Here in the United Kingdom we have taken the hatchback to heart. Maybe it's because we think we invented it (with the Austin A40 Farina), although the Renault 16 is commonly referred to as the blueprint for the modern (front-wheel drive) hatchback. For all the popularity of the hatchback though, most manufacturers still feel the need to offer a booted alternative.
Previous versions of the "Golf with a boot", be they Jetta or Bora, always seemed to pass me by. Whether this was down to personal taste, not screaming "me, me, me, please, please, please" at the editor when the test cars were divvied out, is a matter for conjecture, but the fact is that the hatchback-with-a-boot in the Golf-Focus et al
market tends not to be the glamorous option, and certainly not an overly popular option in Britain. Somehow the four-door saloon lacks image in the mid-size market where the converse is true with larger cars. Rover aside (with the SD1 and then the 800 series) it's hard to think of a large hatchback. Drop down a size and the hatchback is the body style of choice. Four-door saloon alternatives exist for the Golf, Focus
, Corolla, etc, but when did you last see one?
In the case of the new VW Jetta, this may not be down to rarity alone - it looks so much bigger than the equivalent Golf
that most will assume it's a Passat
. Certainly my first thought when the VW delivery driver arrived was that he brought me another Passat to test. And as luck would have it, an early trip in the Jetta ended in a car park with a V-registration VW Jetta parked next to me; if anything the Jetta was fractionally the longer! As a sanity check, I found a current shape VW Golf to park up against - yup, the Jetta is still a Golf with a boot. The Golf has grown too.
Our VW Jetta came with an interesting specification. The colour screen DVD-based satellite navigation with built-in controls for the audio system looked the same as in the Passat (expensive), yet air conditioning was the manual kind (cheaper) and the seats were trimmed in cloth rather than leather (very cheap). The main seating area was in some sort of hard-wearing material that seemed more akin to a low rent taxi, or even one of those now fashionable double-cab pickup trucks, where the owner has bought it for work rather than for leisure. The edging of the seats looked and felt even worse, like the edging of some cheap seat covers; not your typical VW upmarket interior. Even the dashboard, lifted straight from the Golf, managed to look cheaper despite the lovely looking dials that illuminate in purple and red at night. The quality of some of the switches was not what we have come to expect from the Germans either.
Then, set against this, is the attention to detail that reminds us we are dealing with a manufacturer with an eye for detail. An example of this was the separator for the cup holders in the centre console - it is actually a double-ended bottle opener.
To drive the Jetta is to drive a Golf. You don't notice the extra length; the only giveaway is the different view in the rear view mirror. The ride is excellent, maybe something to do with the high profile (55 section) tyres on 16-inch wheels, but surprisingly these cause a lot of road noise. By 50mph the rumble is quite audible, and the general calm of driving is not aided by the engine either. It's smooth enough, but sounds gruff, very diesel like in nature, as we've reported previously for the direct-injection unit. From start-up some might think the FSI engine is a diesel, and under acceleration again passengers might not be sure. It doesn't drive too badly though, 0-62mph takes 9.2 seconds if you are merciless. Maximum power is produced at 6000rpm but the engine doesn't seem that willing to get there. The six-speed gearbox is a peach though, slotting from gear to gear with rifle bolt precision, and unlike many six-speed 'boxes, it's geared more for sprint than economy. It still allows a top speed of 131mph which is about the norm these days for a 2-litre saloon. The sprint gearing was always going to affect fuel economy, and although 34mpg on the combined cycle doesn't sound too bad, it's almost identical to the figure achieved by the larger and much more powerful VW Jetta 2.0 T- FSI we tested late last year. Maybe higher gearing would pay dividends on economy; it's always difficult to correctly judge the compromise between being too high geared for driving in town and too low geared for good economy.
One thing I found disconcerting was the throttle pedal feel. Once applied after the initial movement there was no feel whatsoever in the pedal. It felt like there was no cable involved in the system (there isn't) and made judging how hard the throttle was opened hard to judge. That probably didn't help the economy situation either as usually I was giving the Jetta more welly than it really needed!
The trouble with the VW Jetta is simple as this: it's a fine car in its own right, but so is a Golf. You get a bigger boot, but lose the practicality of the hatch. Maybe there is space in the world for a Jetta and a Golf, but the real killer is the Passat. Despite Volkswagen's advertising campaign telling us Jetta is not as expensive as it looks, nor is the Passat. There is only £1,400 difference in price between this Jetta and a similarly engined and specified Passat. Actually it's not that simple; that's the difference between the two 2.0 FSI 150 SE models, but the Jetta doesn't have standard air conditioning and it doesn't have electric driver's seat adjustment. That £1,400 gap has just decreased dramatically. So I'm not really sure why you would buy a Jetta over a Golf or Passat; maybe Jetta buyers can comment and enlighten us.
VW Jetta UK range overview
- VW Jetta S FSI 1.6 ltr 6 speed manual : £14,635
- VW Jetta S TDI 1.9 ltr 5 speed manual : £15,325
- VW Jetta S TDI 1.9 ltr 6 speed auto DSG : £16,710
- VW Jetta SE FSI 1.6 ltr 6 speed manual : £15,625
- VW Jetta SE FSI 2.0 ltr 6 speed manual : £16,650
- VW Jetta SE FSI 2.0 ltr 6 speed auto : £17,850
- VW Jetta SE TDI 1.9 ltr 5 speed manual : £16,290
- VW Jetta SE TDI 1.9 ltr 6 speed auto DSG : £17,495
- VW Jetta SE TDI 2.0 ltr 6 speed manual : £17,525
- VW Jetta SE TDI 2.0 ltr 6 speed auto DSG : £18,750
- VW Jetta Sport FSI 2.0 ltr 6 speed manual : £17,340
- VW Jetta Sport FSI 2.0 ltr 6 speed auto : £18,540
- VW Jetta Sport FSI 2.0 ltr 6 speed manual : £18,815
- VW Jetta Sport FSI 2.0 ltr 6 speed auto DSG : £20,015
- VW Jetta Sport TDI 2.0 ltr 6 speed manual : £18,015
- VW Jetta Sport TDI 2.0 ltr 6 speed auto DSG : £19,240