2016 VW Jetta

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Since VW can no longer sell a diesel-powered Jetta (or any other diesel-powered car) it looks like hybrids – and high cost – are in our future.'16 Jetta lead

The TDI engine is gone – for good, it looks like.

The Feds have yet to rescind the fatwa prohibiting VW from selling any 2016 model VWs equipped with the high-mileage but Uncle-offending diesel engine. As it is now almost August – with Fall (and the 2017 model year) not far distant – these brand-new 2016s are effectively used cars that VW would have to sell at a loss, even if Uncle ever allowed them to be sold.

Meanwhile, VW has officially thrown in the towel regarding future availability of diesels in its American-market cars: “We have to accept that the high percentage of diesels we had before will not come back again,” said Heinrich Woebcken, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America.'16 Jetta hybrid detail

Sucks.

And, costs.

The Jetta TDI – capable of 46 MPG – stickered for $21,640. Its nominal replacement – the Jetta hybrid – capable of 48 MPG – stickers for $31,120.

So, about 2 MPG “gain” for about $10,000.

Thanks, Uncle.

Luckily, there are other options, Jetta-wise. Including a new 1.4 liter gas turbo engine that comes close to the mileage the 2.0 liter turbodiesel delivered and at a price point that makes a lot more sense than the interesting but economically insane hybrid.

WHAT IT IS'16 Jetta side

The Jetta is VW’s almost mid-sized family sedan, one notch below the Passat.

It is not as large on the outside as mid-sized standard-bearers like the Toyota Camry but has about the same interior space as well as a very large trunk (just as large as the Camry’s actually).

The Jetta also more interior space than a same-size (on the outside) car like the compact-sized Chevy Cruz sedan.

Base price is $17,680 with the new 1.4 liter engine and a five-speed manual transmission.

Three other engines are available, too.'16 Jetta touchscreen

Next up is a 1.8 liter four (starting price $20,895 with a five-speed manual) and then  a 2.0 liter four (base price $26,920 with a six-speed manual transmission) and – lastly – the hybrid Jetta previously mentioned. It uses the 1.4 liter engine plus an electric motor/battery pack.

Base price for that one is $31,120.

WHAT’S NEW

The previously optional diesel’s gone, but there’s a new turbocharged four that’s nearly as fuel efficient and it’s standard. Though it doesn’t quite match the MPGs of the politically incorrect TDI engine, the 1.4 liter-equipped base trim Jetta  costs about $4k less – which makes up for a lot at the pump and down the road.

All trims get an updated touchscreen and suite of apps and – if you want it – there is new addled driver/idiot-proofing technology (automated braking) available, too.

WHAT’S GOOD'16 Jetta cut-away

No matter which engine you pick, the Jetta appeals. It is as roomy inside as next-up-in-size (outside) cars like the Camry while being much more reasonably priced in base/mid-trim configurations.

New 1.4 liter four doesn’t exactly replace the Uncle-forbidden TDI diesel, but almost makes up for its absence.

Two more engines to choose from – either of them available with a manual transmission, if you roll that way. Most cars in this segment are automatic-only or only offer a manual with their base/low-performance engine.

Plus a hybrid – which out-MPGs the Uncle-forbidden TDI… if you don’ mind paying through the nose for the privilege.

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD

The jury is still out on the long-term reliability of these very small, very turbocharged gas fours. They make good power and are pretty good on gas, but may cost more money to maintain as the years and miles roll by.

Precarious health of VW; the “cheating” scandal has really hurt the company – and hurt resale values of VWs, whether diesel-powered or not.

Not only is the 2.0 diesel off the menu, we’ll never see the Euro-spec 1.6 liter diesel – which delivers 60-plus MPG on the highway.

UNDER THE HOOD'16 Jetta 1.4 engine

Though the Jetta has lost its diesel engine, it still offers more engines than its rivals – most of which offer just two (and often, just one transmission – an automatic transmission).

The Jetta’s base engine is a new engine.

Replacing the previously standard 2.0 liter engine – not turbocharged – is a 1.4 liter engine that is turbocharged. And while it’s smaller, it is much stronger: 150 hp (and 184 ft.-lbs. of torque) vs. 115 hp and 125 ft.-lbs. of torque – which was not enough of either in a car the Jetta’s size.

For acceleration – or gas mileage.

The previous 2.0 equipped Jetta took a palsied 12-ish seconds to make it to 60. Which might have been tolerable if it delivered fantastic  mileage. But it didn’t.  Just 23 city, 34 highway – and the real world numbers were worse because the engine had to be worked like a Phillippino sex slave to keep up with traffic. Last time I had one, I averaged 24-something, which sucked for a modern (and not huge) family car with a four cylinder engine.'16 Jetta 1.4 detail

The new 1.4 engine is a huge improvement.

And not just power/acceleration-wise but also mileage-wise. With the standard five-speed manual transmission, the 1.4 liter Jetta gets to 60 in just over 9 seconds – and mileage is an excellent 28 city, 40 highway.

To grok the excellence of this, note that the mileage of the shoo’d off the stage diesel was 31 city, 46 highway – which is more excellent than the 1.4 gasser’s – but not by much. Just 3 MPG better in city driving and 6 on the highway. And even that advantage is washed away by the 1.4 Jetta’s $4k cheaper price.

The sad truth is that Uncle’ s emissions fatwas have not only killed off diesels, they killed their economy advantage. The combination of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel and particulate traps and urea injection greatly reduced the mileage delivered by diesels even before Uncle decided to sit on VW for “cheating” on the tailpipe tests.'16 Jetta automatic shifter

To grok this, take note of the fact that the Euro-spec Jetta (with a smaller 1.6 liter TDI engine) was – and still is – capable of 60-plus MPG on the highway and 40-plus in city driving (better than the U.S.-spec/Uncle-ized Jetta 2.0 TDI’s highway mileage).

Even if Uncle deigned to give permission to sell the 2.0 liter TDI again, it would be a hard sell vs. the 1.4 liter gasser given the U.S.-spec diesel’s 3-6 MPG advantage and much higher buy-in cost vs. the new 1.4 liter gasser.

It’s just too bad we can’t have the Euro-spec. 1.6 liter diesel.

Be sure to send a thank-you note to Uncle.

Next up is a 1.8 liter engine that makes 170 hp and 184 ft.-lbs. for torque. This version of the Jetta can get to 60 in 7.4 seconds and also gets 25 city, 36 highway – better mileage (and much better performance) than last year’s base 2.0 liter gas engine. You can go manual (five speed) or automatic (six-speed) too.16 Jetta 1.8 engine

If you want more power, there’s a third option – a turbocharged 2.0 liter four (not to be confused with the previously standard and not-turbocharged 2.0 liter four). This one makes 210 hp and 207 ft.-lbs. of torque and is basically the same engine used in the Golf GTI. So equipped, the Jetta’s 0-60 run improves by almost 1 full second to about 6.4 seconds. Mileage is only slightly less than with the 1.8 liter engine, too: 24 city, 33 with the automatic (a manual – a six-speed manual – is still available with this engine and the rated mileage is only 1 MPG less – in city driving – when so ordered).

If you want more mileage, there’s the hybrid Jetta. It pairs the 1.4 liter engine with an electric motor/battery pack – upping the hp ante to 170 (same as the 1.8 liter engine) and the mileage to 42 city, 48 highway – better than the 2.0 liter TDI we can’t buy anymore but not even close to the mileage delivered by the Euro-spec 1.6 liter TDI that we never even had a chance to buy.'16 Jetta shifter

The hybrid’s cost-to-buy also pretty much effaces any savings at the pump – vs. the diesel or any of the other still-available gas engines. It (the hybrid) costs $12,700 more tthan the base 1.4 liter-equipped Jetta. Sure, the hybrid is also a top-trim (SEL Premium) Jetta, but if the object of the exercise is saving money, the 1.4 liter (or even 1.8 liter) Jettas make much more sense.

ON THE ROAD

The Jetta drives like an Audi – which it should, because it is.

VWs are unique in that they are the only mass-market/mid-priced cars that are direct kin of luxury-brand/high-priced cars. Well, ok, there is Lincoln – which re-sells tarted up (and heavily marked up) Fords.

But with VW, it’s the reverse.'16 Jetta road 1

VWs are rebadged Audis sold at a discount. You get the same “bones” – the underlying chassis, suspension and many other foundational components – including engines. These are the parts that make a given car feel (and drive) a certain way.

Thus, the Jetta drives a lot like an A3 or A4 sedan – both of which are its close kin. The A3’s standard engine, for instance, is the same 1.8 liter engine that’s the optional engine in the Jetta and both the A3 and the A4 offer basically the same 2.0 turbo four that’s available – with ten fewer rated hp – in the Jetta.

They all feel like what they are – German luxury-sport sedans, whether the badge says “VW” or “Audi.”

The Jetta – designed specifically for the U.S. market and larger than the Jetta sold in Europe – is soft-riding for a German car, but (being a German car) still has formidable capabilities in the corners if you like to drive like a German. At first, you may be hesitant, precisely because the ride is so soft. That usually means lots of body roll and tire squeal if driven the way Germans drive. But the Jetta is made by Germans who are excellent engineers, who know that ride and handling are not necessarily mutually exclusive things.'16 Jetta raod 3

Similarly, the steering feels light, but this does not mean it’s sloppy. Go ahead, dive in.

And now that the base engine has some balls, you can power out of the corners, too.

If I were buying a Jetta, I’d probaby pick the next-up (1.8 liter) engine, however. Because it has bigger balls – and the price (and MPGs) are both right in the sweet spot. The top-of-the-line 2.0 engine is nice but the way VW structures it, you can only get it in the not-cheap GLI trim. Though to be fair to VW – if you cross shop the Jetta GLI against the V6-powered versions of larger-on-the-outside but not-much-roomier-inside mid-sized sedans like the just-redesigned Toyota Camry (base price $31,370  for a V6-equipped version) the GLI Jetta comes off looking pretty sweet, too.

The just-updated Camry, incidentally, is also automatic-only. With the base four or the optional six. The closer-in-size (outside) Chevy Cruz offers a manual – but just one engine (regardless of trim).'16 Jetta road 4

I liked the VW’s straightforward main gauge cluster, dominated by large speedometer and tachometer. Which by the way has a redline that starts at 6,000 – but the engine will spin to 6,800 before the rev limiter cuts in. This “over-rev” function works like a shot of something 90 proof in a mug of beer.

It enhances the experience.

Similarly (and unlike a lot of new cars) visibility is enhanced by the single sheet of front door glass, which is not broken up by a fixed “wing vent” (with a frame to obscure your view). The pull-up emergency brake is great for emergency stops and steers, if you get my meaning.

The seats are (like the suspension/ride) both supportive and soft – and that’s a happy combination. They also have a wide range of up and down adjustment, such that the Jetta is very comfortable to pilot even for lanky geeks myheight (6ft 3) and then some.

AT THE CURB'16 Jetta curb 1

The Jetta’s beauty is more than skin deep.

Though it is almost exactly the same overall size as other compact sedans like the Chevy Cruz (183.7 inches long overall vs. 183.3 inches for the VW) the Jetta has virtually the same space inside (and in the trunk) as much larger on the outside mid-sized sedans like the Camry (190.9 inches long overall)

Check the specs:

Up front, the Jetta has 41.2 inches of legroom; in the second row, 38.1 inches. The VW’s trunk has 15.4 cubic feet of capcity.

The Camry has just slightly more room up front (41.6 inches of legroom) and in the second row (38.9 inches) and its trunk is exactly the same size (15.4 cubic feet). But the Camry will take up almost a foot more room in your garage – and needs that much more leeway to slot into a space curbside. Arguably, it is wasted space.

You get a bigger shell (and a bigger price) but not more car.'16 Jetta curb 2

The same-size (outside) Chevy Cruz, meanwhile, has a bit more front seat legroom (42 inches) but its backseat is much tighter (36.1 inches) as is typical of compact-sized (on the outside) sedans.

Getting back to the Audi -VW kinship.

The Jetta looks like what it is – a less flashy A3 or A4. Very similar overall shape, just less adorned. Same inside, where you get a cut above as far as the materials and fitment.

The updated touchscreen is well-designed in that it is designed to be easy to operate while the car is moving. Many are not. They are impressive when the car is not moving, on the showroom floor, and the sales dude is showing you all the Gee Whiz.  But what’s trick for an iPad or your flatscreen at home is often not the hot ticket in your car.'16 Jetta v. Audi A3

Something you can’t see but which is nonetheless happy to have is the Jetta’s larger than most fuel tanks. It holds 15.5 gallons – about a gallon more than most same-size sedans (the Cruz’s holds 13.7 gallons) and that extra fuel takes you just that extra bit farther – and makes it seem like a full tank lasts a bit longer.

Which, of course, it does.

THE REST

The cupholders – located in the center console – are too small and not adjustable to accommodate anything larger than a standard-sized coffee cup. This, too, is very typically German. Nicht trinken, bitte!

But the plug-in for the USB and 12V power point are both conveniently located where you can see and get to them – ahead of the gear shifter, on a shelf just below the center stack.'16 Jetta cupholders

VW still supplies a single-slot CD player, too. And there’s Bluetooth for your iPod/phone as well.

Audi-esque available features include a cooled gelovebox (SEL trims), LED exterior and ambient interior lights and heated windshield washer nozzles (SE trims).

But it’s too bad about the diesel.

And not just the 2.0 TDI we were allowed to have for awhile. Most Americans don’t even know about the 60-plus MPG 1.6 liter TDI we were never allowed to have at all.'16 Jetta last

But we do get a $30,000-plus hybrid.

Thanks, Uncle.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The loss of the TDI – both of them – is nothing less than tragic. But the Jetta is more than just a shell for a great engine. And the TDI engine wasn’t the only great engine you could get in a Jetta.

And, still can.

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20 COMMENTS

  1. You say the Jetta is “capable” of 46mpg, but actual mileage is about 37. A Prius actually gets around 46. Big difference.

    Great cars, but you have to choose between power and cleaner emissions, and if you choose power, you can’t lie about it.

    • Hi Joe,

      I’ve test driven several TDI Jettas and they routinely exceed the advertised mileage. On the highway, they are capable of 50 MPG or more.

      And, compare the price of a Prius to that of the TDI Jetta. Big difference.

      As regards “cleaner emissions”: That’s based on the assumption that any new vehicle produces a significant quantity of harmful emissions. None do.

      Emissions have been reduced to nearly nil. We are talking about fractional differences at this point – and no one has produced evidence of actual harm caused by VW’s “cheating.”

      It is akin to “cheating” a speed trap by using a radar detector!

  2. I have ’14 sportwagen 2.5 and my daughter has a ’16 sedan 1.4T. Both are great cars. (of course long term longevity is TBD since they are so new) Her car in particular, seems to have as much, if not more pickup than mine. We both have the 5sp manual. She routinely gets above 40mpg’s. She got the bare bones model, which is okay in the stereo dept b/c the unit links to your phone, whereby you can play your tunes and take calls, etc. She has no LCD display on her level of trim, which I think is okay, b/c for nav and stuff you just end up using your phone anyway.

    • Hi Tom,

      I’m a big fan of this car, as you could probably tell from reading the review! I just hope VW can weather this storm…

  3. Where are you driving? My 2.0 liter 5-speed Jetta regularly gets mileage in the mid 30s, and over 40 on the highway (and I do not drive like a clover). I agree, it is under powered, but I didn’t buy it for the power (or I’d have gotten the turbo).

  4. I always liked the Jettas and almost bought one. I should have replaced my subaru with one. Mine is a lemon. I couldn’t imagine that the VW would have been any less reliable or costly to run.

    I like the idea of the 170 HP model as well, but I think that the GLI appeals to me more. It has a sportier ride and handling. The interior also has a sportier feel.

    • Hi Swamp,

      The Jetta has been one of my favorites in this class (another is the Mazda6) for a long while. Just a really appealing everyday car; just sucks about the diesel.

      • Some friends had a Jetta 25 years ago or so. That little diesel evidently couldn’t be hurt. They frequently got just shy of 60 mpg. Of course it probably weighed half of what one now weighs.

    • Swamprat,

      I’m a VW guy, but I will say the Jetta is a great little car. We have a 2007 Wolfsburg 2.5 that has been bulletproof. The motor is slow (150hp, I believe), but a manual helps. The cars are really comfortable, even for longer trips. The new ones look even better.

      I’m sure you can find plenty of people who say their VWs were money pits, but after a half dozen different models over the years, I simply haven’t found this to be the case. If you do the maintenance, you are usually fine. Like eric keeps saying, though, the new motors are the wild card. DI and hard running turbos…

      Which Subaru do you have?

  5. If nothing else, at least we see the “could have been” clearly due to the over regulation that we see today. We don’t have a diesel (or two in this case) we could have had. Not because we wouldn’t buy them, that VW couldn’t make them. Nope, our so called betters have decreed that they are verbotten.

    Most of the time its hard to to countify what it is, because it doesn’t exist. Hard to quantify the loss when it doesn’t get past the penciled out on a spread sheet.

    Who knows how many new jobs that could have been created had the Obama regime not started a war against the small biz entrepreneur class. I have a friend who shelved his plans for a new business the day after Barry got himself reelected. He knew they had no chance in h*ll of working in this climate.

    They likely will never see the light of day again the way the economy is declining. But how do you tell people how many people how many this dead in the water company would have employed? One, ten, a hundred? At least one, I would think, since my friend is still in his job. A job that could have been filled by someone else, had my friend employed himself.

    People like Barry won’t see that. They are too busy patting themselves on the back for saving a few old outdated jobs at dinosaur companies (that will just go out of business a few years down the road).

  6. …the engine had to be worked like a Phillippino sex slave to keep up with traffic.

    Coffee…everywhere….

    Terrific review. Now I want one. We have a 2015 Passat with the 1.8 and it’s a great motor. Would be even better with less weight and a manual.

  7. Is that 1.6 TDI the one I remember reading about a few years back? VW makes them here in the USSA (TN), but only for export to Latin America. The EPA wouldn’t approve it because the exhaust emissions/gal. were 10% higher than the 2.0. Totally igonoring the fact that it would burn about 50% fewer of those gallons.
    Fish heads are too good for them.

    • PtB, that huge fuel savings, hence, much less overall pollution has always been the elephant in the room.

      No one can forget clover but she took me to task for removing a smog pump on a new vehicle and replacing it with a high volume intake and high flow exhausts instead of the squeeze it down to nothing original. The vehicle felt like it had twice the power and literally got 50% better mileage but clover couldn’t relate that to a decrease in overall pollution.

      I had an engine built for the Elco that made a great deal of HP with heads that weren’t the largest size valves but good for fuel mileage and a custom ground cam. I ran loads of communications equipment at high speeds across a couple states, where ever it might be needed when speed was more important than anything else. The alternative was a private cargo plane that used a great deal more fuel and cost much more than my delivery. I could have done that job till ’86 when instant-on radar made it’s debut but the company didn’t live that long due to bankster finagling and in-fighting.

      And now we all live under the FATWA of Ca. and it’s never-ending reach for something unattainable. I recall people buying vehicles in Tx. and returning to Ca. with them. Then Ca. caught on to that and now the feds just use Ca. for everything…..all because of smog in LA.

      • Best way to eliminate smog in the LA basin, move everything and everyone out. Then CARB and all the taxpayer funded claptrap can be phased out of existence.

        • Watch the sky in this video between the 1940s and now. With so many more people living in LA today notice the difference in pollution. I have a photograph of NYC taken from the air in the 1939 or 40. The haze is incredible. No modern shot has it. The idea that we have a pollution problem today is so incredibly overblown.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIHfmisMLOY

          • I also noticed that downtown traffic levels aren’t too much different. What they didn’t have in the 40’s was the high number of freeways cutting through and surrounding the city.

          • Both cities used to have a great amount of industry that highly contributed to the lack of air quality. Since NAFTA we don’t much worry about exhaust from producing anything.

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