Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4TSI Trendline+

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This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

There’s no shortage of glowing reviews of Volkswagen’s turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine (1.4TSI) that’s now standard equipment in the 2016 VW Jetta Trendline and Comfortline trims and in the 2016 Jetta Hybrid. The high praise comes in part because it’s such a huge improvement over its predecessor, the aging 2.0-litre SOHC eight-valve four-cylinder engine that dates back to the Mk 3 Golf and Jetta in the mid 1990s. The new turbocharged 1.4T is an aluminum engine with direct injection, dual overhead cams, 16 valves and variable valve timing that pumps out 150 hp at 6,200 rpm and 184 lb-ft torque at 3,200 rpm. That’s 35 hp and 59 lb-ft more than the previous 2.0-litre engine. Not only that, the new turbo is smoother, quieter and more fuel efficient.

This little engine transforms the base Jetta into a responsive, smooth and surprisingly quiet family sedan.

Still, the old ‘Two-Point Slow’ engine did have one advantage: it allowed Volkswagen Canada to keep the base price of the 2015 Jetta Trendline under $15,000. That surely tempted many buyers into VW showrooms who might not otherwise have paid a visit.

With the 1.4TSI, VW Canada wasn’t able to keep the 2016 Jetta’s base price under $15,000, but they did keep it under $16,000. The 2016 VW Jetta Trendline starts at $15,995 with a standard five-speed manual transmission and $17,395 with optional six-speed automatic (plus a Freight and PDI charge of $1,605, up from $1,395 in 2015). That means you can buy a 2016 Jetta Trendline with six-speed automatic for under $20,000 before taxes.

The 1.4TSI engine is available in the 2016 Jetta Trendline ($15,995), Trendline+ ($18,795) and Comfortline ($22,595) trims with a standard five-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed automatic ‘Tiptronic’ transmission (+$1,400). The 2016 Jetta Highline ($27,995) comes standard with the 170-hp turbocharged 1.8-litre engine and the six-speed automatic. The sporty Jetta GLI ($29,395) and Autobahn ($34,795) trims have the 210-hp turbocharged 2.0-litre engine and standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed DSG (+$1,400).

There’s also the 2016 Jetta Turbocharged Hybrid ($36,895) available in one well-equipped trim level with the 150-hp 1.4TSI, 25-hp electric motor and seven-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG).

But back to the subject of this review: this little engine transforms the base Jetta into a responsive, smooth and surprisingly quiet family sedan. With maximum torque available starting at just 1,400 rpm, throttle responsiveness is almost immediate. There’s not much turbo lag and the car accelerates quickly from a dead stop and merges easily onto the freeway. The 1.4TSI engine includes variable intake and exhaust valve timing, which probably accounts for its ability to generate the same torque as the 1.8TSI at even lower revs (184 lb-ft at 1,400–3,500 rpm vs 184 lb-ft at 1,500–4,750 rpm). The almost instant pedal response of the 1.4TSI is probably its most attractive feature. In fact, an argument could easily be made that there’s no need to upgrade to the 1.8TSI engine.

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Not only is acceleration brisk, but the four-cylinder engine isn’t particularly noisy under hard acceleration – no turbo whistle either. In our test car, the 1.4TSI engine and six-speed automatic transmission proved to be a smooth combination and added to the Jetta Trendline’s surprising feeling of refinement. At a steady 100 km/h, the engine turns over a leisurely 1,850 rpm.

The automatic transmission’s S (Sport) mode improves throttle response by keeping the transmission in a lower gear for longer. Unless you’re in a hurry, you probably won’t appreciate the extra noise and increased fuel consumption. You can also shift manually (sequentially) by tapping the floor shifter forwards to shift up and backwards to shift down. There are no steering wheel paddles though.


Despite having 35 more horsepower than the old 2.0-litre engine, the 1.4TSI offers better fuel economy: 8.3 city/5.9 hwy vs 9.5 city/6.9 hwy (manual) and 8.5 city/6.0 hwy and 10.4 city/7.0 hwy (automatic). I averaged as low as 6.2 L/100 km in mixed driving according to the car’s onboard fuel consumption display.

As you might expect, the 1.4TSI gets better fuel economy than the 1.8TSI (which only comes with an automatic transmission). To the 1.4TSI’s 8.5 city/6.0 hwy the 1.8TSI offers 9.3 city/6.3 hwy (NRCan figures). Both 1.4 and 1.8 engines use Regular unleaded gas, saving you money at the pump.

While the powertrain is quite sporty, the Jetta Trendline’s steering and suspension are tuned more for comfort than precise steering and sharp handling. In our Trendline+ test car, the Jetta’s fully independent suspension provided a very comfortable ride and nicely balanced cornering, but its softer shocks and standard 195/65R15-inch tires limited its handling prowess and allowed some body lean when cornering. Still, the Jetta Trendline is a much more pleasurable vehicle to drive on less-than-perfect roads (translation: everyday roads) than the stiffer sprung Jetta GLI, for example. When it comes to ride comfort and ease of drivability, you can’t get much better than this compact sedan. For the record, our test car’s Continental WinterContact 195/65R15-inch winter tires performed very well on rain-soaked ‘Wet Coast’ highways. Beefier 16-inch tires with alloy wheels are available as an option in the Appearance Package ($1,015).

Adding to the mellow driving character of the Jetta Trendline+ is its easy but rather vague-feeling electro-mechanical power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering (no longer speed-sensitive on Trendline+) and soft initial brake pedal feel. Still, it stops smartly and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS are standard.

It could use better headlights, though. At night, the Jetta’s standard halogen headlights cast a rather weak array in both low beam and high beam modes.

Standard equipment in the base 2016 Jetta Trendline ($15,995) is quite comprehensive: black fabric seats with front height adjusters, tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio and cruise buttons, all power windows with automatic up/down, power heated mirrors, AM/FM/CD audio system with 5-inch touchscreen and SD card slot, hands-free Bluetooth smartphone connectivity, rearview camera, trip computer, cruise control, six airbags, and 60/40 folding rear seatbacks.

The 2016 Jetta Trendline+ ($18,795) adds remote keyless door unlocking, alarm system, heated front seats, ‘checkered chrome’ dash trim, USB port, sliding centre armrest, heated washer nozzles, power heated mirrors with turn signals. Our test car had the optional six-speed automatic transmission ($1,400) and optional Connectivity Package ($400) which includes a larger 6.33-inch touchscreen, CD player, SD card slot, six speakers and satellite radio. It also includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink connectivity for smartphones. With a Freight and PDI charge of $1,605 and A/C tax of $100, our Trendline+ Jetta came to $22,300 before sales taxes. Base cars feature a new-for-2016 5-inch touchscreen with a single CD player and SD card slot replacing the previous Premium 8 audio system that included a six-disc CD changer, Sirius/XM satellite radio and iPod connector.

The Jetta is easy to get into and out of but there is a small lip to step over. There’s plenty of legroom and headroom for four adults but at the rear a centre driveline hump and protruding centre console force the centre rear passenger to sit astride of it. Still, it is possible to sit three adults abreast because the cabin is wide enough – as my guinea pig relatives can attest.

Both front seats are manually height-adjustable and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes to suit the driver’s preferred position. The driver’s seat is comfortable for short drives, but I found it uncomfortable on longer drives because of its thin seat cushion and lack of lower lumbar support. As this would be an ongoing issue for owners, potential purchasers should pay careful attention to front seat comfort before signing on the dotted line. On the plus side, all the Jetta’s doors have padded armrests and the centre padded armrest slides forward for the driver to rest their right elbow.

The Jetta’s black textured dash looks like it’s soft-touch plastic, but it’s not; and the plastic steering wheel looks and feels a bit cheap too. Still, the flat-bottomed steering wheel has a thick rim and thumb grips at the ten and two positions. It also includes piano-black trim and buttons for audio, telephone and cruise control. The bleakness of the standard black interior is relieved by the use of metal trim around the gauges, audio screen, shift lever and air vents. Trendline+ models also have some ‘checkered chrome’ dash trim. Personally, I like the instrument panel’s simple horizontal design theme and excellent panel fit but many of our readers find its appearance boring. Chacun son gout!

Between the speedometer and tachometer is a small screen that supplies useful info such as time, current gear, fuel gauge and a trip computer with average fuel economy, instantaneous fuel economy, distance to empty, and average speed. The driver can scroll between the values using a button on the right steering wheel spoke. This is standard in all Jettas.

In the main infotainment centre, major menus can be accessed using the hard buttons surrounding the screen, but it’s also possible to scroll and swipe on the touchscreen to access major and minor menus. A cool feature is a menu bar at the bottom of the screen that will pop up when your hand approaches the screen. For Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink, you can connect your smartphone cord to the USB port and use the touchscreen to operate some of the functions on your phone. The home screen displays ‘tiles’ similar to the ones on your phone’s home screen, including commonly used apps such as phone, music, maps, and messages. The Jetta comes standard with Bluetooth cell phone voice activation and voice-connectivity for apps is available once it is set up.

Standard cell phones and smartphones will fit in the open storage bin at the bottom of the centre console right next to a 12-volt charger, USB port and auxiliary port. However, the storage bin wasn’t designed for plus-sized phones and mine wouldn’t lay flat there.

The Jetta’s climate control is a simple three-dial arrangement that includes buttons for A/C and front seat heaters with three temperature settings. It’s all you really need.

Between the front seats are two cupholders with flexible cup grippers and a padded armrest that slides forwards for greater comfort; underneath is a small 4x5-inch storage bin. Rear passengers have a 12-volt charging outlet and a couple of small storage pockets but there’s no rear centre folding armrest and no rear cupholders.

All four power windows have automatic one-touch up and down activation from the driver’s position and the power side mirrors are heated. The Jetta Trendline has no automatic headlights though: you have to remember to turn them off when you get home!

The Jetta’s trunk is big: 440 litres. It can be opened remotely by pressing a button on the key fob, a feature that’s very handy when you have grocery bags in your hands. The trunk is fully lined with release levers for the split folding seatbacks on either side. A temporary spare tire resides under the trunk floor.

2016 VW Jetta Trendlines are available in Black, White, Grey, Blue and Silver exterior colours. The Trendline+ trim adds Red and Silver Metallic. All interiors are Black with upgraded cloth seats in the Trendline+.

With its standard 1.4TSI engine, roomy cabin, big trunk and reasonable asking price, the 2016 VW Jetta is a lot of car for the money.

The 2016 VW Jetta is built in Puebla, Mexico.

4 years/80,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 12 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/80,000 km roadside assistance

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Model Tested 2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T TSI Trendline+
Base Price $18,795
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,605
Price as Tested $22,300
Optional Equipment
$1,800 (6-speed automatic ‘Tiptronic’ transmission $1,400; Connectivity Package: 6.33-inch touch-screen, CD player, SD card slot, 6-speakers, Sirius/XM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink connectivity $400)