Over the past five years, Volkswagen’s Jetta has come quite a long way. When it first launched in 2011, it offered plenty of interior and cargo space, but didn’t live up to the standards in performance, road manners, or interior quality that Volkswagens have long been known for. Fast forward to 2016 and the Jetta has course corrected, with nicer interior materials, better handling, and much-improved technology and powertrains. These changes make it a genuinely desirable compact car.
After last year’s refresh, Volkswagen has once again upped the ante with new features. The biggest of which is the launch of a new base engine – a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder which develops 150 hp and a whopping 184 lb-ft of torque. It’s a peach of an engine – smooth, tractable, and efficient rated at 8.3 L/100 km city, 5.9 L/100 km highway when paired to the standard five-speed manual. A six-speed auto is an option. It’s light years ahead of the grumbly old 115-hp naturally aspirated 2.0-litre which dates back to the ‘80s.
With this new engine as standard on most trims, Volkswagen has pared back on offering the bigger 170-hp 1.8-litre turbo four. It’s exclusively offered on the Highline, and only with the six-speed automatic.
Despite this, the Jetta is offered with a surprising variety of powertrain configurations. The performance GLI continues on with its 210-hp, 207 lb-ft of torque turbocharged 2.0-litre turbo with either a six-speed manual or six-speed DSG twin-clutch automated manual. Those wanting to maximize their mileage may wish to consider the refined Jetta Turbocharged Hybrid which pairs the base 1.4-litre turbo engine to a seven-speed DSG twin-clutch automated manual and hybrid system to deliver 170 hp, 184 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is excellent at 5.7 L/100 km city and 4.9 L/100 km highway. Were it not for the stop-sale on diesel vehicles, the Jetta would also be available with its highly regarded 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine.
As for equipment levels, 2016 sees quite a bit of shuffling of equipment around. All models other than the Hybrid receive smoked tail lights, while two new colours join the range: Ruby Red (Comfortline), and Dark Bronze (Comfortline, Highline). The range-topping Highline receives standard rain-sensing wipers, but forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking is now an option, grouped in with the Technology Package. The GLI gets standard rain-sensing wipers and parking sensors while the luxury GLI Autobahn trim adds genuine Vienna leather upholstery and blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert as standard. Last year’s Technology Package is no longer offered.
Were all of this not enough, VW has also completely reinvented its infotainment systems. Gone is the standard radio, replaced by a 5.0-inch touchscreen display with CD player, SD card reader and reverse camera. It’s standard on the base Trendline; it gains a USB port on the Trendline+. All others feature a larger 6.3-inch touchscreen with proximity sensor, plus App-Connect smartphone integration that offers compatibility with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Pricing for the 2016 Jetta starts at $15,995 for the 1.4 TSI Trendline, with the Highline priced at $27,995. The GLI starts at $29,395, with the GLI Autobahn selling for $34,795. The Turbocharged Hybrid costs $36,895.