2017 Volkswagen Jetta Sedan
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Review of: 2017 Volkswagen Jetta Sedan 4dr 1.4 TSI Auto Wolfsburg Edition
2017 Volkswagen Jetta Wolfsburg Edition: End of the line
By Dan Heyman
May. 17, 2017
For many, this doesn’t mean much; it’s a town in Northern Germany, evidently, about 100 km East of Hanover and 200 km West of Berlin. No biggie, right?
Well, for a huge contingent of the world’s motorists, it is a biggie. That’s because Volkswagens are built there, and all the issues they’ve had as of late doesn’t change the fact that they’ve sold millions of cars over the years (not to mention millions of a single model) and continue to be one of the biggest manufacturers in the world; in Sweden, for example, it’s not Volvo that sells the most cars, it’s not Toyota. It’s Volkswagen. People love these, to the point where they have a cult following like few others do.
Lately, however, “Wolfsburg” has taken on a different connotation with VW, as they’ve started using it to designate the impending end of a model line. It goes hand-in-hand with how the venerable Golf, once only built in Wolfsburg, is now largely built in Mexico. Same goes for the Jetta you see here.
The brand’s popular sedan is expected to get a redesign for 2018 as it moves to VW’s modular MQB platform, so it’s Wolfsburg time.
So what of this final hurrah for the current Jetta?
Pros & Cons
- + Smooth, strong engine
- + Comfortable, spacious interior
- + Ride comfort
- - Understated styling
- - Engine noise
You may think the Bottle Green exterior colour is only available on a special edition trim like this, simply because it’s not mass-market grey, black or white, which even funky VW hasn’t been able to avoid selling a tonne of. The colour is all-new for 2017, but it is available on all models. We think it looks great, almost emerald-like in the way it reflects light. Refreshing.
Otherwise, the only real way to tell this version is different from your standard Jetta are the “Wolfsburg” badges on the door pillars, subtle trunk spoiler and 16-inch wheels.
That’s all well and good, but you’d think they could have done just a little more. The Jetta is handsome enough, but it’s one of the more conservative designs in the segment. Perhaps some even more special alloys, for example (the Touareg Wolfsburg gets these) or maybe a slightly different grille treatment?
The Wolfsburg car starts out as a Trendline trim, meaning you get all the niceties included therein such as body-coloured mirrors, USB jack and heated front seats. The Wolfsburg transformation is a little more robust here than it is on the exterior, adding support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 60/40 split folding rear seats and better infotainment. Plus, you get the way-cool pinstriped grey and black cloth seating, as if Adidas got the final word, just not the licensing kickback, hence the five stripes as opposed to three. It slots just below the Highline trim in the Jetta line-up, only missing out on leather seats, blind-spot system and ambient interior lighting.
The beauty about having a pretty basic three-box shape and straight-edged interior to work with – and also one of the reasons the Jetta is so popular – is that you don’t sacrifice precious space to special curved body panels, and the view out through the tall greenhouse is a good one. As a six-foot-three person, I had no trouble finding a comfortable seating position up-front; the rear seat was a bit of a squeeze if I left the driver’s seat in my tall-guy position. Having said that, there’s more room back here than there is in a Honda Civic sedan or Hyundai Elantra, two of the Jetta’s biggest competitors. I’m also a fan of the trunk; plop the seats down, and I had no trouble fitting an adult-sized hockey bag back there.
Like the exterior, VW’s infotainment system is not the most exciting to look at, but it remains easy to use and can be operated either via a touch screen or with scroll wheel. I’m a fan of having redundant controls in a car as I find them safer to use when driving, so the Jetta gets points for that. Plus, VW was one of the first to adopt the mobile apps we talked about earlier, and I found their integration to be smooth and without fuss. If you tire of looking at the boring stock VW interface, then a proper iPhone interface is just a plug-in away.
Opting for Wolfsburg spec also gets you Sirius radio and push-button start, which is nice.
VW has been building cars that give a very confident drive for quite some time now, and that remains the case with the Jetta. It starts with the great feel of the leather-wrapped, flat-bottomed steering wheel whose chunky rim falls nicely into the hands. I’m not sure a flat-bottomed wheel is required — it’s not like you’re sitting in a low-slung sports car with a cramped interior, here – but it’s still pretty cool to have.
The wheel leads to a rack that’s down a little on feel, but very direct once you get past the slightly-larger-than-preferred on-centre deadzone. The rack is matched by a surprisingly agile chassis that feels more like its sporty GLI cousin than it looks.
The Wolfsburg, of course, gets a milder ride than does the GLI, allowing for a little more body roll but plenty of bump absorption and quiet progress. The only rattle I sensed ended up being the seatbelt buckle banging against the door.
Things get a little noisier as you start to give it the beans, however; the Jetta gets VW’s 1.4-litre four-banger at base, and while the 150 hp it makes is punchy enough, you do have to push it to get the best out of it. Gets a little loud when you do.
At least the noise is accompanied by some brisk progress that had me praising the turbo gods; a tiny little engine like this shouldn’t feel so strong but if there’s one thing VW knows, it’s how to make small motors feel much bigger than they are.
I guess the one thing I’d consider switching when it comes to this powertrain (the available 1.8L engine notwithstanding) is my car’s auto ‘box; VW’s twin-clutch DSG is one of the better autos in the biz, but I can’t help but thing you’d get even more out of the engine with the standard five-speed manual. Or, if you aren’t actually getting more, it will at least feel like you are.
Plus, opting for the manual will save you an additional $1,400, making the Wolfsburg deal even sweeter than it already is. As it stands, you get all those features we talked about plus dual-zone climate control, power driver’s seat, power sunroof and cooled glovebox all for $21,295 with a manual transmission. That’s a great feature set for the price, coming before we even talk about fuel economy, which hovered around the 9.0 L/100 km mark during our drive, dropping as low as 7.4L/100 km on the highway.
It all points to why the Jetta – Wolfsburg or no – is such a big seller for the brand. It’s efficient, comfortable enough for long journeys but small enough to make short ‘round-town ones easier, and it comes well-equipped. Yes, the styling needs work, but if that bothers you, wait for the new one. That being said: VW’s non-EV designs as of late have been more evolutionary than revolutionary, so don’t expect them to upset the styling apple cart too much when the new one arrives. For now, the Wolfsburg and its pleasing package is well worth a look if you’re in the market for a compact sedan.