‘A SENSIBLE STEER’
Car and Driving's Independent New Review of the Volkswagen Jetta 2.0 TDi.
Last updated 13 Jul 2011.
Volkswagen takes another crack at persuading a sceptical British public to give the Jetta a try with its most convincing model yet. Andy Enright reports
Ten Second Review
Volkswagen’s latest generation Jetta is bigger and sleeker than before, offering customers a different set of practical virtues to the Golf. A big part of its promise lies in the fact that the Jetta now looks more like a model in its own right rather than a hatchback with a boot tacked on. Powered by the company’s excellent 2.0 TDi diesel, it makes a compelling case.
Stop me if I sound like a broken record. Every few years Volkswagen brings out another booted version of the Golf and each time commentators claim that this time round it’ll be a sales success in the UK. First the Jetta, then the Vento, then the Bora and back to the Jetta again; booted Golf variants have been big sellers in the US but have never found favour on these shores.
Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. That applies to a certain degree to Volkswagen’s attempts to market the Jetta in the UK but this time round the company is banking on having done things differently.
The previous fifth generation Jetta model adopted a pragmatic tactic in ‘benchmarking’ the suspension of the rival Ford Focus and the results proved to be a big step forward in the handling department, something continued by this latest generation model. Hi-tech TSI and TDI powerplants, multi-link rear suspension and electro-mechanical power steering all promise a mature driving experience of the kind that prospective customers will be seeking.
Volkswagen has tried especially hard with the refinement of this car, the aim being to make owners feel that they’re in something much bigger and more expensive - and the TDi powerplant driven here is certainly civilised enough to pull off the illusion. Certainly, the flexible engines will make the Jetta feel a fast enough performer, even if you opt for the adaptable DSG semi-automatic gearbox.
Design and Build
The Jetta draws its inspiration from Volkswagen’s elegant New Compact Coupe design study, first shown at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show. Most show cars are wildly indulgent, with flip-up doors, interiors that look like Zaha Hadid architecture and 22-inch alloy wheels shod with rubber bands for tyres. The Volkswagen NCC was different. It looked production-ready. It was a mature, cohesive design that smacked slightly of a better-resolved, slightly shrunken version of Audi’s A5. With some spy shots already in the bag of the prototype Jetta being durability tested, it was obvious that the NCC would spawn the next generation Jetta - the similarities were obvious.
And so it has proved. The sleek shape of the Jetta, unveiled again in the US in New York’s Times Square has been styled under the leadership of Klaus Bischoff, head of design for Volkswagen. No body panel is carried over from its predecessor, lending the Jetta an elegant appearance that marks the latest evolution of a new phase of Volkswagen design. It’s a significantly bigger car than before as well, the overall length swelling by 90mm to 4,644mm. In addition, the wheelbase has also been extended to 2,648mm, an increase of 70mm resulting in 67mm more legroom for back seat passengers. A 510-litre boot offers serious carrying capacity and a pragmatic layout. Styling is certainly subjective but has any recent Golf looked quite this good?
Market and Model
With a vast array of engines and trims to choose from, Jetta owners are spoiled for choice. Petrol-wise, Volkswagen have added the 105PS 1.2-litre TSI engine and the supercharged and turbocharged 160PS 1.4-litre TSI unit to the line-up and continue with the 122PS 1.4-litre TSI and the turbocharged 200PS 2.0-litre TSI as seen in the Golf GTI. Those looking for a diesel option have the choice of a 105PS 1.6-litre TDI or this model’s 140PS 2.0-litre TDI powerplant.
In order to incentivise sales, equipment levels are set to be strong; certainly better than the German stereotype. An all-new dashboard with aluminium highlights sits ahead of a leather-trimmed three-spoke steering wheel. Every Jetta model also gets an integrated multifunction display, air conditioning and a CD stereo system. Available as an option will be touchscreen satellite navigation. As you would expect from Volkswagen, a comprehensive array of safety features also makes the specification sheet, including six airbags, anti lock brakes and an Electronic Stabilisation Programme.
Cost of Ownership
One continuing theme that’s unlikely to differ is the strong residual value of the Jetta. The laws of supply and demand have propped up used values very well, although the problem of depressed residuals via oversupply is a problem that Volkswagen would probably like to have. Day to day running costs are modest as a consequence of low insurance ratings brought about by excellent safety and security and also low emissions and strong fuel economy ratings from the excellent engine line-up.
Volkswagen’s BlueMotion economy models have proven a big hit amongst those looking to shave their daily running costs and the Jetta’s BlueMotion model includes Start/Stop and battery regeneration and is offered with the 1.2-litre TSI and the 1.6-litre and 2.0 TDI engines. The changes allow the 1.2-litre TSI version to achieve 53.2 mpg on the combined cycle while emitting 123g/km of CO2. The 2.0-litre TDI variant we’re looking at here is capable of returning 58.9 mpg and emits just 126g/km of carbon dioxide.
Many will be sold on the Volkswagen Jetta as soon as they clap eyes on one in the metal. It is undoubtedly a very tidy piece of product design backed up by solid build quality and a range of very strong engines. Quite how large this body of customers will be returns us to the nub of the Jetta’s problem. It’s never been a big seller as the bottom line is that most customers in this sector prefer the practicality of a hatchback.
Given this constraint, however, it’s hard to see how Volkswagen could have done much more. One option would have been to undercut the Golf on price but risking killing a goose that has laid so many golden eggs would never be on the cards. If you are one of the minority who favours four doors over five, the Jetta is a smart pick. Volkswagen has sold 9.6 million worldwide since 1979, so perhaps it’s the UK who needs to play catch up.