While my 2016 GTI SE /w Performance Package was being serviced for a radio issue I had the opportunity to drive a 2016 Jetta 1.8t sport for a few days. Let me first say that although I dont race or track my car but I am an enthusiast and like my car more performance oriented vehicles.
Initial impressions for the Jetta were good. Body styling was pleasant and not boring, the lip spoiler in the rear was a nice touch. My model happened to be white which I would never pick due to the constant cleaning required but the color does look very nice. The 17″ Joda Black alloy wheels are not for me but surely not bad looking wheels, im sure many will like them.
Inside has full leather seats which are quite striking looking, though I really dislike light cream colored leather where you sit and black where you dont. New dark jeans and clothing can sometimes bleed colors onto light colored leather. Looking on the VW website this seems to be the only option for the Jetta Sport which is too bad. The trim has a lot of plastic but is higher quality textured plastic that looks very good. It still carries that higher end euro look. The headunit is not like the one found in my GTI but shares a lot of features. This is an all in one unit that does not have the glove box CD player/SD card reader, instead those two features are built into the center console unit. All the other features like bluetooth, satellite radio, android auto, apple carplay, playing music from SD cards are all present as well as navigation which mine does not have. One of the two SD card slots hold the navigation SD card for all the maps and such. The things that are missing from the headunit are mostly information screens about the cars vitals and such, which is not a huge loss to be honest. The rest of the interior is really similar just using the cheaper but nice plastic parts everywhere. As usual they didn’t cheap out on the door handles and they are a nice metal. Seating is as you expect spacious both in front and rear, a family would have no problems with this car, aside from the light colored leather seats. I do have one other complaint about the seats, they are bolstered like my GTI but there is nothing supporting that bolster up. If you sit on the bolster it completely collapses and does nothing to support you, its just there for looks not function of keeping you in place in your seat.
Now onto the mechanical. The 1.8t is very capable engine for this class of car, turbo lag is negligible and it has some wonderful pickup when you get on the gas. My model only had 12miles when they loaned it to me so it was brand new and not broken in yet, due to this I did not beat on it and instead drove it normally. That being said my commute to work is not casual, I end up gaining about 1800ft and then loosing the same amount in elevation on my 37 mile commute to work. RT17 is between San Jose and Santa Cruz has lots of highway speed twists and turns. The engine surprised me and handled this all extremely well, its no slouch passing people and picks up real good. The suspension is what you expect from a non-performance car and floaty/cushy which isnt as fun on the corners but by no means a boat. It still corners well and smoothly. That being said it is very comfortable due to it and makes for a pleasant experience. But with all these nice things I have had to say is a glaring problem, the transmission is garbage. On normal flat roads its not as much of a problem but when ever this transmission switches gears under load like when climbing on RT17 it has a very noticeable delay and surge when it finally gets in gear. Its not a clunk or jerk I think surge really does accurately describe it. The pairing of this great engine with a transmission like this is just sad. Maybe it had not broken in yet since I did turn in the car with sub 200 miles on it but initial impressions were not enjoyable. Like I said if all you do is normal driving not in the mountain this would be perfectly fine, my route to work is a bit more demanding than most on transmissions.
So I was a little put off by the transmission as you can tell, aside from that the car is fantastic. I was shocked to see a MSRP of $22k for the model I tested, what a deal! Thats 10K less on MSRP than my GTI, and you still get a lot of the same features I have plus navigation! For this price its very easy to look past the transmission and fake seat bolsters and find a superb value car with great quality and features. This will be high on the list when its time for the girlfriend to go shopping for a car.