10)

The 2016 Volkswagen Jetta has undergone a number of extensive updates and upgrades to everything from its powertrains to the interior to the number of advanced safety features offered over the course of its current lifetime. So while JD Power and Associates gives the Jetta a 2 ½ stars out of 5 rating for predicted reliability, try to keep in mind that this is a reflection of the quality hiccups that the 2012 model had when it was launched. Post 2014 Jetta models, especially with the 1.8 liter turbocharged engine are very smart buys.

Safety (9 out of 10)

This is a place where Volkswagen should well and truly be proud of the performance of its hot selling four door family sport sedan. The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) awarded the car a "Top Safety Pick Plus" award which is their highest honor thanks to its near perfect scoring in their many, very difficult to pass crash tests. The Jetta also was given strong marks for the availability of active safety features like blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, front impact warning and braking override as well as park distance control and adaptive cruise control. With that, Volkswagen well and truly is a class leader when it comes to all around safety with the Jetta.

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Performance (9 out of 10)

We think the 1.4 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that now powers the most basic Jetta models will be a sea change in ability for this four door German family sedan that always in the past has put an emphasis on sportiness so we see this as a true return to form. Also, thanks to EPA estimates up to 39 miles per gallon highway, efficiency won't be off the table either even with its impressive 150 horsepower/184 lb. feet of torque power ratings.

All 2016 Volkswagen Jetta models come with a fully independent rear suspension design that not only allows this four door to tackle corners with grace and accuracy but it also allows this family sedan to glide over bumps and uneven ridges in a refined manner at freeway speeds. Despite being an all electric set-up, the Jetta's steering feel is right up there with the class best offering up good feedback and a nice balance of weight at different speeds.

We were also impressed with how quiet the interiors of our test Jettas were with very little tire or road noise and the 1.8-liter turbo motor only making itself known when the driver chooses to rev the engine out to redline. Even then the noise it makes is decidedly sporty in tone which isn't always the case with blown 4-cylinder motors. The 1.8 with its 170 horsepower/184 lb. feet of torque frankly feels more powerful than those numbers suggest easily keeping up with traffic at all times.

Past experience in the Jetta GLI with its 2.0-liter turbo and six-speed manual have shown that this is not a sport sedan to be sniffed at by any means. It is just as capable as its sibling the GTI only it appears a bit more grown-up so perhaps it might slip past the notice of your local police department. Alas, the rip snortingly rev-happy 210 horsepower motor might still get you in trouble with the gendarmes but at least you will always have a big grin on your face even as they haul you off to jail. Let's hope you have better control of your inner hooligan. If not, maybe the hybrid would be a better idea.

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Pricing and Value for Money (9 out of 10)

Prices for the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta start at just over $18,000 for the most basic model with the 1.4 liter turbocharged four-cylinder and our testers hit just over $20,000 to start for the well equipped Sport model and just over $23,000 for out automatic transmission equipped SEL tester. Whereas the Sport model came with an in-dash navigation unit, USB, Bluetooth, a sport tuned suspension, stylish alloy wheels (base models up to SE trim come with cheap looking plastic wheel covers), a back-up camera, push-button start and much more.

The SEL model we tested added to that a power sunroof, keyless access, rain sensing wipers, a power driver's seat and the availability of a Fender audio system upgrade, dual zone climate control as well as a host of active safety features not available on the Sport trim. The active safety options mentioned earlier come in an option pack which is very reasonably priced at just under $1,000 for blind spot warning, rear cross traffic assist, front impact warning and active brake assist as well as active cruise control.

We figure most buyers will at least want the Jetta 1.4S model with Technology so they can enjoy the infotainment unit with Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity as well as a standard automatic transmission, back-up camera, cruise control, power everything, air conditioning, a 60/40 split rear seat, Bluetooth with audio streaming capability and more. It does, however, make do with plastic wheel covers so be warned.

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The Final Numbers and the Competition (69 Points out of 80)

The 2016 Honda Civic, which we have yet to test thoroughly, will no doubt be quite a threat to the Jetta's class leading excellence and the 2016 Mazda3 although it is relatively unchanged is always a smart choice in this class. Ford's new Focus was recently redesigned and given a 1.0 liter Ecoboost 3-cylinder that works surprisingly well with that agile and fun to drive compact so it deserves your consideration as well.

If price and reliability is all you are concerned with then check out the Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra or soon to be replaced Hyundai Elantra. The Chevy Cruze is all new for 2016 and while it had fallen behind the class best in recent years, the new car holds much promise. Mitsubishi claims to have redesigned the 2016 Lancer but it still looks pretty much the same meaning we would recommend trying out the GT model as it is fun to drive and can easily be had for around $20,000 with dealer discounting and despite its age remains a "Top Safety Pick" according to the IIHS.

We always recommend that you test drive two competing models before choosing which new car to buy so if you are looking at any of the aforementioned models listed here, the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta in one of its many forms definitely belongs on your shortlist. We hope you can see that one scandal cannot take away from the fact that the Jetta is one expertly engineered, affordable German family sport sedan. And call us crazy but we don't know of a lot of cars that fit that description other than the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta.

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Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
Sedan - FWD
2.0L TDI S 4dr Manual 2.0L TDI S Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD
2.0L TDI S 4dr DSG 2.0L TDI S Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD
2.0L TDI SE w/Connectivity 4dr Manual 2.0L TDI SE with Connectivity Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD
2.0L TDI SE w/Connectivity 4dr DSG 2.0L TDI SE with Connectivity Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD
2.0L TDI SEL Premium 4dr Manual 2.0L TDI SEL Premium Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD
2.0L TDI SEL Premium 4dr DSG 2.0L TDI SEL Premium Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD
1.4T S 4dr Manual 1.4T S Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 17680
1.4T S w/Technology 4dr Manual 1.4T S with Technology Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 18675
1.4T S 4dr Auto 1.4T S Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 18780
1.4T SE 4dr Manual 1.4T SE Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 18995
1.4T S w/Technology 4dr Auto 1.4T S with Technology Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 19775
1.4T SE 4dr Auto 1.4T SE Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 20095
1.8T Sport 4dr Manual 1.8T Sport PZEV Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 20895
1.8T Sport 4dr Auto 1.8T Sport PZEV Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 21995
1.4T SE w/Connectivity 4dr Auto 1.4T SE with Connectivity Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 22325
1.8T SEL 4dr Auto 1.8T SEL Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 23650
1.8T SEL 4dr Auto 1.8T SEL PZEV Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 23650
1.8T SEL Premium 4dr Auto 1.8T SEL Premium Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 25380
1.8T SEL Premium 4dr Auto 1.8T SEL Premium PZEV Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 25380
2.0T GLI SE 4dr Manual 2.0T GLI SE Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 26920
2.0T GLI SE 4dr Manual 2.0T GLI SE PZEV Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 26920
2.0T GLI SE 4dr Auto 2.0T GLI SE Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 28020
2.0T GLI SE 4dr Auto 2.0T GLI SE PZEV Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 28020
2.0T GLI SEL 4dr Manual 2.0T GLI SEL Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 29280
2.0T GLI SEL 4dr Manual 2.0T GLI SEL PZEV Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 29280
2.0T GLI SEL 4dr Auto 2.0T GLI SEL Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 30380
2.0T GLI SEL 4dr Auto 2.0T GLI SEL PZEV Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 30380
Hybrid SEL Premium 4dr DSG Hybrid SEL Premium Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 31120

Comparison of 2016 Volkswagen Jetta with Similar Cars

2016 Volkswagen Jetta MSRP Invoice
2016 Volkswagen Jetta $17,680 $0
Similar Cars to Consider MSRP Invoice Compare
2016 Honda Civic $18,640 $17,332 2016 Volkswagen Jetta VS 2016 Honda Civic
2016 Toyota Corolla $17,300 $16,349 2016 Volkswagen Jetta VS 2016 Toyota Corolla
2016 Nissan Sentra $16,780 $16,357 2016 Volkswagen Jetta VS 2016 Nissan Sentra
2016 Hyundai Elantra $17,250 $16,734 2016 Volkswagen Jetta VS 2016 Hyundai Elantra
2016 Ford Focus $17,225 $16,622 2016 Volkswagen Jetta VS 2016 Ford Focus

Car Rankings

Interested to see how the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta ranks against similar cars in terms of key attributes? Here are the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta rankings for MPG, horsepower, torque, leg room, head room, shoulder room, hip room and so forth.

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