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If the Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T sedan had been a drink, it’d be whiskey on the rocks. It’s a straight-up, no-nonsense compact sedan that exceeds the few guarantees it makes. We mentioned as a lot about an automatic-transmission mannequin we examined final yr, and it holds true much more so with the extra satisfying stick-shift model. Different compact four-doors could also be sexier (Mazda Three), newer (Chevrolet Cruze), or inexplicably ubiquitous (Toyota Corolla), however the Jetta is stable items.

The present Jetta seems simply as very similar to a toddler’s drawing of a three-box sedan because it did again in 2010 when it was launched. There’s a protracted rectangle propped on prime of 4 wheels with a smaller rectangle on prime of it, adorned with rectilinear headlights and taillights, door handles, and never a lot else. Whereas the nicer Jetta SEL and GLI stuff that casing with squishier, higher-quality inside finishes, the 1.4T S and SE (the latter being the mannequin we drove for this evaluation) make do with dashboards and door panels molded from arduous plastics with a slight sheen. The one softly padded inside surfaces other than the comfy seats are every door’s armrest.

Behind the Jetta’s fundamental veneer, you’ll discover competent driving dynamics, stable engineering, and above-average cabin area. Largely, these hidden attributes are the results of VW’s multiyear enchancment routine for the Jetta. When the current-generation automotive arrived seven years in the past, then widespread compact-car options equivalent to an unbiased rear suspension, rear disc brakes, a contemporary infotainment system, and a good engine had been restricted to the richer SEL and sporty GLI fashions. VW has since added these gadgets to the decrease half of the Jetta lineup. Final yr, it topped the Jetta’s listing of current enhancements by changing the bottom Jetta’s historic eight-valve, 115-hp 2.Zero-liter inline-four with the totally trendy 1.Four-liter turbo 4 evaluated right here.

We’re glad Volkswagen lastly gave lesser Jettas the identical high quality mechanicals that elevate the SEL and the GLI. The multilink rear suspension delivers supple trip high quality and above-average dealing with, and the advantages of four-wheel disc brakes are well-known. We recorded middling grip and braking figures (Zero.83 g and a 184-foot cease from 70 mph), which can have been largely because of the Bridgestone Ecopia tires, however subjectively, the Jetta is satisfying and confidence inspiring when pushed at most any pace.

Subsequent to the 170-hp 1.Eight-liter turbo inline-four that powers the Jetta SEL 1.8T and the 210-hp 2.Zero-liter turbo 4 within the Jetta GLI, the 1.4T engine may look like a pipsqueak. Not so—the 1.4T’s 184 lb-ft torque determine matches that of the 1.8T, and it arrives 100 rpm sooner at a low 1400 rpm.

In observe, although, this engine wants the tach needle swinging previous the 2500-rpm mark to get up. Turbo lag isn’t the problem; as an alternative, it’s the five-speed handbook’s tall gearing, which dulls the 1.4T’s may. To make up for the dearth of a sixth ahead gear, VW selected ratios for third, fourth, and fifth which might be taller than these within the six-speed gearbox supplied within the GLI.

Adept drivers can circumvent the transmission’s ratio allotment by downshifting to a decrease gear and liberating up the 1.4T. Round city, we saved the revs up by staying in second or third. The engine is so easy and makes such nice, muted mechanical noises that you just’ll hardly thoughts taking part in within the higher half of the rev vary. And shifting is not any chore in any respect, because of the buttery shifter and light-weight clutch-pedal effort. Surprisingly, this driving model didn’t excessively drag down gas financial system, as we recorded 31 mpg over the course of this take a look at—simply 2 mpg down on the 1.4T’s EPA metropolis estimate. On our 75-mph freeway loop, the Jetta averaged 37 mpg, which is sort of good. But we’ve seen greater than 40 mpg from Honda Civics with the out there 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder.

Regardless of being down on horsepower and torque relative to the smallest powerplants out there within the Civic and the Mazda Three, the 1.Four-liter turbo acquits itself properly on the take a look at monitor. At 7.7 seconds to 60 mph, this Jetta is faster than the automatic-equipped sedan variations of the Civic, the Ford Focus, and the Cruze, however it’s Zero.2 second slower to 60 mph than a base-engine, manual-transmission Mazda Three. The VW additionally outguns the Hyundai Elantra Eco, with its identically sized engine, in each output and acceleration.

VW has elevated the mechanicals of the bottom Jettas, however the S and SE nonetheless endure because of the beforehand talked about low-buck inside finishes, 4 audio audio system somewhat than the six discovered within the SEL and GLI, and an empty cubby in the back of the middle console the place rear-seat HVAC vents dwell in nicer Jettas. Not less than the stoic, mature aesthetic that Volkswagen applies to the door panels and dashboard retains the arduous, considerably shiny plastics from taking over a Playskool look. Even so, equally priced, low-spec variations of the Mazda Three and the Honda Civic have fancier inside duds much like these of their costlier trim ranges.

Not less than Volkswagen offers Jetta SE patrons at the moment’s must-have gadgets for an inexpensive worth. Customary tools consists of Bluetooth connectivity, heated entrance seats, vinyl upholstery, cruise management, blind-spot monitoring, a sunroof, and a 6.Three-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay integration. To swallow the SE 1.4T’s $21,715 sticker—on par with the equally outfitted Mazda Three Touring—one should recognize the Jetta’s minimalist mind-set. Some patrons may discover and luxuriate in the best way the Jetta’s doorways shut with a considerable really feel, the middle armrest that may slide fore and aft and tilt to the motive force’s desired place, or the automotive’s exact match and end. Others may contemplate the Mazda Three, a favourite of ours that has a nicer inside and drives much more sweetly than the Jetta.

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