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Road Test: 2016 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 2.0T SE

Volkswagen’s Fast and Fun Sports Sedan

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VW’s gasoline angle

Car enthusiasts rave about the Volkswagen GTI, the great handling and best-selling Golf hot hatchback. But what if you want almost identical handling and performance, but need a bit more interior space? Well then, you should be looking at the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 2.0L, the company’s entry in the ever-dwindling affordable performance sedan category.

Driving Experience: On the Road

Upon pushing the start-up button, Clean Fleet Report’s Jetta with the 2.0-Liter turbocharged/intercooled 16-valve, DOHC inline four-cylinder engine put out 210 hp and 205 lb-ft of torque. While a six-speed manual is standard, our test car was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. It earns an EPA fuel economy rating of 23 city/33 highway/27 combined. In 844 miles of driving throughout Southern California, I averaged 29.8 mpg with a 75-percent highway/25-percent city driving pattern. Running on regular unleaded, at our combined fuel average, the 14.5 gallon gas tank would have taken us more than 430 miles before needing to top off again.

The 2016 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 2.0T SE is quiet and smooth, making for a very enjoyable driving experience. The automatic transmission shifted with ease, with torque kicking in at 1,700 rpms and delivering a fun punch up to 6,000 rpm. For even more fun, when blipping through the gears with the paddle shifters, you get that wonderful “brrrappp” that only a turbo can deliver.

The SE model I was driving had 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and 225/40/R18 all-season tires (similar size summer performance tires are an option). The handling was above average thanks to

2016 VW,Volkswagen Jetta,GLI 2.0LT

Style to keep up with its sporty hanlding

the strut-type front suspension with coil springs and telescopic dampers and the rear multi-link, coil springs and telescopic dampers, with an anti-roll bar on both ends. Highway stability was excellent in what was an overall easy and pleasant car to drive.

Weighing-in at 3,194 lbs., the Jetta’s nimble, agile and precise handling is a joy, especially when combined with the afore-mentioned paddle shifters. The good handling characteristics start with electromechanical speed-sensitive power steering (the steering gets lighter to the touch as speed increases) that thankfully was not programmed to take away the fun of driving. Body roll was almost non-existent, even when pushed above the recommended corner speed limits on Southern California mountain twisties, with the end result of a ride control and handling combination that maybe only the sportier Golf GTI can beat.

A good handling car is nothing without being able to keep it under control when braking. Our Jetta’s stops were straight, true and confident with no brake pedal fade thanks to the standard four-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS), power assisted front vented and rear solid discs, electronic stability control, electronic brake pressure distribution and hydraulic brake assist. These braking and handling technologies go completely unnoticed when driving in normal situations, but are crucial in an emergency.

Driving Experience: Interior

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Spacious & well-appointed

I was driving the nicely optioned Jetta 2.0T GLI SE, with the VW Car-Net connectivity package that included apps for telephone, security and emergency roadside service. The interior fit and finish, which as Volkswagen put it, has updates that are “subtle, but significant,” were German-tight, with a good mix of soft and hard plastics. There are no unnecessary fake woods or design gimmicks, which often can be found on other cars, but you will find piano black and chrome accents. The instrument cluster, set behind the multifunction leather-wrapped steering wheel, has a tunnel design with deep-set faces to eliminate glare.

The Titan Black, heated, V-Tex leatherette front seats have better-than-average bolstering and include a power adjustable driver’s seat (with manual lumbar adjustments) and manual adjustments for the front passenger seat. There was a good choice of seat settings, that, when combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, made it easy to find a comfortable position for enjoyable long drives. The steering wheel has controls for telephone, radio and cruise control functions. The soft-touch dash is clean, simple and well laid-out with the large, round gauges – exactly what is expected from Volkswagen.

Volkswagen saying the interior is “truly spacious” is not an exaggeration. At 5’ 9”, I fit in all cars, including open wheel racers, so a true test was having a 6’ associate sit in the driver’s seat and,

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See me, touch me

when positioned, have him climb into the back to check leg, knee and head room. The Jetta’s rear leg room, impressive at 38.1-inches, combined with the arcing roofline, allows for ample head room, which is just fine for even taller passengers. The rear seat can accommodate three adults, which would be fine for commuting, but, as with most cars, for longer trips two in the rear seat would be preferred for comfort and space. The 60/40 folding rear seat, with a ski pass-through opening and folding armrest with cup holders, is backed by a very large trunk, which at 15.5 cubic feet provides excellent storage capacity. Make no mistake, the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 2.0T SE is a spacious, comfortable car.

The six-speaker Fender premium sound system delivers deep, full crisp tones for the AM/FM/CD/HD radio, plus USB and Aux jacks with MP3 playback. Also part of the infotainment system is a 6.3-inch touchscreen that controls the radio plus the SiriusXM (a must for those long, fuel-efficient road trips), Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music, and VW’s Media Device Interface (MDI), which includes an SD card slot. Navigation is available on the Jetta SEL trim level.

Other conveniences are the power tilting and sliding sunroof, power windows with one-touch operation and pinch protection, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, center console with folding armrest and cupholders, cooled glove box, carpeted floor mats, power adjustable and manual folding heated exterior mirrors and a rearview camera. Another nice touch are the rain-sensing windshield wipers with heated washer nozzles. Living in Southern California, heated nozzles may not be used too often, but in cold weather climates they make perfect sense. Clean Fleet Report’s Jetta had Bi-Xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, fog lights, cornering lamps and ambient interior lighting.

Driving Experience: Exterior

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VW’s “class up” look

Clean Fleet Report’s Jetta, which came in brilliant Tornado Red, featured a design refreshed for 2016 with subtle changes to the front and rear, including front grill shutters that close to increase aerodynamics and reduce wind resistance. In the rear there is an integrated aerodynamic trailing edge on the trunk lid that gives the car a more upscale look and improves wind flow for increased fuel economy. Overall, I like the conservative-leaning Jetta exterior styling with its clean lines and no useless cladding or body panels. VW calls this “class-up appeal” in which they offer more for less. I agree.

Safety and Convenience

The 2016 Volkswagen Jetta GLI comes with six airbags, keyless access, a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), intelligent crash response system (ICRS) and park distance control. They have earned a US Government National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)  5-Star Overall Vehicle Score, where 5 Stars is the highest safety rating and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Jetta its Top Safety Pick.

Pricing and Warranties

Clean Fleet Report’s Jetta 2.0T SE had an MSRP of $26,920, not including the $820 destination charge. Here are the base prices for the gasoline-powered 2016 Jetta 2.0T GLI models, not including any optional packages you may order. All prices exclude the $820 destination charge.

GLI SE         $26,920

GLI SEL       $29,280

All 2016 Volkswagen Jetta models come with these warranties:

  • Basic – Three-year/36,000-mile
  • Powertrain – Five-year/60,000-mile
  • First Scheduled Maintenance – One-year/12,000-mile
  • Roadside Assistance – Three-year/36,000-mile
  • Corrosion Perforation – 12-year/Unlimited miles

Observations: 2016 Jetta 2.0T GLI SE

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The heart of the matter–speedo & tach

The 2016 Jetta is Volkswagen’s top-selling model and comes in nine different trim levels with 1.4L, 1.8L and 2.0L turbocharged gas engines. (It’s diesels may return to the market soon.) The good fuel economy, excellent handling and clean styling make the Jetta a keen competitor versus others in its class. However, that excellent handling and spirited engine give the Jetta 2.0T a leg up on the others because it is so fun to drive.

When visiting your Volkswagen dealership, ask to test drive the different Jetta models, testing for yourself the engine options to see how they best fit your driving style and needs.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle, which does not address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology, during which we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements. Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class or are among the top mpg vehicles on the market. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

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About Author: John Faulkner

John Faulkner is an automotive marketing professional with more than 30 years experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He has worked with General Motors (all Divisions), Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Eagle), Ford and Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota on consumer events and sales training programs. His interest in automobiles is broad and deep, beginning as a child riding in the back seat of his parent's 1950 Studebaker. He has a keen appreciation of Art Deco design, no bias for domestic versus foreign makes and loves competition - whether that be F1, IndyCar, Sports Cars, NASCAR or participating in Track Days at places such as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Thunderhill or Willow Springs. John lives in Dana Point, CA, and enjoys a top-down drive on PCH on an early Sunday morning.

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