Saturday, November 16, 2019

Spacious Interior, Peppy Engine, Excellent MPG

Up until this year the Volkswagen Jetta was powered by turbocharged 1.8L and 2.0L gasoline engines or the 2.0L TDI turbo diesel. The TDI is no longer offered, and VW has expressed some ambivalence about whether it will return. It definitely is absent for this model year. For 2016, VW has replaced it with the turbocharged 1.4L gasoline engine, which we drove in the 2016 Jetta 1.4T SE.

So what is VW doing adding and dropping engines from the Jetta? Being forced to replace the TDI and its excellent fuel economy, something had to come along to fill the void. Welcome to the new 1.4L turbo, delivering spirited acceleration and 40+ mpg fuel economy, making it a good engine for all but the sportiest driving patterns.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The Jetta rolls in in 2016 with a new mpg option

Smarticd’s four-door 2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE was powered by an inline four cylinder, 16-valve 1.4-liter turbocharged and intercooled engine, putting out 150 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, with the torque maxing-out at a low 1,400 rpms, which allowed it to pull well in all gears at all speeds. Our front-wheel drive test car was mated to a smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission with an EPA fuel economy rated at 28 city/39 highway/32 combined. Ratings for the six-speed automatic transmission for the city are the same, with the highway and combined are one mpg more, hitting that magic 40 mpg. In 255 miles of driving throughout Southern California I averaged 31.8 mpg.

The Jetta 1.4T pulled nicely into freeway traffic and then out on the highway. I was pleased to see the tachometer reading about 2,000 rpm at 70 mpg. VW has done a good job of engineering this transmission to turn the engine slowly when it counts most–out on the open road. The engine is quiet and smooth, with only a small bit of strain when taking it high in the rev band during the heaviest of heavy mashing of the accelerator pedal.

The Driving Experience

Tires that grip are always welcome

The 2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE is quiet and smooth, riding on 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels and 205/55R16 Bridgestone Ecopia all-season tires. Bridgestone says the Ecopia is a “low rolling

resistance tire engineered to make any car more fuel efficient.” Handling can be affected negatively by low rolling resistance tires, but in the case the Jetta, the strut-type front suspension with coil springs and multi-link/coil spring rear with anti-roll bars all-around helped keep the car neutral with only a slight push when powered hard through a corner. Road feel was very good with rack-and-pinion electric power steering that thankfully was not programmed to take away the fun of driving. Highway 70+ mph cruising was solid and confident. The Jetta SE is a well-balanced car that is easy to drive.

A good handling car, of course, is nothing without good brakes. The Jetta SE comes standard with ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), power assisted front vented and rear solid discs. Handling and driving confidence was also aided by electronic stability control.

Driving Experience: Interior

A touch of chrome

Smarticd’s 2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE minimalist interior features a clean fit and finish that was German tight, with a good mix of soft and hard plastics. The simple layout of all gauges, with their chrome accent ring edges and tunnel design, was uncomplicated by fake woods, plastic chrome pieces or similar design gimmicks. The white backlighting for the dash gauges also added a premium element.

The heated cloth front seats have better-than-average bolstering and include manual height adjustments. A good choice of seat settings, combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, made finding a comfortable driving position on long drives a breeze. The front seats are separated by a center console with an armrest that doubles as a storage area. Head, leg, elbow and shoulder room was accommodating, even for 6’+ drivers and passengers, including the rear seat that can accommodate three adults. The trunk space is more than can be found on the largest midsize sedan. If it is only the driver and front seat passenger on a long weekender, lowering the 60/40 split rear seat provides enough space for a full-size bicycle. There is a pass-through opening for longer items like skis or garden tools when making a home improvement store run.

Taking center stage on the dash of our SE trim level Jetta is VW’s Composition Media 6.3-inch color touchscreen that handles the rearview camera. Composition includes capacitive technology,

Just enough knobs along with the bells and whistles

similar to what is found on smartphones and tablets and allows for functions such as swiping and pinch-zooming. While all this modern touchscreen technology is nice, Smarticd is a big fan of knobs and switches for the radio and climate controls. VW does a nice job of making it easy to operate the radio and single zone HVAC system with the turn of a few knobs. The black dash has accents of chrome, aluminum and piano-black finishes, along with a leather-wrapped gearshift knob and hand brake handle.

The centerpiece of the infotainment system is the eight-speaker sound system. This well-balanced system delivers deep, full and crisp tones for the AM/FM radio/CD player/MP3 player. Also part of the infotainment system is SiriusXM (a must for those long, fuel-efficient road trips), Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music, and VW’s Media Device Interface (MDI), which includes a SD card and USB slots.

Other conveniences are power windows with one-touch operation and pinch protection, keyless access, push-button engine start/stop, heated front washer nozzles, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, power adjustable and manual folding heated exterior mirrors, multi-function car analytics and trip computer display, multiple power ports, front and rear reading lights and front and rear carpeted floor mats. Standard on all Jetta trim levels is Volkswagen’s VW CarNet connected car technology that provides a seamless link between the car and an iPhone, Android smartphone or computer. As Volkswagen says, it “keeps you connected with your car even when you’re apart.” It comes with a full feature introductory trial, with a subscription available.

Driving Experience: Exterior

Seating felt and looked good

The 2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE exterior, refreshed for 2015 and continued over to 2016, is conservative in styling, which is not a bad thing as its design will age well and not look out of date. The front end leads off with a narrow grill and sleek Halogen headlights on the outer edges that begin the subtle character line leading to the horizontal tail lamps. The windshield is swept back with a near-flat roof and a color matched shark fin antenna that leads to a trunk lid with an integrated spoiler helping the Jetta have a drag coefficient of .030.

Safety and Convenience

All 2016 Volkswagen Jettas come with six airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system and an Intelligent Crash Response System. The SEL model has automatic headlights and daytime running lights, front fog lights, and rear parking distance control sensors. Additional safety features include driver assistance systems and a lighting package.

Pricing and Warranties

Prices for the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T range from $17,680 to $22,325. Smarticd’s test car had a MSRP of $20,095. All prices do not include the $820 destination charge.

All 2016 Volkswagen Jetta’s models come with these warranties:

  • Basic: Three years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain: Five years/60,000 miles
  • Scheduled Maintenance: One year/12,000 miles
  • Roadside Assistance: Three year/36,000 miles
  • Corrosion Perforation: 12 years/Unlimited miles

Observations: 2016 Volkswagen Jetta SE 1.4T

Crisp German lines front and rear

Looking for a sedan that can seat five, has a high level of standard equipment, massive trunk space and excellent fuel economy—for about $20,000? Opt for the base model Jetta S and you will be even a few thousand less. This solid, well put together car delivers confidence on the open road at freeway speeds, a connected feeling to the road and cabin isolation from outside noise.

If this intrigues you, then 2016 Jetta SE 1.4T should be on your shopping and consideration list. Go to your local Volkswagen dealer and take a lengthy test drive on the open highway and experience it for yourself.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

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Smarticd is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this, we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at [email protected].

John Faulkner is Road Test Editor at Smarticd. He has more than 30 years’ experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He has worked with General Motors (all Divisions), Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Eagle), Ford and Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota on consumer events and sales training programs. His interest in automobiles is broad and deep, beginning as a child riding in the back seat of his parent’s 1950 Studebaker. He is a journalist member of the Motor Press Guild.

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