Despite what the small four-cylinder might lead you to believe, the Jetta makes a surprisingly nice fuel sipping highway car.
The Jetta has been a bit of an anomaly in the compact segment for a while now. While the likes of the Civic (reviewed here), Corolla and the Elantra have undergone serious updatesin an attempt to stay on top of the fierce competition, the Jetta soldiers on with only minor updates to the existing car. Yet somehow, it has remained relevant, a favorite even, in the category by staying true to its core offering. This is an affordable, roomy and efficient car with solid and safe build quality. It also helps that the Jetta has undergone some significant drivetrain updates over the last couple of years.
Now in its sixth generation, this 2017 Volkswagen Jetta Wolfsburg Edition’s outward appearance really hasn’t changed much at all since its introduction in 2011. Changes have largely been limited to lighting and new front and rear fasciae, which this particular test car shows off very well. Equipped in the mid-range Wolfsburg Edition trim level, this car gets the new LED daytime running lights, 16” alloy wheels, Wolfsburg badging and a very tasteful rear lip spoiler. Finished in an interesting Bottle Green Metallic, the Jetta’s handsome styling is perfectly in-line with the car’s personality. It’s clearly not chasing the latest trends, but still looks confident and more mature than most of the current crop of compacts on the road. The one letdown on the exterior of the Jetta Wolfsburg is that it’s still using reflector beam halogen headlamps, and poor ones at that.
The interior carries a similar theme, remaining highly functional and comfortable. Firstly, the Jetta is one of the bigger cars in the compact segment, with dimensions that rival some midsizers. This means not only is there plenty of room up front, but rear passengers are granted loads of head and leg room. The trunk follows suit with impressive space, and the Wolfsburg trim comes with a 60/40 split rear bench seat. The general layout inside is very traditional, and the dash is constructed from a nice soft-touch black rubberized plastic. Beyond that, there is an abundance of cheaper, hard plastics used elsewhere. The Wolfsburg does get comfortable cloth seats with a unique ‘penta-stripe’ design, along with a leather wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and handbrake lever which helps to offset some of the plastic. Interestingly though, the overall fitment inside is outstanding, which supports that feeling of solid quality that VW is known for.
The Jetta starts at a bargain price of $16,395, and equipped with the Wolfsburg trim, it’ll run $25,195, which is right in-line with the Jetta’s biggest Japanese competitors. At that price you’ll get heated seats and washer nozzles, smartphone integration, dual-zone climate control, cooled glove box, rain sensing wipers, power sunroof and keyless entry with push-button start, among other small conveniences. It’s a well optioned car, but unlike competitors like the Elantra, the Jetta puts more focus on build quality and performance than gadgets.
Speaking of performance, the little 1.4L four-cylinder turbocharged mill is phenomenal. Typically, small displacement four-cylinders are unrefined and gruff, but this little engine is the absolute exception. Its 150 horsepower gets delivered smoothly and quietly in a linear fashion with brisk throttle response thanks to its low torque curve. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic, a transmission that serves its purpose elegantly in the Jetta with eager downshifts to keep the power coming. In addition to its lively response, the little turbo proves itself an exceptional highway cruiser with no discernable engine noise in the cabin. After a week’s worth of commuting, much of that in winter weather conditions, the fuel economy average sat right at 6.6L/100kms. That’s a healthy number, and undoubtedly would improve had the weather conditions been more conducive to easy cruising. As far as everyday commuter cars go, this is the powertrain to beat.
The Jetta was driven through one of the biggest snowfalls of the year here in Toronto, and with its equipped Continental winter tires, confidently made fairly light work of the deep snow and slush. The one issue is that the traction control cannot be turned off, which restricts the amount of wheel spin, making “digging through the snow”, particularly from a stop, more of a challenge than it needs to be. That said, the Jetta’s solid and responsive steering and predictable road manners meant it handled the adverse conditions better than most small compacts would, including the Elantra (reviewed here) which felt less confident in a recent similar snowfall.
In normal conditions, the Jetta is actually quite pleasant to drive thanks to it’s excellent on-center steering feel, well-composed ride and quiet cabin. Despite what the small four-cylinder might lead you to believe, the Jetta makes a surprisingly nice fuel sipping highway car. Beyond its on-road abilities, one of the most attractive traits of the Jetta is the fact that almost everything you touch has a nice solid feeling to it. The doors feel heavy, close with a nice clunk, and seal extremely well. The interior controls are simple and easy, and even little details like where the washer fluid filler neck is located are well thought out. It’s little things like that, that give the Jetta its edge with the competition.
The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta Wolfsburg Edition faces some serious competition that is only getting tougher and tougher, which makes this sixth-generation car feel like it’s ready for a full redesign. However, if you’re more of the type to seek out a solid, conservative and time tested design, while enjoying the confident driving dynamics and build quality that VW totes, then the Jetta is the obvious favorite. The updated (last year) powertrain really makes the best of a good platform and it doesn’t hurt that you can have a Jetta for a very aggressive price point.