When my lease was up, I was again in the market for a new car. Since I had set my budget limit at 20K, I wanted to compare all my options in this highly competitive segment. After reading quite a few reviews, including the expert ones (which in some cases differed dramatically), I test drove my three runner ups with very different results. The CVT in the eye catching Honda Civic was not my favorite feature (nor was the fact that the turbo engine is only available in the higher end trims at a price that exceeded my budget). The Mazda 3 has everything I like in a car, particularly if your daily commute is as short as mine. Perhaps through back and twisty roads (which makes it a perfect weekend date), but not quite so comfortable for everyday, especially on the highway -let alone long trips... That's why I found myself so thrilled when I drove the 2016 Jetta. The first thing that impressed me was how responsive it's little 1.4 liter engine is. It seems to be on steroids and always eager to please, even the most demanding drivers. The breaks are some of the most efficient in it's class, and it's driving dynamics are to be highlighted. Even in the voice of some the experts: "the electric power steering is precise and direct, and the crispness and agility of this compact sedan easily exceed the standards of its class." (C&D). Which by the way, contradicts some the driving impressions of the Edmund's experts... Worth mentioning, cabin space and quietness, sensible and flawless connectivity with the technology package, which works great even with my older iPhone. It makes my life much easier... All in all, my best new bet under 20K. So, if you are no too apprehensive, and/or resentful of VW as a brand name in the news lately, go ahead and take it for a spin. I'm sure you won't be disappointed...
Second Update: I sold the car in May of 2017 in favor of an e-Golf. The car was great right up until the day I sold it. Update: After a year of ownership, I still think this car is tremendous value. The car is fun to drive, and the "Sport" suspension is actually a GLI suspension, which explains the improved grip going around corners. So far, no out-of-routine maintenance issues, and the engine revs happily and smoothly. Tire wear is pretty average, I lost about 3.5/32nds of tread in the last 10000 miles. Let's see how it holds up this year! This car is of tremendous value. I have no idea what Edmunds was thinking, but my Jetta Sport MT is by far the best value I have seen in its class. While the MSRP is high, the dealer incentives and negotiating ability can easily knock the price down on this car anywhere from 3k-6k depending on your geographic location. My car just barely exceeded $18,500 after negotiations and VW Credit incentives, and has a 2-tone leatherette interior, really nice sport rims, a deck lid spoiler, navigation, CarPlay, and one of the best touch screens I have seen in the automotive market. It has a backup camera and all the other bells and whistles competitors have. Driving wise, the manual transmission is a medium throw that has very positive engagement, and the car's grip to the road is solid to say the least. The engine. The 1.8T is in my opinion VW's best value of money and delivers an exceeding satisfying punch in the back off the line. The steering, however, is dull and totally disconnected from the road. This isn't a deal breaker, especially with all of the other equipment packed into this bargain car. The trunk is ENORMOUS. The seats are hugging, soft, heated, and comfortable. The rear seats have a 60/40 split fold and even have a ski shoot in the middle. What more do you want from a car? For $18,500, you'd be hard pressed to find an LX civic with half the equipment in this car. We'll see how the reliability is, but for the life of my lease I'm not concerned. My advice is to skip the SE and SEL, and go straight to the sport model for the best value in the market. You won't regret your decision!
I have a Black 2016 Jetta Sport model with a MSRP of $23,300 which includes a unique two tone white/black heated leatherette seats and automatic transmission. The two tone white interior can be found in other cars though at a minimum the MSRP would be 5K or higher. Standard features include a sport suspension, fog lights, front and rear spoiler, unique gray/black 17 inch rims, heated outside mirrors, navigation, rear view camera, 8 way adjustable driver seat and 6 way passenger seat, Apple car play ( or Android Auto) and an above average sounding stereo. It has the highest safety rating of 5 stars. Fuel ratings on the highway are 37 and city is 25. Reliability has been average. Interior volume is on par with a mid size with plenty of leg and headroom for both front and rear passengers and a mid size trunk. The places you touch such as the center armrest, steering wheel, gearshift, armrests on the doors are black leather with white stitching and are soft. The white stitching adds to the more upscale look of the two tone interior. Hard plastic and chrome cover the areas that you do not touch. Simple dash layout that is not as dramatic as others in this class like the Mazda 3. Getting to adjust the manual seats and power outside mirrors take some time time to figure out. The engine is a 1.8 with 175 horsepower and 185 in torque coming on at a low 1800 RPM. This makes the car accelerate to 40 where the majority of the driving is done quicker than the majority of compact vehicles and even cars with over 200 horsepower. 0 to 60 is also good at 7.5. The car feels like it has more power than what is under the hood. BMW has been doing the same thing for many years. You will always have plenty of power and no need to mash the pedal to get up to any speed that is needed. Tires are Pirelli at 17 R45 so they are tall and wide giving good grip for handling and smoothing out the bumps on the road. You will feel the road bumps though nothing to jarring. On smooth pavements the car is smooth and quiet as there is increased insulation and the tires do not resound with noise. Handling is above average with no body roll and the steering has a tighter feel. It is a fun car to drive. With my local VW dealers online discount and the conquest cash for switching my Hyundai Sonata the bottom line was $20,500. Other compact cars like the Civic, Cruze, Corolla and Elantra can offer more features like a sunroof in this price range though you will get a weaker engine and not as much fun driving as this Jetta. You could get a better performance and handling car like a Mazda 3 or Ford Focus though at this price point you would get cloth seats, no navigation and other features the Jetta Sport has included. Most experts agree even with the billions VW will pay over the next few years with the scandal they and their other companies Audi and Porsche are not going to fold. If your car buying budget is 24K or less it would be worth to test drive the VW Jetta Sport and see what your dealer can offer in discounts. I think it has the most value when you look at the unique two tone interior, the features, mid size interior room, good fuel economy and a driving experience that is fun.
This is a great car for the money, especially with the large discounts off MSRP (about five grand) that can be negotiated currently. Within a two week span, my college graduate bought an S model, and I bought the SEL for myself. We both like the car for it's roominess, attractive and uncluttered cabin, technology (especially Apple CarPlay), great turbo engines, and gas mileage. We looked at a number of other cars in the same class; the Jetta was a quick choice because it feels much more "mature" than the others, and actually has a rear seat that grown-ups can sit in. The expert review makes a big deal about the cheap interior materials, but how often to you touch/feel the dash or door panels, and if you do, does it really matter if they are squishy or not? The leatherette seats are very comfortable, at a price point below the competitors' leather trims. The only real complaint I have so far is the suspension which seems quite stiff going over speed bumps and rough pavement, and a little more interior noise than I am used to. The Jetta cabin is a great place to spend my commute and a lot of fun to drive, regardless of what the experts say about the interior materials and handling. I don't plan on taking it to the racetrack anytime soon, and I'll leave the twisty back-country romps to the professional car testers. Regardless how you may feel about VW, this is still a well-engineered German car - at roughly half the price of a BMW 3 series or Audi A4. I'm still a big VW fan, scandal or not. Long live Fahrvergnugen!
An impressive car! The sport-tuned suspension in this vehicle is what really sets it apart from the other Jetta models (not including the GLI). My previous vehicle was a VW GTI and I was always impressed with the suspension/handling, but it was unfortunately involved in an accident. I wasn't a fan of the new (2015/2016) GTI design, however, and really liked the sedan design. I test drove the Jetta SE and the Sport models, noting a significantly superior suspension/handling capability with the Sport. That fact and the other components such as the 170 hp and 184 lb-ft torque 1.8 turbo-charged engine, 17" wheels, two-tone leatherette seating, push button start, navigation, bluetooth, a backup camera, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, piano-black trim, a rear spoiler, fog lights and the bi-xenon headlights which provide insanely great visibility. The form, fit and function of Volkswagen in general, and the Sport in particular, is what sets the brand apart from others in the same price range (in my humble opinion). For the price, regardless of how many other brand vehicles I test drove.....I ultimately returned to the Volkswagen dealership!