Volkswagen has been producing the Jetta compact sedan since model year 1980, and it has been a best seller for many years.
The current sixth-generation was released for in 2011. The Jetta was originally an adaptation of the Golf hatchback with some distinctive front-end styling, a few interior changes and a conventional trunk.
Over the years, its size and power have increased, with offerings in two-door coupes, four-door sedans and five-door station wagons, seating four or five passengers.
Model year 2016 brings a few additions and changes, following a more-extensive redesign for 2015. Three models received a new 1.4-liter turbocharged, direct-injection gasoline engine, replacing the 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine in the S model and the 1.8T in the SE and SE with Connectivity.
This new engine produces 150 horsepower and improves estimated fuel economy by 15 percent or more.
Jetta 1.8T models, such as our test vehicle, for 2016 feature the third-generation EA888 turbocharged gasoline engine, first introduced in the 2009 CC, with EPA estimated fuel economy of 25 mpg city/37 highway with a five-speed manual transmission, or 25/36 with a six-speed automatic.
The 2016 Jetta is offered in six trim levels, with prices ranging from $17,680 for the S model to $27,325 for the special-order SEL Premium.
Exteriors come in 11 appealing colors, including Moonrock Silver Metallic, Toffee Brown, and Reflex Silver, depending on model selected. Interiors come in cloth or leatherette, in Beige with Black, Black with Ceramique, Cornsilk Beige, and Titan Black – again, depending on model.
Also for 2016, all Jetta models get the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System. The available Driver Assistance Package now brings Adaptive Cruise Control and Forward Collision Warning with Autonomous Emergency Braking, in addition to the Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert.
All Jettas include Volkswagen’s Intelligent Crash Response System, which turns on the hazard lights, unlocks the doors, and shuts off the fuel pump if the vehicle is involved in certain types of collisions.
A new infotainment system, MIB II (Modular Information Platform, not “Men in Black”) is powered by smartphone, and offers USB and VW-Car Net App-Connect allowing owners of Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink to connect directly through the vehicle’s head unit to access certain apps. Car-Net also includes connected car services, enhanced navigation (by subscription), and advanced telematics.
Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink (for a select group of phones) mirror the smartphone’s OS on the dashboard display, detected by the MIB II system as soon as the phone is plugged in, allowing operation of such functions and apps as Spotify, Pandora, Phone, Messages, Podcasts, GPS and more. Unfortunately, using these services does consume data on your cellphone plan.
My Jetta tester was a striking Cardinal Red Metallic 1.8-T SEL (1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder) with a six-speed automatic transmission, riding on 17-inch “Joda” silver-alloy wheels with five triple spokes, and wearing all season tires.
The exterior had subtle matte-black trim on the lower rear bumper/skid plate, the chrome VW badges (front and rear), the upper window surround, the lower housing of the heated/foldable/power mirrors and arms, the front corner-illuminating foglight surround and lower grille, and the front grille. Chrome also trimmed the three grille bars and the beltline.
The bi-xenon automatic headlights were framed by daytime running lights, and a power sunroof with manual shade lit the interior for a spacious feel. Rain-sensing wipers came in handy with the uncertain weather we had – set and forget – and heated nozzles kept ice from forming on the windshield washers.
Inside the spacious cabin, Cornsilk Beige Leatherette seating on the manual driver’s seat (with lumbar support) and the manual front passenger seat (with height adjustment) was comfortable and inviting.
The front seats were heated, which was also a plus with the chilly weather. Rear passengers had plenty of legroom at 38.1 inches, and thanks to the higher arc of the roofline, they had 37.1 inches of headroom.
We had 15.5 cubic feet of cargo space for our trip to a “big box” store. A run to the donation center required folding the 60/40-split rear seatback with levers located under the lip of the trunk. A pass-through behind the pull-down armrest would accommodate long, thin items such as skis.
The interior design was simple and functional, with touches of chrome and piano black on the steering wheel, vents, center console, instrument panel and center stack. The door panels and dash had carbon-black accents with touches of chrome. The center stack and touch-screen controls were easy to see and use. A capacitive touch screen such as on smartphones and tablets allowed swiping and pinch-zooming, making some functions much easier.
My Jetta SEL had Discover Media with 2.5 D navigation, featuring one-shot voice destination entry, destination prediction, Destination Entry with Quick Search and Auto-complete, Car-Net Guide and Inform; AM/FM/HD radio with CD player; and USB and auxiliary inputs.
Features carried forward from previous units included two SD card slots, JPEG viewer, satellite radio, backup camera, Bluetooth technology (with the ability to send/receive SMS text messages and sync two phones simultaneously), proximity sensor on the screen, and App-Connect.
Base price for my SEL was $23,650. With $820 destination charges, total delivered price was $24,470.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at email@example.com.