2016 Volkswagen Jetta S Review

A Different Point of View on a Family Friendly Compact Car

Mike Schlee and his wife Amanda had their first baby last year, little Matthew, who is now AutoGuide.com’s newest car reviewer. Here’s what he has to say about the Volkswagen Jetta.

Having just turned eight months old, it’s time I start pitching in.

After all the sleepless nights, diaper changes and sporadic meltdowns, my parents deserve a little break. So, I sat my daddy down and babbled incessantly at him until he got the message – I would help out by writing the review for the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Volkswagen Jetta Review

Yes, this is indeed Mike Schlee’s much cooler, far cuter son in control behind the keyboard. I’m forced to use my daddy’s byline, as AutoGuide.com won’t give me my own. Something or other about child labor laws and infant rights, but I digress.

A Real World Car

During my short time on this earth, I’ve gotten to ride along in some impressive machinery. Hellcats, 911s and AMGs have all been graced by my presence, but I’m a financially practical baby. I know my parents won’t be putting one of those cars in our driveway anytime soon – especially since they keep talking about this other mouth they have to feed now.

So that’s why cars like the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta are so important to us as a young family. This is the kind of car we might purchase. I might spend my childhood years riding around in the backseat, making finger drawings on fogged-up windows. This might be the car I end up learning to drive in and if I’m lucky, even have it handed down to me one day.

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A Not So Compact, Compact

But that’s still a long ways away. Right now, I’m a mere 28 inches tall and remain cradled in a rear-facing child seat when on the move. These baby safety seats take up a lot of space, but the Jetta is up to the task, offering 38.1 inches of rear legroom. That’s as much as a Ford Taurus, which I call “uh-ohs” as that’s what my daddy says whenever we pass an all-white or black one. He must really like them as he slows way down and gives them a second and third look quite often.

But back to the Jetta. With full-size-car equivalent rear seat space, my infant seat fits no problem and neither mommy nor daddy have to be squished up against the dashboard in the front passenger seat. Eventually, my parents will turn me around to a forward-facing car seat and all that space will be great for me to kick my little legs wildly without leaving shoe prints all over the back of the front seats.

Measuring in at 183.3-inches in length, the Jetta is one of the largest compact cars on the market. Only the Dodge Dart is longer. This means besides a big backseat, there is also 15.7 cubic feet of cargo space – more than a Toyota Camry. There’s enough room in there for things like my stroller, pack and play, bouncy chair and a dozen or so of my favorite stuffed animal friends. The large, squared-off rear door openings are also great, allowing my car seat to be put in and out without bumping it off the door frame.

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New Engine Improves the Drive

Since the sixth-generation Jetta was introduced, there have been continued tweaks made to the car. I hear it once had two naturally aspirated, gas guzzling engines and a solid rear axle. Well, as of 2016, they’re all gone.

This year, there’s a new base engine in the Jetta and it’s all my daddy keeps talking about. Measuring in at 1.4-liters, the turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 150 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. That’s an increase of 35 hp and 59 lb-ft of torque compared to last year’s 2.0-liter, 8-valve base engine. In fact, after a bit of searching on kiddle, I found that the new 1.4-liter turbo makes as much torque as the Jetta’s upgraded 1.8-liter turbocharged engine.

There may not be a lot of power in the lowest rpms, but the 1.4 turbo comes alive once the revs build past 2,000 rpm. I can really feel it from the backseat and giggle every time the car speeds away – encouragement mommy says daddy doesn’t need. Power is available at any speed, even those reserved for freeway cruising. But daddy says the biggest improvement for the engine is how smooth and refined it feels compared to the old one.

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Power and Efficiency

The new small turbocharged engine can be paired to a five-speed manual or an optional six-speed automatic. The six-speed is one of the better conventional automatics in its class as shifts are smooth, effortless and non-intrusive.

SEE ALSO: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta SEL Review

The 1.4 turbo does need premium gasoline to achieve maximum power, but it can run on regular with slightly reduced power. And while speaking of gas, the new engine is much more efficient that the old 2.0-liter engine. Officially rated at 28 mpg city and 39 mpg highway, I was able to catch glimpse of the dashboard while being buckled into the car one day and saw we averaged 30.6 mpg during our week with the Jetta.

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Underrated Chassis

Even if the 2016 Jetta is not built on the Golf’s MQB platform, it handles quite well, especially for a big, contemporary compact. Weighing just 3,025 lbs., the Jetta S smoothly negotiate corners without drama, especially considering its wearing measly 195/65R15 tires.

There’s a solid feel to the car that’s shared with only a few other compacts. It feels well screwed together. I was never jostled or disturbed in my car seat over large bumps and found the Jetta quite a nice car to catch a little nap in.

Daddy says the steering feel, suspension rebound and ride comfort still have a very German feel to them even if this is the least German Volkswagen model. The interior may be made of low quality materials that I’ll most likely scratch one day, but the mechanics and technology are where the money was spent. Even if it could really use a dose of style and upgraded interior, the Jetta S is still an underrated chassis and compact car as a whole, especially for the price.

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The Verdict: 2016 Volkswagen Jetta S Review

And that price is just $20,595 as tested after destination charges, or the equivalent of roughly 824 containers of baby formula. The Jetta always offered a lot of car for the money and now it offers a lot of engine as well. But more importantly, it’s baby approved – at least by this baby.

  • Mark S

    Matthew, you need to report your Dad to the authorities! Forcing you into a car that does not have a clutch and manual gear shift….just plain cruel. Please, make sure you learn words like “rev match”, “clutch engagement” and “missed a gear” etc. so you can poke fun at the old man as he lets the slush box go about it AI business. What next, an autonomous car? Matthew, just say no and threaten to puke on the mother-in-law.

    Joking aside, the 1.4l turbo could not have come at a better time. Great MPG and a real alternative to the diesels while they are in the time out corner. The Jetta’s rear seat and boot space is pretty awesome for the segment (like the Mazda 3 handling, but the rear seats are cramped) and to be fair same with the Passat. Will admit I like hatch backs so, so lean towards the Golf more than the Jetta if I was looking at this segment.