Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2017 Volkswagen Jetta Wolfsburg Edition

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Right off the top, let’s be straight: you either clicked on this story because you’re genuinely interested in buying a Jetta or because you plan to jump straight to the comments section and tell everyone that you still don’t trust Volkswagen.

Named after the German city that’s home to Volkswagen’s world headquarters, [the Wolfsburg Edition] slots into the lineup between Trendline+ and Highline and offers some sweet-spot-in-between niceties

If you fall into the latter camp, there’s nothing wrong with that. You’re entitled to your opinion, and as a consumer you’re entitled to express that opinion by deciding for yourself which automakers deserve your money.

But if you’re here because you’re considering buying one anyway, lack of diesel powertrain option notwithstanding, then you know that Volkswagen has apologized for the debacle, a fix is in the works, and in the meantime the automaker is still churning out darned good cars, including the Jetta.

This is true even taking into account that the current generation is nearing the end of its life, and a new one is slated for the 2018 model year, thus prompting the release of the Wolfsburg Edition that’s the subject of this review. Named after the German city that’s home to Volkswagen’s world headquarters, this trim slots into the lineup between Trendline+ and Highline and offers some sweet-spot-in-between niceties like 16-inch alloy wheels (as opposed to 15-inch steelies on Trendline or 17-inch alloys on Highline), 60/40 split-folding rear seats with a centre armrest and pass-through to the cavernous trunk, and smartphone app connectivity. And that’s on top of the standard rearview camera and the heated front seats, washer nozzles, and exterior mirrors already included on all trims from Trendline+ and up.

The Wolfsburg Edition custom badge is a handsome addition that sets off nicely against the Bottle Green exterior. The interior’s cloth upholstery is highlighted with shades of grey and yellow stitching that surrounds the supportive and comfortable seats. Together, they make for a solid effort at freshening up the Jetta’s styling. There’s still a fair bit of plastic to be found inside, especially in comparison to some of VW’s newer models like the Golf, but not so much as to be a detriment relative to its similarly priced competition – and given its age, the cabin is surprisingly quiet.

At this trim there’s only one engine available, the 1.4-litre direct-injected TSI that became the Jetta’s standard mill a couple of years ago – to get into the 1.8-litre, you still need to look to the Highline trim – and it can be paired with either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, the latter equipped on this tester. That power rating of 150 horsepower doesn’t look all that great on paper, but it’s the torque that’s the hero here: 184 lb-ft can be had from 1,400 to 3,500 rpm. The combination doesn’t exactly turn the car into a powerhouse, but it’s smooth and steady and, despite a small delay on punching it under passing, will prove to be a good option for most buyers in this segment. It gives the Jetta solid fuel economy figures of 8.3 L/100 km city and 6.2 highway, helped out by its comfortable cruising at 1,850 rpm at 100 km/h and 2,150 at 120.

Popping it into sport mode doesn’t change anything in the car’s behaviour except the gear map, but here that change proves to be a dramatic one, with shifts coming noticeably later and the engine more at the ready to pack a punch. The transmission shifts down to fifth and runs at 2,200 rpm at 100 km/h and keeps its 2,150 in 6th at 120.

I happened to test the Jetta on the same weekend as one of the more significant snowstorms we’ve had this winter. While it comes only with front-wheel drive, I found that the traction control was on point and retained the car’s overall stable and settled handling feel even through snow-covered turns – no unintended fish-tailing here. Of course, importantly, it was equipped with winter tires.

And I’ve always been a big fan of Volkswagen’s current infotainment system, which in my opinion is one of the better ones at this price point. Along with the aforementioned smartphone app compatibility included with the Wolfsburg Edition, usability is high, the controls on the steering wheel can be customized to the driver’s preferences, and it only takes a turn of the dial to peruse what’s playing on different radio stations quickly and without having to commit to a channel change every time.

Plus – and this is something I’ve never been compelled to mention before – the resolution on the rearward camera is excellent. The Jetta’s an easy car for getting into and out of a city’s tight spaces anyway, but being able to back up with a crystal-clear view is a nice bonus that’s not easy to find in this class.

No car is perfect, of course, and the Jetta has one flaw that set off quite an adventure. I was driving to pick up my husband at work, and the plan was that I would drive to the subway to head off to meet a friend for dinner while he took my daughter to do shopping.

There was just one problem: the key fob was in my handbag, and the Jetta’s no-key warning is subtle enough that my husband and I both missed it when I got out of the car.

I was halfway across town and my family made it all the way to the mall before any of us realized that I still had the key. Thankfully, I had a brainwave and decided to put the key into a cab so that I could still meet my friend on time. Everything went smoothly in the end, but it was an expensive and stressful slip-up that could have been avoided with a more insistent warning system.

My other gripes are quibbles, mostly: the gauge cluster is easily obscured by the steering wheel for short-limbed drivers and could use an update, but that, like the styling and materials, will likely be fixed in the next generation. And for what it is, this special edition is probably a touch expensive in comparison to, say, a similarly equipped Honda Civic – though despite being significantly older in its cycle, the Jetta is nicer in certain ways.

If you haven’t lost your appetite for Volkswagen and you’re in the market for a small car, take a look at this one. You may just score a deal before the 2018 models show up.

Engine Displacement 1.4L
Engine Cylinders 4
Peak Horsepower 150 hp @ 5,000 rpm
Peak Torque 184 lb-ft @ 1,400–3,500 rpm
Fuel Economy 8.5/6.2/7.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 440 L
Model Tested 2017 Volkswagen Jetta Wolfsburg Edition
Base Price $25,195
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,625
Price as Tested $26,920
Optional Equipment