Volkswagen’s Jetta sedan has been around for many years after starting life back in 1979 as more or less a “Golf with a trunk.” Since then it’s acquired a character of its own and many people would never know that it uses Golf running gear and much of its general trim. Part of the difference between today’s Golf and Jetta is that they don’t share any body panels and the sedan has a longer wheelbase. The 2016 Jetta is the sixth generation of the car and it’s widely popular in North America.
The Jetta I tested recently was very well equipped, but not top-of-the-line. It’s nice to get this trim level now and then because most automakers tend to loan media test vehicles that are so “loaded” you never get to find out what more basic versions are like to live with. So my tester came with wheel covers over steel rims, non-soft touch interior trim and various other ways of keeping down costs. Of course, for owners who want to jazz up their cars a little, VW has an extensive “extras” catalogue.
Having said that, the basic car has all the necessary conveniences most buyers in this class would want, including power windows and mirrors, remote power locks, air conditioning and other good stuff. It certainly doesn’t feel in any way like a “cheap” car or simply bare bones transportation. Like other VW products, it’s very well put together and finished and the interior trim uses sturdy and tasteful materials. The seats seemed just as comfortable to me as those in a much more costly Audi.
What will impress anyone who take one of these for a test spin is the powertrain. Though it has the most humble engine in the Jetta lineup at only 1.4-litres, it’s surprisingly peppy and an impressively sporty little car to enjoy. It sprints away from stops amazing well and in fact, it’s possible to spin the wheels even on a dry road. Credit must go to VW’s TSI technology which makes use of a small turbocharger to maximize displacement. Similarly, the automatic transmission is an excellent piece of engineering and shifts are positive and responsive. Like some of the Jetta’s high-performance cousins, the car must be faster with the automatic than it is with the (available) manual box. Incidentally, there are two other engines in the Jetta range - a 1.8-litre and a 2.0-litre.
The interior is quite roomy for a small car and easy too get in and out of. There’s room for adults in the back seats, which is more than can be said for some models in this class. I’ve always like the seating position in Golf/Jetta models as VW always seems to nail the correct relationship between seat location, steering wheel and pedals. The suspension is firm but comfortable too and although this is no racer, it handles competently in most conditions. I tried some fast driving on winding roads and it hung in very well indeed - stable, predictable and safe. A Connectivity Package costing $400 gets you a wide range of communication and entertainment upgrades and is well worth having. Pairing a mobile phone is an especially easy task and takes less than a minute.
While my own preference is for hatchback vehicles in this class, I can see that many buyers prefer a trunk for it’s security. Thankfully, Volkswagen offers both on the same platform and buyers can make their own decision. Either way, these smallest of VWs are excellent products from just about every standpoint.
SPECS AT A GLANCE…
BODY STYLE: Four-door front-wheel drive sedan
ENGINE: 1.4-litre 4-cylinder 150-horsepower TSI
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
PERFORMANCE: Zero to 100 km/h in approx. 8-seconds
FUEL ECONOMY: 7.3-litres/100km, combined rating
PRICE: Starts at $15,995