The sixth generation Jetta arrives at last wearing VW’s new corporate skin. So why does it look so much like an Audi?
HMMM, YOU SEE it too, right? Especially at the rear end and most certainly in its slab-like profile, no doubt helped by our test car’s silver paint job. I refer to the obvious styling cues that have crept in from its Ingolstadt cousins, only ever overpowered at the car’s nose which inherits the bold horizontal grille and lamp treatment from the new Polo and Passat. I have a problem with this too, as it seems more derivative of the smaller car than the larger saloon, somewhat dampening its appeal as an aspirational vehicle. Then again, it’s just a Jetta, Volkswagen’s archetypal nemesis to the bland Toyota Corolla.
Despite the aforementioned gripes, there is still plenty to applaud about the new Jetta’s appearance. It’s handsome, notably turning the heads of those who’ve been waiting patiently for its arrival. “Wow it’s much bigger than the previous Polo,” incorrectly remarked others. It still manages to confidently exude the sense of quality that has become synonymous with the VW badge. A wide, blacked-out airdam and fog lamp enclosure takes up a considerable chunk of its visage as per the rest of the range, with sinewy lines and creases divvying up the flanks before culminating neatly at the boot lid. Our 1.6 TDI Comfortline Manual test derivative gets bold 16” inch Sedona alloy wheels at each rubbery corner, endowing the new Jetta with a boxy, four square stance on a wheelbase 73mm longer than the car it replaces. Yet when parked next to the outgoing chrome-faced Jetta 5, it’s the new car that looks less premium… less substantial even despite being 90mm longer than the old car. Perhaps the range topping ‘Highline’ trim level swings favour back to the 6.
Climb into the dark interior (grey plastics and brown cloth) of the Comfortline spec and I can’t help feeling a bit underwhelmed. The seats feel flat and the styling uninspiring. Is it just me? Apparently not, according to a few of the testers, others are a bit kinder. Across the range of Jettas you’ll find climate control, a multi-function computer, an 8-speaker equipped CD/Radio player, a multi-function steering wheel and hill-hold control. Onboard safety equipment naturally includes ABS braking with Brake Assist and ESP (stability control) plus driver and passenger airbags, curtain airbags at front and rear and side airbags in front. Storage space is more than adequate thanks to its large 510 litre boot, whilst in the cabin an array of hidey holes and cup holders are available including the items residing in the centre armrest on the (60:40 split) rear bench.
Our test car’s 1.6 turbodiesel engine manages to churn out a respectable 77kW and 250Nm with a carbon footprint of just 119g/km and a combined economy cycle of 4.5l/100km. We managed 5.2l /100km on our 93km test route. Those are impressive green credentials, but then the trade off is a sluggish 0-100kph sprint of 11.7 seconds – although I doubt this matters to Jetta Man. A superficial top speed of 190kph is claimed, but honestly, who has the patience to achieve it? Drive is sent to the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission all to the tune of muted diesel engine clatter. It’s an excellent box of cogs providing great transitions between gears, although I can’t help wonder what a sixth gear would have done to reduce highway fuel consumption even further.
Comfortline spec unfortunately does not include the sport suspension found on the flagship models, so it’s the bog standard springs you’re riding on complementing the McPherson strut (front) and Four-link (rear) architecture. Anti roll bars across both axles means the Jetta remains planted around turns with body roll at a minimum, while brake discs front and rear provides sufficient stopping power. We achieve a 100-0kph brake test of xxsec over xxm metres. Par for the course, really. It’s electro-mechanical power steering is well weighted and provides good feedback between road and driver but ultimately it’s a car that will do most of its life’s work in traffic jams and parking lots, where it excels.
I thought I would like this car. I thoroughly enjoyed the new Passat we recently had but where that felt like an evolution over its predecessor, the Jetta’s progress seems stumped. It’s more of an alternative to the Five, and in terms of character and desirability I don’t think a very good one. Get past its wallflower appearance however, and you will find an efficient Volkswagen that’s put together to similar standards as the rest of the range, albeit built in Pueblo, Mexico. But, the C Segment that it competes in today is not the one it ruled once upon a time. Competition is fierce now, hotly contested by excellent machinery from Korea and Europe and usually with a sizeable ‘cash saving’. I’m afraid new Jetta is going to have to fight harder than ever before to be noticed.