By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 8.4
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please be aware that this vehicle's diesel engine is involved in a Notice of Violation of the Clean Air Act issued by the EPA to Volkswagen for producing and selling 4-cylinder diesel cars that include a software device that circumvents EPA emissions standards for certain air pollutants. The EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) determined that these diesel cars emit up to 40 times more pollution than emission standards allow. Recalls, investigations and litigation are currently ongoing.
As Volkswagen’s best seller, the 2016 Jetta sedan runs the gamut, including a simple economy car, performance-oriented sedan and fuel-sipping hybrid and diesel models. The Jetta can also be equipped with the latest driver-assist features, such as adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking. Compared to the Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla, the Jetta offers a more upscale interior, better handling plus some of the best fuel-economy figures of any midsize sedan. Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the current dark cloud hanging over the TDI clean-diesel models. How the outcome will affect the car’s fuel-economy ratings and power output is yet to be determined, as is any hit to its once-enviable resale.
Volkswagen’s 2016 Jetta sedan offers something for everyone. Looking for an affordable and economical car that’s still fun to drive? The base S model’s got that. Wish you could own a BMW or Audi sports sedan but your budget says “no way”? The GLI will prove you wrong.
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For 2016, VW’s Jetta sedan receives a new 1.4-liter turbocharged engine on S and SE trims, while the GLI gets a major exterior makeover. Infotainment updates include VW Car Net, which is now compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink. SE trims gain a rearview camera.
The driving experience behind the wheel of a 2016 VW Jetta sedan varies greatly depending on the trim. A new 1.4-liter turbo in the S and SE delivers good acceleration...
... and great fuel economy, while the 1.8-liter turbo delivers more punch with nearly identical fuel economy. The TDI diesel is surprisingly quick thanks to its abundant torque, but it’s the 210-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo in the GLI that makes the Jetta sports sedan worthy. Looking for the best of both worlds? Try the 1.4-liter turbo and electric-assist motor in the Jetta Hybrid. Common traits for all Jettas are excellent road manners, responsive steering and brakes and a penchant for tackling tight turns. While the GLI is the best handling of the bunch, its ride can be harsh. We actually like the TDI diesel’s performance, but until we learn more, we’d say go with the Hybrid or 1.8T.
VW’s 2016 Jetta GLI is one of the best sports sedans money can buy. Fast, efficient and more fun than usually evoked by 4-doors, this is one front-drive family sedan that will prompt frequent arguments over who gets to be in the driver’s seat.
1.4T TURBOCHARGED GASOLINE ENGINE
The newest turbocharged engine in the Jetta fleet replaces the anemic 115-horsepower 2.0-liter from last year and all we can say is “good riddance.” The 1.4T offers up robust acceleration and a 40-mpg highway rating when equipped with the manual transmission.
For a compact car, the 5-passenger 2016 Jetta sedan by Volkswagen has good interior space, although rear-seat legroom lags behind the Hyundai Elantra and Chevy Cruze. Especially notable is the amount of cargo space behind the rear seat. At 15.5 cubic feet, the sedan's trunk is in a higher league, and when you need even more room the rear seats fold. Design-wise, the Jetta's interior could be called “minimalist-chic.” Advanced technology and a plethora of high-quality materials are laid out in a simple, easy-to-use format devoid of multiple buttons and overly complicated screens.
The latest Jetta is stylishly conservative compared to such design-focused competitors as the Mazda3, Hyundai Elantra and even the 2016 Dodge Dart. Indeed, compared to the many entrants in this segment, it's the Jetta and Chevrolet Cruze dressed as the adults at the dinner party. Is that appealing? Depends whether you're more Josh Groban or Bruno Mars. If you're in the camp of the former, you'll like the Jetta's clean lines that we expect to age well. GLI versions increase the excitement level with a dynamic new front end, 18-inch alloy wheels, smoked taillights and dual exhaust tips.
Spend the very least on VW’s 2016 VW Jetta S, and you'll get basics like air conditioning, power windows/doors/mirrors, keyless entry, 15-inch steel wheels, Bluetooth and an AM/FM/CD audio with 5-inch color touch screen. Spend roughly $2,000 more for the SE model and you'll not only get a great engine, but cruise control, Leatherette interior with heated front seats, push-button start, heated washer nozzles and 6-speaker sound system with iPod adapter. SEL trims bring navigation, power driver’s seat, Fender premium audio, automatic climate control and keyless access and start. Complimentary maintenance is covered for two years/24,000 miles.
Aside from a 6-speed automatic transmission, most extras in the 2016 Jetta sedan are had by climbing trims. Among them are sunroof, navigation system, VW's Car-Net connectivity service, push-button start, touch-screen radio, power driver's seat and rearview camera. At around $30,000, top-line GLI and Hybrid models bring sparkling bi-xenon headlights, automatic climate control and Fender premium audio system. The Driver Assistance System includes blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision warning, park-distance control and new this year, adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking.
Five engines are offered for VW’s 2016 Jetta sedan. Used only on the base S and SE sedan is a 1.4-liter direct-injection turbo connected to a 5-speed manual transmission or 6-speed automatic with Sport mode. You can move up a trim to obtain VW's zesty 1.8-liter turbocharged-4, also connected to a 5-speed manual or 6-speed auto. GLI models use the most powerful engine in the lineup, a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 210 horsepower. Its transmission choices are 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto. The Hybrid employs a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder and electric motor, and 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Like the GLI, hybrid models require premium fuel. The efficient TDI models use a 2.0-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder connected to a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic.
1.4-liter inline-4 (S, SE)
150 horsepower @ 5,000 rpm
184 lb-ft of torque @ 1,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 28/40 mpg (manual), 28/39 mpg (automatic)
1.8-liter turbocharged inline-4 (SEL, Sport)
170 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
184 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500-4,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/37 mpg (manual), 25/36 mpg (automatic)
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (GLI)
210 horsepower @ 5,300 rpm
207 lb-ft of torque @ 1,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/33 mpg (manual), 24/33 mpg (automatic)
2.0-liter turbodiesel inline-4 (TDI)
150 horsepower @ 3,500 rpm
236 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 31/46 mpg (manual), 32/45 mpg (automatic)
1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4 + electric motor (Hybrid)
170 horsepower (combined)
184 lb-ft of torque (combined) @ 1,000-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 42/48 mpg
The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) range can turn a Jetta into a sub-$20,000 economy car or a $30,000-plus sedan with features and performance nearing that of an entry-level luxury car. The Jetta Hybrid comes fully loaded at around $32,000. Those seeking a fuel-sipper can opt for a TDI diesel model, starting around $22,500 with the manual transmission. In lower trims, the Jetta is in good company with the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Chevrolet Cruze and Subaru Impreza, but can't quite reach the lower starting prices of the Nissan Sentra, Dodge Dart and Kia Forte. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Jetta. In predicted resale value, the VW Jetta's is expected to be marginal to good, with the diesels’ fate unknown for now and hybrid models at the bottom of the pack.