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First Drive: Volkswagen Jetta. Image by United Pictures.

First Drive: Volkswagen Jetta
Ah, the Volkswagen Jetta. Thatíll be the four-door Golf, yes? No, not any more...

   



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| First Drive | Nice, France | 2011 Volkswagen Jetta |

Gaps. Most new cars are about gaps. Sometimes they're about gaps that carmakers think might exist, hence something like, say, the Audi A7 luxury five-door hatchback coupť limo. But sometimes it's simpler than that. It's about physical gaps between models.

The new Jetta is a small saloon - nothing esoteric there - but now it's swelled slightly so that it neatly plugs the gap between Golf and Passat.

In the Metal

Unlike the new Passat, for which the VW design department had an attack of the clones, the Jetta is really, properly new-looking as compared to the last version. But in turning its back on the 'Golf with a boot' thing, it's gone headfirst into another aesthetic minefield.

Volkswagen is nothing if not consistent, so the Jetta (a small saloon) looks much like the Passat (a medium saloon), which itself looks quite like the Phaeton (a big saloon). The new VW Jetta is a crisp design though, and while its interior is reminiscent of the Golf's, it's no longer a carbon copy. No prizes for guessing that it's intuitively arranged and generally meticulously finished, though the hard plastic of the door trim does disappoint - you don't find that in the Golf. The instrument panel points towards the driver, which lends a welcome whiff of sportiness.

What you get for your Money

When the Jetta goes on sale in February it will be priced very closely to the VW Golf. The range will start at around £17,000 for the 120bhp 1.4-litre TSI in S spec; the equivalent Golf costs £17,060.

For that you get a cabin slightly longer, so perfectly big enough for four grown-ups, but with a boot whose capacity is a full 160 litres bigger, at 510. Equipment levels are S, SE and Sport and there are four engines: 1.4-litre TSI with 120- or 158bhp, a 1.6-litre TDI with 104bhp, and a 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI. All cars get six airbags and air conditioning and you can have a DSG dual-clutch automatic if you want.

Driving it

It's quite like a VW Golf, which is to say it chamfers the edges of all that can be harsh about driving a smallish car: the steering is accurate but light; the ride pillow-like yet always giving some feedback from the road surface; the engine hushed unless asked to toil; tyre, wind and mechanical noise mostly suppressed.

It's a car that, like the Golf - and even more so like the Passat - demands very little attention simply because it so competently goes about its business. Our sole test car had the 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine with a six-speed manual, which pulls hard from 1,500rpm, adding to the Jetta's general sense of unflappability and comfort; as with much of the middling stuff in VW's product line-up, the only unnerving sensation drivers might develop is a sense of mild underlying ennui.

Worth Noting

You may remember that the VW Jetta was launched in New York back in June 2010, accommodated by Katy Perry (which helped us to remember). So why the long lead? Well, while our Jetta looks the same as America's, it has been significantly revised. Most US versions have torsion beam rear suspension, while all ours have a more complex multi-link setup with revised settings, a wider track and different steering.

And it's really a case of the rat getting the cream, because as a percentage, Americans buy twice as many small and medium cars with four doors than we do in Europe, yet we get the most sophisticated version. Lucky us.

Summary

Whether Volkswagen's decision to clearly separate Golf from Jetta really makes much difference is questionable; the car is still, in essence, a Golf-sized four-door. And across five generations it's already shifted nearly ten million of them.

But actually, we suspect it will make a difference: this could very well become the cut price Passat that the last car could never be, such was its association with its five-door progenitor. Golf pricing with Passat evocation... that should work.

Mark Nichol - 21 Jan 2011



  www.volkswagen.co.uk    - Volkswagen road tests
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2011 VW Jetta. Image by Paddy Comyn.2011 VW Jetta. Image by Paddy Comyn.2011 VW Jetta. Image by Paddy Comyn.2011 VW Jetta. Image by Paddy Comyn.2011 VW Jetta. Image by Paddy Comyn.

2011 VW Jetta. Image by Paddy Comyn.2011 VW Jetta. Image by Paddy Comyn.2011 VW Jetta. Image by Paddy Comyn.2011 VW Jetta. Image by Paddy Comyn.2011 VW Jetta. Image by United Pictures.



2011 VW Jetta. Image by United Pictures.
 

2011 VW Jetta. Image by United Pictures.
 

2011 VW Jetta. Image by United Pictures.
 

2011 VW Jetta. Image by United Pictures.
 

2011 VW Jetta. Image by United Pictures.
 

2011 VW Jetta. Image by United Pictures.
 

2011 VW Jetta. Image by United Pictures.
 






 

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