Golf based sedan may just be the best car in Volkswagen's range
The Jetta you see here slots in just below the popular Golf hatchback in the Volkswagen range. It's a car pieced together from familiar parts, but its fresh looks and middle-of-the-range price tag could make it a great all-rounder. Is this an amalgamation of the best bits of the Passat and Golf in a well priced package or a model that exists only to please sedan-loving consumers? Let's see.
VW is careful in saying every "visible" panel on the Passat is new compared to the Golf. It's a clean shape and not an unhandsome one though if you want novelty and flair, you'll be as disappointed. But clean and classy — and that's the definition given by most commentators during our test car's time with us — is no shabby substitute.
The 158bhp 1.4-litre twin charged motor in the Jetta is a familiar staple of the Volkswagen line-up, yet it continues to impress in every installation. Familiarity has somewhat softened its appeal but it delivers a rewarding drive as well as impressive economy. Speaking of which, the Jetta TSI doesn't feel like it's sacrificing performance in the name of saving fuel.
It's on the motorway, where Jetta buyers will most likely cover the majority of their miles and this where it comes into its own. A settled and calm cruiser it offers very respectable overtaking potential should you need it. Refinement is very decent, with engine noise being well suppressed and the cabin remaining hushed even at high speeds.
The secondary ride is particularly good, with the dampers soaking up bigger undulations and small, sharp creases very well. The real success is that it feels soft with noticeable control to the compression and rebound damping that makes it feel planted in the way it handles, yet it's also pliant and comfortable.
Of course planted can also mean dull and you get the impression Volkswagen doesn't really bother to avoid such criticism. Still, there is pleasure to be had in threading the Jetta down the road and enjoying the decent balance of grip, composed handling and nicely weighted steering. Take advantage of it and you'll find yourself braking from ridiculous speeds before diving into corners. The shock is how quickly you gather speed — to the point where it actually provides nearly as good a driving experience as the Golf.
Although we applaud car manufacturers who make novel and interesting we find it hard to criticise Volkswagen for wilfully doing precisely the opposite. Everything about the Jetta's interior exudes functionality. The quality of the materials used is mixed, however. On the upper surfaces there are the soft-touch, heavily rubberised plastics and chromed dials but look lower down and there are obvious signs of cost-shaving brittle plastics. It's still an above-average-feeling cockpit for this class, but then it's not a massively distinguished category.
Most manufacturers strive to attain a theme for their cars, a dynamic and tactile DNA that runs throughout the range. Volkswagen has achieved this, one suspects, without actually trying by making its cars simple to use and straightforward in their ergonomic and driving characteristics.
The Jetta follows that lineage and does exactly what it says on the tin. It's pleasing enough to drive but lacks the involvement you might find in a Ford Focus, but then again, how much are you willing to sacrifice for driver enjoyment in a family car?
Verdict: Bland looks hide Volkswagen's most well rounded model. Was once the best car in its class but others are now better.
- Fantastic drivetrain
- Good body control
- Large 510-litre boot
WE DON'T LIKE
- Interior cost savings
- Golf (the car) is more exciting
- Price: RM149,888
- 0-100km/h: 8.3 secs
- Top speed: 185km/h
- Engine: 1.4-litre inline-4, twin charged petrol
- Installation: Front, transverse, FWD
- Power: 158bhp at 5800rpm
- Torque: 240Nm at 1500-4500rpm
- Gearbox: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
- Wheelbase: 2651mm
- Length: 4644mm
- Height: 1482mm
- Width: 1778mm
- Brakes (f/r): Ventilated disc/solid disc
- Suspension (f): McPherson Strut
- Suspension (r): Double Wishbone