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2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE With Connectivity Review By Steve Purdy



Review by Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

Our test car this week is the front-wheel drive (all-wheel drive not offered) compact Jetta 1.4T four-door sedan from Volkswagen. We always like driving VW products because, like the other German brands, they tend to understand vehicle dynamics and offer a more satisfying experience behind the wheel. While our low-end Jetta projects painfully plain style and design, we can still feel the engineering care with which it is infused and we can appreciate the simple, if uninspired, styling.

After a redesign of the Jetta for the 2015 model year the big news for 2016 is the provision of a new base engine for the low-end S and SE trim levels replacing the tepid 2.0-liter normally aspirated unit. This new one is a much more energetic 1.4-liter, turbo 4-cylinder making a good 150 horsepower and impressive 184 pound-feet of torque. We cannot get a manual transmission with this one, but we have an efficient six-speed automatic with manual mode. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 28 mpg in the city, 39 on the highway and 32 combined using regular fuel. Our experience this week tends to confirm these numbers though the highway figure may be hard to achieve without some seriously gentle driving. With a 14.5-gallon fuel tank we have a truly gratifying cruising range.

Lesser news is that VW is not keeping up with the industry trend of moving ever upscale as cars are updated. While both exterior and interior designs continue to reflect classically German tight simplicity it appears that quality of materials and embellishment in design are beginning to wane while most competitors are constantly adding panache.

Exterior styling has not changed for 2016. The minimalist styling will perhaps please many VW loyalists who balk at calling attention to themselves but it is unlikely to bring new buyers to the brand. Styling was updated for the 2015 model year to what the company calls a “bold new look.” Certainly, the LED DRLs integrated in the headlight bezel look cool and the front view is subtly attractive but the simplicity of the rest of the design, particularly the rear view, is undistinguished, to be kind. Higher trim levels – GLI, 1.8T and others – get more interesting details.

The interior is comfortable and has that solid, simple Teutonic look but materials are not as nice as most competitors and, like the exterior, style and design are rather white-bread. We found functionality inside good partly because of that simple design. The touchscreen controls worked reasonably well with a minimum of searching for settings and adjustments. The Jetta felt roomy for a compact including the rear seat though the total interior volume is less than many in the class. Ingress and egress were easier than most partly because the roofline is not as low as many others as well.

The trunk will hold 15.7 cubic-feet of stuff and the rear seatbacks fold to accommodate even more with a ‘pass-through’ option to accommodate skis and fence posts.

Our Jetta SE 1.4T with Connectivity shows a starting price of $22,325. That price includes decent, not exceptional, content like: 16-inch alloy wheels, push-button start, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, nice vinyl seating rear armrest, six-speaker audio system, 6.3-inch touchscreen interface with smartphone integration, power sunroof, halogen headlights, heated windshield washer nozzles and all the power features we get on all cars these days.

The subscription-based “CarNet” connectivity functions are part of the above price and include: enhanced navigation and infotainment, remote access, remote status, remote diagnostics and a variety of other features including some great nanny functions to keep your teenage drivers in line. Subscription is free for the first year.

The Driver Assistance Package (adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous braking, blind spot monitoring and rear traffic alert) is only offered on higher trim levels.

Volkswagen’s new car warranty covers the whole car for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

In terms of driving dynamics we can say the Jetta 1.4T will not disappoint. The new engine is, indeed, a substantial improvement in power and sophistication. We found it gratifying whether we were diving like old people or putting our foot in it. The transmission performs well except on pedal-triggered downshifts. Manual mode shifting is vastly preferred. Ride and handling, while not sporty in any sense, are competent and comfortable.

This Jetta would make a comfortable, durable traveling or around-town car for someone who is partial to the brand but not prone to making a statement with their car.

©Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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