Volkswagen Jetta: First report

18 Jul, 2012 11:00am Darren Wilson

The new VW Jetta joins our fleet, but will it be as easy to live with as a hatch for our family man?

So what is the new Volkswagen Jetta for? Is it a Golf with a boot bolted on the back? A smaller Passat? Or a cut-price alternative to compact executive models such as the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4?

To be honest, as a hardened hatchback driver, my main concern when I collected the keys from Lookers VW Morden, Surrey, was whether the saloon would be as family-friendly as the five-door Ford Focus it was replacing.

Yet as I was shown around the car by sales executive Daniel Johnson, it quickly became clear that space wasn’t going to be a problem. Because the Jetta platform has been designed from scratch rather than based on a Golf, the car is 90cm longer than its hatchback brother – which means there are limousine levels of room for my two rapidly growing children. Plus, the kids benefit from deep door bins that are ideal for games, books and phones.

The boot has a massive 510-litre capacity – that’s a whopping 194 litres more than in the Focus and 160 litres bigger than the Golf’s load bay. Daniel also showed me how to fold the 60:40-split back seats, simply by popping the hidden lever inside the boot.
 
Even with the rear bench in place, the vast area would swallow a couple of large suitcases with ease, and has already made light work of a load of granite floor tiles I needed for some home improvements. Obviously, it doesn’t offer the full versatility of a hatchback, but how often do you really need to move furniture about?

And anyway, the huge potential savings the Jetta promises in running costs would cover the price of hiring a van. VW claims our 1.6 TDI BlueMotion Technology model will return 67mpg economy, thanks to its stop-start system. I’ve only achieved 42.4mpg so far, but this isn’t bad when you consider that the car has spent most of its life crawling along London’s congested road network.

And sitting in jams hasn’t been too much of a chore as the Jetta is so comfortable and relaxing at low speed, while the dash is simply designed and perfectly laid out. Light controls and excellent visibility also make the VW easier to drive than most of the family cars I’ve been in. Yet out of town, the torquey diesel engine and composed dynamics mean it’s surprising fun, too.

The Jetta doesn’t compare that well with my old Focus for options and technology, though. The sat-nav is simple to use, but is a pricey £1,755 option. And while Bluetooth is standard on our SE, pairing my phone with the system was more complicated than in the Ford – I needed a quick lesson from the VW sales staff.

Our model doesn’t have reversing sensors, and as the four-door is quite long, parking can be a journey into the unknown. It doesn’t help that I’ve got so used to having a rear wiper on the hatches I’ve been driving; without one on the Jetta, visibility in the rain has been poor.

VW sells loads of these Mexican-built saloons in the States, where the Jetta is much more popular than the Golf – its traditional four-door styling goes down a treat in the conservative US market. Yet over here, the sober shape divides opinion – the Auto Express office is split down the middle on its looks.

While some of my colleagues argue that the conservative lines give the Jetta a classic compact executive look for less, others suggest it would make a perfect getaway car, as witnesses would struggle to pick it out in a crowd. So it’s clear the Jetta has a bit of an image problem – and I’m still not entirely sure where it fits into the packed new car market. However, over the next 12 months I’m hoping to find out exactly what makes this spacious and refined family saloon tick.

Disqus - noscript

Isn't it based on the 8 year old mark V Golf rather than the modern mark VI? But hey, it's got a VeeDubya badge on the front so it'll get good reviews despite being hopelessly dull and based on the hire car I drove a couple of months ago, dull to drive.

The Golf VI platform isn't actually that different from the V. It's more of a 5.5 than a 6.

The Jetta is not just a big seller in the US,globally its the 3rd biggest seller in the VW group,almost selling as many units as Golf and Passat,so its a hugely important model for Volkswagen worldwide

I bought a Jetta 2.0 TDI european spec. This is in India. I previously had a Skoda Octavia 1 vRS. I do agree with you on the length of the car. The car is driven on extremely bad roads. Although it is a bit stiff to drive at love speeds, the mile eating capacity is amazing and very stable whether highway or forest roads. It handles very well but it might not be as tactile as a BMW 3 but that costs me almost 20000 pounds more in India.
It does look very understated but it will not age as fast. Again, the qualities of the car will emerge, the more you drive it. I actually planned to buy a Yeti but walked out with this

Shame you got one of the lower spec versions to test. I have just bought a new 2.0TDi Sport and it looks really smart in white. Very happy with it and I've had some approving comments about it. It has stiffer suspension and sport seats than the rest of the range and I feel it turns the car into quite a handler. I do admit, the S and SE versions look rather bland. The sport with its blacked out windows and polished wheels on the lower ride height transform the car.

Key specs

  • On fleet since: June 2012
  • Price new: £20,240
  • Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 104bhp
  • CO2/tax: 109g/km/£20
  • Options: Sat-nav (£1,755), climate control (£795), metallic paint (£495)
  • Trade-in now: N/A
  • Insurance group/quote: 12/£426
  • Mileage/mpg: 2,015/42.4mpg
  • Costs: £110.97 (new Michelin tyre after puncture)
  • Any problems?: None so far
Auto Express 1,343
For more breaking car news and reviews, subscribe to Auto Express - available as a weekly magazine and on your iPad. We'll give you 6 issues for £1 and a free gift!

Sponsored Links