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First drive: Volkswagen's Jetta propulsion

Jet fuel: The Jetta 2.0 TDI is the first small turbo-diesel sedan on Australian roads.

VW hopes its Jetta Japanese sedan jouster will land it in Accord Euro sales territory

10 Feb 2006

VOLKSWAGEN is pitching its new Jetta straight into the mid-sized Japanese family car heartland.

Priced from $32,990, the front-wheel drive, Golf-derived four-door sedan is VW’s replacement for the unloved Bora, as well as its assault on the Mazda6, Subaru Liberty 2.0R and Honda Accord Euro.

This is despite a 100mm-odd shortfall in the Jetta’s wheelbase and length compared to the competition – a corollary of its Golf V underpinnings.

Nevertheless high equipment levels and a choice of three four-cylinder Euro IV emissions compliant Golf V engines and six-speed gearboxes, as well as two fuel types, means that VW is counting on a wide choice to woo buyers.

The base 2.0-litre FSI model is powered by the VW Group’s 1984cc twin-cam 16-valve engine producing 110kW of power at 6000rpm and 200Nm of torque at 3500rpm on the recommended 98 RON premium unleaded petrol.

Mated to a six-speed manual or six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, the 2.0 FSI models achieve a combined fuel consumption figure of 8.2 litres per 100 kilometres and 8.6L/100km respectively.

Next up comes the 2.0 TDI, with its 1968cc turbo-diesel unit offering 103kW at 4000rpm and 320Nm from 1750-2500rpm.

Paired in six-speed manual or VW/Audi’s acclaimed six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic, the fuel economy numbers are 5.8L/100km and 6.2L/100km for the combined run.

Compared to the 2.0 FSI, the 2.0 TDI’s zero to 100km/h sprint time of 9.7 seconds beats the auto by 0.2 seconds and is just 0.5 seconds shy of the petrol manual.

But the fastest Jetta to 100km/h is the 2.0 Turbo FSI, which manages it in 7.2 seconds, on the way to 233km/h.

It’s done using the 147kW at 5100-6000rpm and 280Nm from 1800-5000rpm four-cylinder turbocharged powerplant from the popular Golf GTI and Audi A3 TFSI, married to the DSG-only gearbox.

Surprisingly the 2.0 Turbo FSI’s fuel consumption average of 8.0L/100km is only bettered by the diesel.

And, at $39,990, it undercuts the equivalently engined GTI and A3 automatics by $2300 and $10,060.

Other engines – likely to be a 77kW/250Nm 1.9 TDI turbo-diesel as well as a 110kW/228Nm 2.5-litre V5 – will probably arrive by year’s end.

The latter may replace the 2.0 FSI, which is being phased out in Europe for an unseemingly similarly powerful 1.4-litre turbocharged/supercharged ‘Twincharge’ unit that dodges increasingly stringent carbon emissions tax.

The Jetta is bigger than the Bora, gaining a 178mm stretch in the body, 13mm and 46mm more height and width respectively, and 65mm in the wheelbase, all for a roomier cabin.

Now there’s 65mm more for legs, a 35mm increase in width and 24mm extra for heads.

Invariably weight is also up, from 1260kg to 1380kg for the 2.0-litre automatic equivalents.

Although everything aft of the B pillar is new to the Jetta, the Golf also donates its dashboard wholesale, along with its independent McPherson strut front and independent four-link coil-sprung rear suspension.

There’s also the electro-mechanical rack-and-pinion power steering system carried over, which saves around two litres per 1000 kilometres in fuel over a regular hydraulic set-up.

The Jetta may be smaller than its rivals but its 572-litre boot capacity beats the Camry (567L) and annihilates its rivals’ efforts as well as the Falcon (504L), Commodore (465L) and Mitsubishi 380 (437L). It also opens automatically.

Production comes from Pueblo in Mexico – the same source for VW’s New Beetle.

Each Jetta includes front, side and curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Brake Assist, ESP stability control, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, parking radar, cruise control, low tyre-pressure indicator, rain-sensing wipers, ‘come-home’ auto headlights, a multi-function steering wheel, 16-inch alloy wheels and an auto-dimming mirror.

3 center imageThe Turbo FSI adds sports suspension, ‘sports’ front seats, aluminium trim inserts, a six-stack CD player, 17-inch alloys and fog lights.

With just 354 Boras sold last year (something VW Australia managing director Jutta Dierks describes as “embarrassing”), the company is coy about Jetta sales projections for this year.

But VW says it would be happy with somewhere between what the 1320 and 9311 units the Polo and Golf managed last year – about 5000 units would probably do it.

The company says it already has 300-plus firm pre-orders for Jetta since its Sydney motor show appearance last October.

Big things are expected from the Jetta 2.0 TDI in particular, as it is the sole sub-$40,000 diesel sedan in times of uncertain fuel price movement until the manual-only Mazda6 Diesel arrives after mid-year.

Jetta is new to Australia, but it was what the original and second-generation Golf sedans were badged as in all markets since its 1979 inception, until VW switched to Vento for Europe after the Mk3 Golf’s release in 1992, changing it again in 1998 to Bora.

Yet the Germans retained the Jetta name in North America all along, where it has long been VW’s bestseller, easily eclipsing the Golf that sired it.

But both Vento (from 1995-1997) and Bora (1999-2005) failed to find an audience in Australia.

"Changing the name from Jetta to Vento to Bora really hurt the model. But (in the United States and Canada) we kept the name and it worked," says Mrs Dierks, adding:"It is hugely successful and that is what we want to do here. I am happy we are back to Jetta to be honest."VW will pitch the Jetta as a sporty sedan, with the tag line "Less expensive than what it looks", rather than a car that is an extension of the Golf.

The VW Australia boss believes that there is enough visual and specification difference between the two models for the Jetta not to fall into the same sales trough its Bora and Vento predecessors did.

"We had to realise that people don’t actually want a Golf with a boot. They either want a sporty sedan or they want a Golf, but not something in-between – and it took us a long time to learn this," Mrs Dierks admits.

2006 VW Jetta prices:
2.0 FSI: $32,990
2.0 FSI: $35,290 (a)
2.0 TDI: $35,490
2.0 TDI: $37,790 (a)
2.0 Turbo FSI: $39,990 (a)

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