REVIEW DATE: 25 Feb 2008
With an economical TDI diesel engine on board, Volkswagen's Jetta saloon is worthy of consideration by any ambitious young executive. Steve Walker reports.
If we accept that buyers with families or large items to lug about tend to prefer a practical hatchback arrangement, the market for Volkswagen's Jetta saloon immediately looks limited. The Jetta, however, is tilting at a very different area of the market from its hatchbacked Golf sister vehicle. With high equipment levels and a junior Passat marketing pitch, the Jetta looks to pinch sales from premium hatches and the bottom end of the compact executive sector. The TDI diesel engines have a big part to play in this.
Like the original Jetta, the Vento and the Bora before it, this Jetta is a Golf with a boot. This series of names by which Golf saloons have been known over the years tells its own story, one of a model struggling to carve-out an identity for itself in the minds of buyers. The key problem is that a boot doesn't cut as much ice on these shores as it does in other markets where the saloon shape is deemed far more prestigious than the homely hatchback. The Golf is always going to be the big seller in the UK but the relative exclusivity of the Jetta should hold considerable appeal for image-conscious customers whose company carparks are beset with the obvious premium-badged executive choices.
With TDI diesel power, the Jetta makes yet more sense in the company car environment at prices starting from £15,695. The Volkswagen diesel engines are right up there with the best around, their combination of good fuel economy, low emissions and muscular performance reading like a junior executive's Christmas list. There are three diesel options available to Jetta customers, the first being a tried and tested 1.9-litre TDI unit that has been in service in numerous Volkswagen Group products for a number of years. The other two are both 2.0-litre in capacity, more advanced, more powerful and, predictably, more expensive. The range-topping engine is the 168bhp 2.0-litre TDI but the option most will choose is the 138bhp version of the same engine.
Offered with the S and SE trim levels or as an economical BlueMotion, the 1.9-litre TDI develops its maximum power of 103bhp at 4,000rpm and torque of 250Nm at 1,900rpm. It feels far from sluggish with that useful low range torque helping the engine accelerate purposefully even in 3rd or 4th gear. The power delivery is a little spiky, however, with a slight dead spot at the bottom of the rev range while you wait for the turbo to kick in and it isn't the most refined diesel that you'll come across, especially just after start-up. On the plus side, fuel economy is excellent. You can expect to average well over 50mpg and on longer motorway trips, more than 60mpg is well within the realms of possibility (especially in the BlueMotion vaiant). Emissions are measured at 137g/km - or 122g/km if you opt for 'BlueMotion' motoring.
"The Volkswagen diesel engines are right up there with the best around"
Where the 1.9 TDI Jetta can sprint to 62mph in 11.9s and achieve a 117mph top speed, the 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI turns in a 9.7s sprint and can reach 129mph but that doesn't tell the whole story. The real benefit of this 2.0-litre 138bhp engine is the 320Nm of torque that's available between 1,750 and 2500rpm. This engine uses Volkswagen's latest TDI direct injection technology to deliver a concussive punch of acceleration through the mid-range. It's more flexible than the 1.9 with acceleration on tap through a wider spread of the rev range. It's also smoother sounding but still not quite as refined as the best units offered by some rivals. Despite the muscular performance and strong overtaking ability, buyers can still expect to average 51.4mpg and get up to 62.8mpg on longer runs. Co2 emissions of 143g/km shouldn't break the bank.
There's no question that the 2.0-litre TDI is the better powerplant but the cheapest SE model is more than £1,200 more expensive than an equivalent 1.9TDI, itself no bad engine. Opt for the range-topping Sport and you'll need another £500 or so. Buyers who really value strong performance will be happy to find the extra but if your traffic-clogged commute rarely presents the opportunity to press-on, the 1.9-litre engine should prove adequate. The optional DSG gearbox is well worth considering with either engine, being generally recognised as the best of its type on the market. The premium of over £1,200 may seem steep but the smooth automatic shifts really add to the relaxed driving experience and the sharp manual mode comes as near as damit to replicating the control you get with a conventional manual gearbox.
One criticism levelled at the two previous generation Bora models was that although the cars offered a ride and refinement package that was hard to beat, they never really offered the sort of infectious handling that many rivals could boast. The fifth generation car adopts a pragmatic tactic in 'benchmarking' the suspension of the Ford Focus and first impressions are promising. The body is eighty per cent stiffer than its predecessor and the new electro-mechanical steering feel and composed body control are leagues ahead.
The interior is a little plusher than standard Golf fare, although the basic architecture of the dashboard is the same. In many ways, it's reminiscent of the Phaeton luxury saloon, although the centre console is lifted from the Touran mini-MPV. With the possible exception of its pricier Volkswagen Group cousin, the Audi A3, the cabin has the beating of anything out there as regards ambience. The interior features soft-feel slush-moulded plastics, high-quality switches, subtle use of chrome, fabric-covered A-pillars plus blue instrument backlighting with red needles, a signature of the fourth generation model.
The boot itself is bigger than the old Bora's. Capacity has gone up from a not inconsiderable 455 litres to a hefty 527 litres, making it more capacious than the boot of a BMW 7 Series. For extra flexibility, the 60/40 split rear back-rest can be folded forwards to form an almost flat floor up to the front seats. With all this in mind, you won't be surprised to learn that the Jetta is a larger vehicle than the Bora that it replaced. At 4.56 m long, it has grown by 18.2 cm, while width has increased by 2.5 cm to 1.76 m.
If the Jetta is to successfully battle rivals like BMW's 1-Series and Audi's A3 for the company car driver's affections, the TDI engines will have a massive part to play. You certainly get a more complete feeling package for significantly less cash with the Volkswagen than you do with its more prestigious rivals, while the diesel engine options do a great job of keeping running costs down. It's unlikely to become a big volume-selling product, but that relative rarity should play in its favour. If the Jetta is just a Golf with a boot, it must also be more than the sum of its parts.
The results below show the top JETTA deals on buyacar
|Volkswagen Jetta 1.6 TDI CR Bluemotion Tech SE 4dr DSG diesel saloon|
|Price £18,111||Save £3,754|
|Volkswagen Jetta 1.6 TDI CR Bluemotion Tech SE 4dr diesel saloon|
|Price £16,934||Save £3,606|
|Volkswagen Jetta 1.4 TSI 160 Sport 4dr saloon|
|Price £17,620||Save £3,675|
|Volkswagen Jetta 2.0 TDI CR 140 SE 4dr DSG diesel saloon|
|Price £18,654||Save £3,806|
|Volkswagen Jetta 2.0 TDI CR 140 Sport 4dr diesel saloon|
|Price £18,151||Save £3,759|
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|For JETTA TDI RANGE|
|OVERALL||7.9 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|
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