Tag Archives: Volkswagen

What I think: 2019 Volkswagen Jetta

In the early 2000s Volkswagen introduced its first SUV, the Touareg, which seemed conceived to annoy the German brand’s upscale cousins: It was a spin-off of the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne that felt nearly as posh, but for a lot less money.

In its latest move, and at the other end of the lineup, VW has now taken its Jetta compact upscale in look and feel. Despite having been the poshest choice among economy cars for many years, the Jetta’s new design raises it up a notch to rub shoulders with Audi’s entry-level offerings, the A3 and A4, but at a more accessible affordable price point.

More significantly, this new Jetta is better-placed to compete against economy-car notables like the Honda Civic, along with the raft of other affordable vehicles that account for a big portion of Canada’s car sales.

The look is new, but shoppers coming from a previous-generation Jetta will find the driving experience familiar. A 1.4L turbocharged engine is carried over to become the sole offering, as VW has discontinued the 1.8L used in last year’s top-end Highline. It makes less horsepower than that larger motor, but boasts the same 184 lb-ft of torque.

Power output is newly managed by an optional eight-speed automatic transmission, unique in a class of six-speeds and continuously variable transmissions (CVT). Smooth in its work, it upshifts as early as possible in acceleration to save fuel while taking advantage of the motor’s generous low-end torque.

There’s less urgency here than in the Honda Civic with its optional 1.5L turbo, which trades about 20 lb-ft of torque for a nearly 30-hp bonus over the Jetta. The Civic has a less-exciting CVT, but it feels more eager to keep pulling at higher engine speeds than the Jetta does.

True to the Jetta’s position as a favourite of driving enthusiasts, Volkswagen offers it with a manual transmission in all three available trim levels, even the posh Execline model I tested (though this one had the automatic). The Civic’s otherwise entertaining turbo motor can’t be had with a stickshift in the car’s sedan body style.

As before, the Jetta’s steering is very light, giving an initial impression of a car that won’t be much fun to drive. But even without toggling into sport mode, which makes the steering a bit heavier and brings more aggressive powertrain responses, the Jetta is an engaging car to drive enthusiastically, providing its entertainment along with a comfortable and composed suspension.

Our test car’s fuel consumption averaged 8.4 L/100 km against VW’s estimates of 7.8/5.9 L/100 km (city/highway).

One of the key items our Jetta Execline test car borrowed from Audi is a virtual gauge cluster that will display a digital representation of the conventional gauges used in lesser Jetta trims. It can also be set to show all kinds of other information (not all of it useful to the task of driving). It’s a central piece of a cabin that looks and feels elevated well beyond the old Jetta’s interior, whose quality already never left me wanting.

As with so many redesigned cars, the new Jetta is larger than its predecessor, on the inside as well as the outside. The difference is incremental, because previous versions of the Jetta already boasted roomier cabins than many of their competitors, but if you’re comparing this car to its upscale cousins from Audi, the Jetta is much more commodious than the A3 and is comparable to the A4, despite the Audi’s longer wheelbase.

At its entry-level Comfortline trim, the Jetta comes standard with niceties like heated front seats, 6.3-inch infotainment display, automatic LED headlights and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. Highline adds automatic climate control, a sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming rearview mirror and artificial leather upholstery. By the time you get to an Execline model like the one we drove, the $27,700 price includes an upgraded sound system, 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment with navigation, ventilated front seats and real leather upholstery.

With this new design, Volkswagen is acknowledging that other compact-sedan makers have upped their collective game. This time, rather than trying to outdo the competition in terms of quality and refinement, Volkswagen has pitched the Jetta as a solid, middle-of-the-road contender to help satisfy the Canadian market’s appetite for affordable and comfortable transportation. It’s a new approach for VW, but one that will work as well as the Jetta itself does.


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What I think: 2015 Volkswagen Tiguan

2015 volkswagen tiguanIt’s normally easy to like a Volkswagen. They build great small cars, spacious family cars, and the Touareg mid-size crossover is a fantastic vehicle hampered only by a high price and VW’s upscale aspirations. Maybe it’s those same high hopes that left me disappointed in the company’s Tiguan compact crossover. Read my full review at


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What I think: 2015 Volkswagen Golf

2015 Volkswagen Golf

Volkswagen’s Golf is a car with a long history, dating back to what we knew as the Rabbit of the late 1970s (although this car has always been the Golf in Europe). That history does not include much in the way of daring design, and that doesn’t look poised to change as the Golf moves into its seventh generation for 2015.

That’s okay: despite looking not much different than the third-generation model introduced in the mid-1990s, the newest Golf is a sharp little car, with classy styling that belies its affordable price tag.

2015 Volkswagen Golf

The real news is what’s under the hood: the new base engine is a 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 170 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. It’s a bit of a throwback, as the fourth-generation Golf (and its Jetta sedan sibling) were notable for an engine nearly identical in specification; where that motor was aimed at drivers looking for a sporty drive, the goal of this new 1.8 TFSI powerplant is efficiency.

Fitted with VW’s latest direct gasoline injection technology, fuel consumption estimates are 9.3 L/100 km (city) and 6.4 (highway); my test car posted remarkable averages of 5.7 L/100 km in highway driving, and about 8.5 in the city. Those real-world results make the more expensive, but only slightly more efficient TDI diesel engine look a lot less appealing.

I lead with that because, while the Golf is a lovely car in most ways, that fuel economy—and the engine that provides it—is the most exciting thing about this car.

2015 Volkswagen Golf

Don’t take that the wrong way. The new engine is a torquey wonder, making plenty of smooth, quiet power. Surprisingly, the manual transmission is only a five-speed; most transmission innovation these days is going into eight-, nine- and ten-speed automatics. The number of gears doesn’t pose a problem in the Golf; what does is that this transmission is geared so far toward economy that the engine spins at less than 2,000 rpm at 100 km/h in fifth gear, and the gaps between ratios are very wide. The engine can handle all of that, but it does take a lot of the fun out of driving the car.

Likewise, the ride is softer than you might expect. Comfortable, without a doubt, and the car feels very solid at highway speeds, but the way the Golf goes over the road will do little to encourage you to attack corners with much enthusiasm. If you do, however, you’ll be rewarded with predictable handling and sharper responses than my tester’s 16-inch wheels and high-profile tires suggest.

2015 Volkswagen Golf front seats

This is a very spacious car, with accommodations that verge on mid-size, something that’s becoming common among compact cars. The cargo area is large as well: if you’re considering a small crossover for its trunk space, think smaller, because the Golf’s trunk will challenge just about any you’ll find in a compact SUV.

I was less enthusiastic about the front seats, which are far less comfortable than those in previous Golfs and Jettas I’ve driven. Helping to make up for that is their wide range of adjustment, including electric backrest adjustment and lumbar for both front chairs.

2015 Volkswagen Golf back seat

In fact, the base package is a decently-equipped car. Bluetooth is included in all trims, along with a streaming audio function and a wired iPod connector which only works with Apple music players. Front seat warmers are standard, along with heated side mirrors and windshield washer nozzles, all of which make winter driving more palatable. Manual air conditioning is also included.

If you move up to Comfortline trim, as my tester was delivered, the $23,000 price tag includes cruise control, backup camera, automatic post-collision braking and fog lights. Spec out the Comfortline with a $1,600 convenience package, and VW adds automatic headlights, auto-dimming rear view mirror, dual-zone automatic temperature control, sunroof and rain-sensing wipers.

2015 Volkswagen Golf trunk

For nearly $25,000, there are a number of things missing from the Golf that other small cars—most notably the Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte—include for similar money. However, though the Golf may not be a ton of fun, it feels expensive going over the road, and for the right driver, that will count for more than any number of convenience features.

This article originally appeared in the Montreal Gazette

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Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Volkswagen, What I Think


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The Big Idea: Little touches that matter

In the last few weeks, I’ve driven the 2015 Volkswagen Golf and the 2014 Kia Forte5 (which I wrote about here). Both are small hatchbacks aimed at buyers in the market for a good-looking and practical compact car.

Both also have this neat feature:

2015 Volkswagen Golf

That’s one of the rear outboard seatbelts in the Golf. Notice that little raised edge between the belt and the seatback? That’s there for one reason: to keep the seatbelt from getting caught behind the seat when you flip it upright from its folded position.

Here’s the same detail in the Kia Forte5:

2014 kia forte5 010

It’s the kind of thing that most buyers (and, in fact, most car reviewers) won’t notice, and that’s because it works so well. Some cars have a little clip to hold the belt out of the way, but a) that’s not as effective, and b) you have to remember to slide the belt into it. This barely-noticeable design element works all by itself, simply because it’s there. I want to find the engineer who came up with this idea and take him or her out for a beer, that’s how much I appreciate this kind of detail. You can bet I’ll be looking for this in every vehicle I test, from now on.

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Posted by on September 5, 2014 in Kia, The Big Idea, Volkswagen


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What I think: 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan

Tiguan: weird name, nice little crossover. I’m just not sure it’s nice enough to warrant it being so much more expensive than its competition. Read my Test Drive here.


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What I think: 2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy a Jetta GLI, and that’s money well-spent on a budget-priced sport sedan. Read my Test Drive here.


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