2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4 TSI Trendline+

2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4 TSI Trendline+

The Jetta seeks to make up some ground, and succeeds


So, the VW Jetta- wait, are we going to hear more about Dieselgate?

If you’ve happened on this review thinking you’ll get an in-depth analysis of Volkswagen’s recent spate of diesel emissions issues, please move on- you won’t find that here. That’s because A) much ink has been spilled on the subject already, and B) the Jetta you see here is powered by Volkswagen’s newish 1.4 litre turbo four, a gasoline engine that is vastly more welcome in the engine bay than the wretched old “2pointSlow” four or even the unique sounding but unrepentantly gruff inline five.

OK, fine. The Jetta doesn’t look all that different from the last time you tested one. What gives?

You’ll be forgiven if you cannot differentiate the Jetta you see here from the 2014 version we sampled a few years ago- actually, you might have a tough time separating the newest vintage from the version that VW debuted in 2011. That was the first year of a new marketing strategy that saw the Jetta moving decidedly downmarket, and although sales were healthy, people missed what made Jetta so great in the first place- solid German engineering and dynamics on a budget in a package that didn’t feel like you “settled”. Since the bean counters axe swinging has ceased, Volkswagen has carefully added back the stuff we missed- an independent rear suspension here, the upgrading of interior surfaces and trim there. As the Jetta’s push upmarket subtly continues, we should point out that the Jetta isn’t based on the MBQ modular architecture underpinning so many VW/Audi products these days- it’s bones are slightly older and not as cutting edge.

It’s got a 1.4 litre four cylinder under the hood. Isn’t that a bit…small?

While 1,400 cc’s might seem like bringing a knife to a gunfight where motivating a 1,400-kilogram sedan is concerned, the little turbo four is the centrepiece of the lower-trimmed Jetta experience. Never once will you question VW’s decision to employ this engine, nor will you be left in a bad situation because of lack of power, say while merging on the highway or passing on a two lane road. The engine feels like a smaller version of the wonderfully expected EA series 2.0 litre turbo found in everything from a GTI to an Audi A6- smooth, quiet, efficient and more powerful than its size suggests. It may only tickle the dyno to the tune of 150 horsepower, but it will evoke a little bit of flashing traction control light if you’re too lead footed when powering out of a turn. The 6-speed automatic VW has mated to the scrappy engine is a well-thought out match- the only thing we’d ding it for is its lazy selection of manually controlled upshifts and downshifts.

Interesting. Does the feel of “getting more than I paid for” end there?

Thankfully, no. The Jetta’s chassis, while not blessed with some of the more modern hardware of its MBQ stablemates still feels every bit sweated for details by the engineering team. Our second-from-base Trendline+ example would shame many of its competitors (looking squarely at you, Nissan Sentra and Toyota Corolla) the way it goes about its business. Show the Jetta a road festooned with lumpy pavement and potholes, and you’ll find it will traverse stuff like that with nary a whimper while some non-competitive entries in the class flop around and requiring constant input from the driver to maintain a straight path. The suspension strikes a nice balance between buttoned down and elastic waist comfortable, and were it not for an overly flat bottom cushion on the front buckets you’ve got a great place to whittle away kilometres on long highways slogs. You’ll be able to do just that to your heart’s content because the 1.4 is very efficient- we achieved 9.2L/100km on regular gas- no premium required, folks.

So what’s the verdict?

If you find yourself needing a compact sedan that doesn’t, suck, you’ll find your criteria easily met with the Jetta. We’ve driven all kinds of stuff over the years ranging from austere econo-boxes to full-zoot luxury sports cars and the Jetta sets itself apart as one of the better deals in the automotive sphere today. For a shade over $20K, your search to find something that ticks all the Jetta’s boxes will be difficult to say the least. If VW can continue to slyly add stuff that makes the fundamental package even better as its steadily done over the years, the Jetta should be back occupying the top spots of the segment.

2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4 TSI Trendline+ – Specifications

  • Price as tested: $20,595
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger sedan
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
  • Engine:  1.4 litre turbo inline four, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower: 150 @ 5,000 rpm
  • Torque (lbs.-ft.): 184 @ 1,400 rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Curb weight: 1,397 kg (3,079 lbs.)
  • Observed Fuel consumption: City: 9.2L/100 km (26 mpg)