VW Jetta TDI review

Family friendly VW Jetta saloon is solid choice, but it feels dated

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

The Volkswagen Jetta remains a practical and comfortable choice for families who can’t quite stretch to a Passat. The increases in power and efficiency are welcome updates, bringing the engine line-up near the top of the class. But the price is hard to swallow for a car on a last-generation platform, and it’s still outclassed by the VW 
Group’s cheaper Skoda Octavia.

As Volkswagen nudges the new Passat further upmarket, it’s created more space below it for a sensible family saloon without a compact executive price tag. Step forward the Jetta, which has been treated to a raft of updates.  

External changes are limited to revised air intakes, LED daytime running lights and more aerodynamic bodywork. Inside, there are smart seat fabrics, plus a new steering wheel and instruments.

The design updates don’t add much excitement, but as shown by rivals such as the Skoda Octavia, buyers in this class aren’t looking for styling panache. Under the skin, though, the changes are a bit more extensive.  

The engine range is now streamlined, with just the familiar 1.4 TSI petrol and 2.0 TDI diesel available, both in two states of tune. We tried the most powerful diesel, which now has 148bhp (an increase of 10bhp) and 340Nm of torque (20Nm more than before). It’s the highlight of the whole package – as smooth and punchy as ever, while we saw almost 60mpg on a long run. So, the official 67.3mpg figure seems attainable and CO2 emissions of 109g/km are up there with the class best. 

It’s a shame, then, that the Jetta is still based on the old Golf Mk6, rather than the VW Group’s new MQB platform, as there’s a dated feel inside. The cabin is ergonomic and generally well built, but it’s let down by cheap-feeling plastic. It’s still impressively spacious, however, with a big boot and great rear legroom.

On the move, it’s hard to fault the composed ride and handling. But the latest Golf has raised the bar in terms of body control and refinement. Prices have swollen, too, so in mid-range SE spec the Jetta is pricier than the MQB-based Octavia, with the same engine and in better-equipped Elegance spec.

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