2016 Volkswagen Jetta Review
2016 Volkswagen Jetta Review
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Edmunds' Expert Review
by the Edmunds Experts
- Big backseat and trunk
- energetic and fuel-efficient turbocharged engines
- responsive hybrid powertrain.
- Middling handling and steering
- some subpar cabin materials, particularly in the lower trims
- pricier than some rivals
- GLI sport model isn't truly sporty.
The Jetta's slow and inefficient base engine has finally been shown the door, replaced by a modern, small turbocharged four-cylinder in the S and SE trim levels. Every Jetta also gets a new touchscreen interface, while advanced accident avoidance tech is added to the options list. Finally, the diesel-powered Jetta TDI will be unavailable for much or all of 2016 as Volkswagen corrects the car's non-compliant emissions system.
The 2016 Volkswagen Jetta is a little rough around the edges, but it's still a generously sized compact sedan with excellent engines and just enough German personality to set it apart.
Calculate my fuel costs
Cost to DriveCost to drive estimates for the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T S 4dr Sedan (1.4L 4cyl Turbo 5M) and comparison vehicles are based on 15,000 miles per year (with a mix of 55% city and 45% highway driving) and energy estimates of $3.57 per gallon for regular unleaded in Virginia.
Monthly estimates based on costs in Virginia
$135/mo for Jetta 1.4T S
Jetta 1.4T S
Avg. Midsize Car
If it seems a little squishy in here, it's because there's an elephant in the room. At the time of this writing, Volkswagen is still trying to figure out what to do with the diesel-powered engine in the 2016 Jetta TDI model after it was discovered the company has been cheating in emissions testing.
What VW might want to redirect your attention to, though, is the new turbocharged 1.4-liter engine that replaces last year's wheezy 2.0-liter four-cylinder base engine. It's a peppy little mill and gets 32 mpg EPA combined. Really, from the new 1.4 all the way up to the GLI's turbo 2.0-liter and the nifty gas-electric alchemy of the Hybrid, the Jetta's engine lineup is uniquely sophisticated and compelling in this generally value-oriented segment.
For 2016, all of the VW Jetta's available engines are turbocharged to provide excellent power and fuel economy.
Alas, the rest of the Jetta isn't quite as great. In the past, the Jetta provided better refinement than the Civics and Corollas of the world. Its interior was of a higher quality and the driver experience was closer to a German sport sedan than a typical "economy" car. The current Jetta represents a shift toward more of a Costco philosophy of getting the biggest product for the least amount of money. Indeed, the Jetta has more cabin and trunk space than its competitors, but it doesn't feel quite as special as it used to. There's a whiff of cost-cutting here that was absent from previous models, and that makes the car harder to recommend.
On the bright side, this year's Jetta boasts an up-to-date tech interface with smartphone integration. But given how competitive some other compact sedans have become, it's hard to overlook the Jetta's lackluster handling and bland interior design. Top-rated competitors like the Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Mazda 3 have aped the old Jetta playbook while in some cases providing more features for the money. We'd recommend checking them out, too, as well as the nicer and more responsive VW Golf, before going the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta's way.
Performance & mpg
Every Jetta is front-wheel drive. The 2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T has a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder good for 150 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission with hill hold assist is standard; a six-speed automatic is optional. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 32 mpg combined (28 city/39 highway) with the automatic; VW estimates the manual achieves 33 mpg combined (28/40).
The Jetta 1.8T models have a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder that produces 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual is standard on the Sport, while a six-speed automatic is optional on the Sport and standard on the SEL. In Edmunds performance testing, a Jetta 1.8T with the automatic went from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, which makes it the quickest compact sedan we've tested at the time of this writing. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 29 mpg combined (25/36) with the automatic. The manual gets 1 mpg highway better.
The Jetta GLI has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 210 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard; a six-speed automated manual (DSG) is optional. Expect a 0-60 time in the mid-to-upper 6-second range. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 27 mpg combined (24/33) with the automatic. The manual gets 1 mpg worse in the city.
The Jetta Hybrid is powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine that works in tandem with an electric motor and a seven-speed automated manual. Total output is 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds testing, the Jetta Hybrid ran from zero to 60 mph in a swift 7.8 seconds, making it one of the quickest non-luxury hybrids. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 44 mpg combined (42/48). During an extensive Edmunds fuel economy test consisting of city, highway and interstate driving, the Jetta Hybrid averaged 43.0 mpg overall.
Every 2016 Volkswagen Jetta comes standard with traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. All but the base S without the Technology package comes with a rearview camera. The 1.8T and TDI SEL trims are available with the Driver Assistance package that adds a frontal collision warning and automatic emergency braking, a blind-sport monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert.
VW's Car-Net telematics system, standard from SE with Connectivity on up, includes automatic crash notification, roadside assistance, remote vehicle access, stolen vehicle location and geo-fencing (which allows parents to set boundaries for teenage drivers). A Car-Net smartphone app lets owners control many of these functions on the go.
In government crash tests, the Jetta received five out of five stars for overall safety, with four stars for total front impact protection and five stars for total side impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Jetta the highest possible crash rating of "Good" in its moderate-overlap and small-overlap frontal-offset impact tests, as well as a "Good" score in the side-impact, roof strength and seat/head restraint (whiplash protection) tests.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Jetta SE came to a stop from 60 mph in 118 feet, which is better than average.
With the ancient 2.0-liter base engine replaced by the more powerful and efficient 1.4-liter turbo, the Jetta has the most appealing powertrain lineup in the segment. While we have not sampled the new engine, its specs on paper are competitive, and we've yet to meet a Volkswagen turbo-4 we didn't like. On that note, the 1.8-liter turbo that comes standard on the Sport and SEL trims is a fantastic offering, boasting impressive acceleration, smooth refinement and relatively thrifty fuel economy.
Then there's the 2.0-liter found in the GLI. It's also a refined engine that punches above its weight in real-world driving, providing grin-inducing torque at almost any rpm. We're just not especially enamored with the car it comes in. If you're simply looking for a sportier version of the Jetta, the GLI certainly hits the spot, but its steering, handling and braking abilities are far below what you'd get in sport compacts like the Ford Focus ST and VW GTI. As for lesser Jettas, they ride smoothly and comfortably, but so do some other rival sedans that also manage to feel more alive and engaging when driving around turns.
The 2016 Volkswagen Jetta is a comfortable car to drive, but others surpass it when it comes to cornering prowess.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Jetta Hybrid manages to pull off the neat trick of delivering hybrid fuel economy without driving like a hybrid. As we discovered in our Hybrid Sedan Comparison Test, the Jetta is quick and lively around town, with a more conventional-feeling power delivery than hybrid versions of the Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. Its smaller size than those midsizers also imparts a greater sense of agility.
Almost every compact sedan today features an eye-catching interior design with edgy shapes and a focus on the latest technology. The key word there is "almost." The Jetta's cabin, by contrast, is resolutely conservative in appearance, with materials ranging from glaringly spartan in lower trims (the dash and doors are covered with hard, shiny plastic, for instance) to merely adequate in upper trims (the dash adopts a soft-touch, low sheen material, but the door panels remain unyielding). Volkswagen's Golf hatchback has a much more attractive, higher-quality cabin, as do the rival 2016 Honda Civic and Mazda 3.
For 2016, the Jetta gets a welcome injection of technology. Volkswagen's latest touchscreen interface is standard on every trim level, available in two sizes and offering VW Car-Net as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone app integration. Unchanged, thankfully, is the Jetta's remarkable spaciousness by segment standards. The backseat dwarfs that of just about every other compact sedan and hatchback (including the Golf), and the remarkable 15.7-cubic-foot trunk is on par with bigger midsize sedans.
2016 Volkswagen Jetta models
The 2016 Volkswagen Jetta is available in a variety of trim levels and engine choices: 1.4T S, 1.4T SE, 1.8T Sport and 1.8T SEL. There are also GLI and Hybrid trims available.
Standard equipment on the Jetta S includes 15-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, keyless entry, heated mirrors, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 60/40-split rear seats, cloth upholstery, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a four-speaker sound system with a 5-inch touchscreen interface, a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The S Technology package adds a rearview camera, a 6.3-inch touchscreen, a USB port, a media player interface, satellite radio and VW Car-Net smartphone integration, which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
The Jetta SE includes all of the above plus 16-inch alloy wheels, push-button start, heated windshield washer nozzles, heated front seats and a front center armrest. The SE Connectivity package adds a sunroof, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, driver lumbar adjustment, "V-Tex" premium vinyl upholstery, a rear center armrest and a six-speaker sound system with an enhanced Car-Net system.
Aside from the sunroof, 1.8T Sport gets all of the above plus a more powerful engine, a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch wheels and foglights.
The new standard touchscreen interface in the 2016 VW Jetta is one of the segment's best for smartphone integration.
The 1.8T SEL reverts to standard suspension tuning, but adds different 17-inch wheels, the sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, automatic headlights and wipers, higher-quality interior materials, and front reading lights and vanity mirror lights. The SEL Premium package adds a six-way power driver seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, a cooled glove compartment and an eight-speaker Fender audio system.
The Lighting package available on Sport and SEL trims adds adaptive bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights and ambient interior lighting. The Driver Assistance package optional on the SEL trims adds adaptive cruise control, frontal collision warning and automatic emergency braking, a blind-sport warning system and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Jetta GLI is available in SE and SEL trim levels. They essentially line up with the regular Jetta versions, but both have a sport-tuned suspension, upgraded brakes, special styling elements, sport seats, the Connectivity package elements, front and rear parking sensors, automatic headlights and wipers, keyless ignition and entry, and the Fender sound system. The SEL differs with 18-inch wheels, a blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert system, LED running lights, adaptive bi-xenon headlights and a navigation system.
The Hybrid is available only as the SEL Premium. It has the same extras as the GLI SEL, plus extra hybrid-specific styling elements and trip computer readouts. It reverts to the six-speaker sound system.
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful consumer reviews
5 out of 5 stars
What a value!
2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T Sport PZEV 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5M)
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!
5 out of 5 stars
Strong value for the money
John Witherspoon, 12/26/2015
2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T Sport PZEV 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 6A)
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.
5 out of 5 stars
2016 Volkswagen 1.8T Sport w/ Manual Transmission
2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T Sport PZEV 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5M)
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!
5 out of 5 stars
The 1.4 TSI Turbo is amazing-Part II
2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T S 4dr Sedan (1.4L 4cyl Turbo 6A)
This is an update to my initial review. I purchased my Jetta in August 2016, and currently have over 95,000 miles on it. I am still very impressed with the car, getting great gas mileage and the overall comfort and reliability of the Jetta. I have been changing my own oil and filter every 10K, and as stated before, finding the correct oil is a challenge, but more auto stores and … Walmart are carrying the correct type. I replaced the OEM Continental Tires at around 57,000 mile with a set of Michelin Defender tires-which are holding up very well. I am still very happy with the Jetta, especially the 1.4TSI engine and the six-speed automatic transmission. They are well paired and work smoothly together. Since July of 2018 I have been using the Jetta for part time UBER duties, on Friday and Saturday nights at a local ocean-side resort. It has performed well as an UBER vehicle, but I have had several instances where taller/larger riders have trouble getting into the front seat due to the lower roof-line. Other than that, most riders comment on how nice the car is and can't believe I have as many miles on it as I do. This has been the BEST vehicle I have owned so far in my 35 years of driving experience. Fun to drive, reliable, great engine/transmission pairing and easy on gas.
2016 Volkswagen Jetta video
[MUSIC PLAYING] ALEX DEWEEVER: This is Alex Deweever for Edmunds, with the Volkswagen Jetta. This small sedan is the little brother to the larger Volkswagen Passat. And it retains that family look around the front end, but without the adornment, the jewelery of the Passat. It's certainly a neat looking car. And hiding under the hood is an excellent range of engines. Kicks off with a 1.4 liter turbo, rises to a 1.8 liter turbo. Then, topping it all off is a two liter turbo in the GLI. One word of warning, though. The GLI might pose as a junior sports sedan, but its dynamics are all comfort-orientated. A GTI, it is not. Let's take a look inside. [MUSIC PLAYING] If the engines are the best part about the latest Jetta, then the interior quality is very much the worst. And that's something surprising to say about a Volkswagen. The plastic here on this center console for example, is hard and shiny. As it is on these door capping, which look like they have more in common with a subcompact hatchback than a German sedan. The infotainment system also looks a little bit dated, compared with the best of the opposition. But it is all neatly laid out, and there's no shortage of space, especially in the rear. [MUSIC PLAYING] Here in the rear, the space is good, even if like me, you're over six foot. There's plenty of knee and foot room, and head room is generous too. This is a proper family car. This rival to the Hyundai Elantra, the Chevy Cruze, and the Honda Civic really is a bit of a mixed bag. You have class leading power trains and acres of space both in the rear and in this trunk. But in our eyes, the quality just isn't good enough. So should it be on your shopping list? Well, that kind of depends on your priorities. Check out more information at edmunds.com.
2016 Volkswagen Jetta Review
Alistair Weaver takes you on a walk around VW's generously sized compact sedan, the Jetta. He goes over specs, design, the interior and more.
2016 Jetta Highlights
|Combined MPG||30 MPG|
|Cost to Drive||$135/month|
|Cargo Capacity |
All Seats In Place
|Drivetrain||front wheel drive|
|Warranty||3 years / 36,000 miles|
NHTSA Overall Rating5 out of 5 stars
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
- Frontal Barrier Crash RatingOverall4 / 5Driver4 / 5Passenger4 / 5
- Side Crash RatingOverall5 / 5
- Side Barrier RatingOverall5 / 5Driver5 / 5Passenger5 / 5
- Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsFront Seat5 / 5Back Seat5 / 5
- RolloverRollover4 / 5Dynamic Test ResultNo TipRisk Of Rollover11.1%
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
- Small Overlap Front Driver-Side TestGood
- Small Overlap Front Passenger-Side TestNot Tested
- Moderate Overlap Front Test – OriginalGood
- Moderate Overlap Front Test – UpdatedNot Tested
- Side Impact Test – OriginalGood
- Side Impact Test – UpdatedNot Tested
- Roof Strength TestGood
- Rear Crash Protection / Head RestraintGood