There’s no shortage of glowing reviews of Volkswagen’s turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine (1.4TSI) that’s now standard equipment in the 2016 VW Jetta Trendline and Comfortline trims and in the 2016 Jetta Hybrid. The high praise comes in part because it’s such a huge improvement over its predecessor, the aging 2.0-litre SOHC eight-valve four-cylinder engine that dates back to the Mk 3 Golf and Jetta in the mid 1990s. The new turbocharged 1.4T is an aluminum engine with direct injection, dual overhead cams, 16 valves and variable valve timing that pumps out 150 hp at 6,200 rpm and 184 lb-ft torque at 3,200 rpm. That’s 35 hp and 59 lb-ft more than the previous 2.0-litre engine. Not only that, the new turbo is smoother, quieter and more fuel efficient.
Still, the old ‘Two-Point Slow’ engine did have one advantage: it allowed Volkswagen Canada to keep the base price of the 2015 Jetta Trendline under $15,000. That surely tempted many buyers into VW showrooms who might not otherwise have paid a visit.
With the 1.4TSI, VW Canada wasn’t able to keep the 2016 Jetta’s base price under $15,000, but they did keep it under $16,000. The 2016 VW Jetta Trendline starts at $15,995 with a standard five-speed manual transmission and $17,395 with optional six-speed automatic (plus a Freight and PDI charge of $1,605, up from $1,395 in 2015). That means you can buy a 2016 Jetta Trendline with six-speed automatic for under $20,000 before taxes.
The 1.4TSI engine is available in the 2016 Jetta Trendline ($15,995), Trendline+ ($18,795) and Comfortline ($22,595) trims with a standard five-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed automatic ‘Tiptronic’ transmission (+$1,400). The 2016 Jetta Highline ($27,995) comes standard with the 170-hp turbocharged 1.8-litre engine and the six-speed automatic. The sporty Jetta GLI ($29,395) and Autobahn ($34,795) trims have the 210-hp turbocharged 2.0-litre engine and standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed DSG (+$1,400).
There’s also the 2016 Jetta Turbocharged Hybrid ($36,895) available in one well-equipped trim level with the 150-hp 1.4TSI, 25-hp electric motor and seven-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG).
But back to the subject of this review: this little engine transforms the base Jetta into a responsive, smooth and surprisingly quiet family sedan. With maximum torque available starting at just 1,400 rpm, throttle responsiveness is almost immediate. There’s not much turbo lag and the car accelerates quickly from a dead stop and merges easily onto the freeway. The 1.4TSI engine includes variable intake and exhaust valve timing, which probably accounts for its ability to generate the same torque as the 1.8TSI at even lower revs (184 lb-ft at 1,400–3,500 rpm vs 184 lb-ft at 1,500–4,750 rpm). The almost instant pedal response of the 1.4TSI is probably its most attractive feature. In fact, an argument could easily be made that there’s no need to upgrade to the 1.8TSI engine.
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Not only is acceleration brisk, but the four-cylinder engine isn’t particularly noisy under hard acceleration – no turbo whistle either. In our test car, the 1.4TSI engine and six-speed automatic transmission proved to be a smooth combination and added to the Jetta Trendline’s surprising feeling of refinement. At a steady 100 km/h, the engine turns over a leisurely 1,850 rpm.
The automatic transmission’s S (Sport) mode improves throttle response by keeping the transmission in a lower gear for longer. Unless you’re in a hurry, you probably won’t appreciate the extra noise and increased fuel consumption. You can also shift manually (sequentially) by tapping the floor shifter forwards to shift up and backwards to shift down. There are no steering wheel paddles though.