Car reviews - Volkswagen - Jetta - sedan range
Dynamics, space, safety features, engine performance, TDI economy
Room for improvement
Bland profile, still a Golf underneath, seriously talented rivals, VW’s bad track record here
11 Feb 2006
WELCOME to the Jetta age.
It’s a time where size and performance categories merge, class distinctions blur and being able to shake a very big booty will bring you fraternity with Accord, Liberty and the odd Mazda6.
The new Jetta will accommodate you perfectly in the front and almost as well out back as today’s outgoing Passat, VW’s prestige/family-sized sedan.
Yet it benefits from all the steering, suspension, safety and refinement attributes of the Golf, Europe’s small car and the model that begat the Jetta. So you now it’s already a very good car to drive.
And for the money VW has not skimped on the good things. Stability control is standard (well done VW), as are lots of airbags and an alphabet soup of other safety-related acronyms (ABS with EBD and BA), parking radar, power windows and a boot that opens at a touch of a button.
Aside from an Audi-esque goatee, stylistically the Jetta is pure Golf in the front and almost indistinguishably new age Passat in the posterior, so there’s bound to be some confusion among your work colleagues and neighbours.
The good news here is that it seems more expensive than – say – the Ford Focus (or Mazda3) sedan it was designed to combat in some markets.
All in all then it’s a posher, peppier and far more refined and roomier car than the pretty but compromised Bora that it replaces in VW’s line-up.
But the Jetta, priced deep inside Mazda6 and Subaru Liberty territory, has some seriously talented rivals to contend with.
The former is a more sports sedan focussed (unless you’re talking about the impressive Golf GTI-engined Jetta 2.0 Turbo FSI) driver’s car with a roomier (if less refined) cabin and sexier styling.
And the latter is an exquisitely crafted all-wheel drive with Audi A4-beating driveability and dynamics.
VW also mentions the fine Honda Accord Euro as a key rival, so the Jetta really has its work cutout big time.
A brief drive reveals a solid, secure and involving sedan with very competitive petrol-powered performance, unique economy and torque delivery if it’s the Jetta 2.0 TDI we’re talking about, and a boot to shame a Falcon’s or Commodore’s.
And, though extremely unlikely, if you happen to find yourself on a racetrack, the Jetta almost lives up to its name with extremely impressive handling, grip, body control and stability at 170km/h.
That’d be the autobahn breeding talking – even if VW builds it in Mexico.
But, despite the Jetta’s excellent overall refinement and dynamics, the non leather-equipped models are a little too pedestrian in the cabin presentation to pull off the prestige sedan bit.
The profile is a little dull (though the tail-light treatment is cool) and there’s always that lingering feeling that – like with the Volvo S40 – there’s too much small car lurking underneath to pull off the medium sedan thing.
Yet, unlike with the powerplant-challenged Golf 1.6, there isn’t a clunker in the Jetta range.
So if you want compact yet roomy, classy yet slightly wallflower, sporty yet not sharp, then VW has the car for you. And if you happen to be downsizing from a Passat, you’re likely to be very pleased with just how nice this car is to drive.
Just don’t let VW hear you pigeonholing the Jetta as a Golf with a boot. Which is exactly what it really is anyway.
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