It’s easy to understand why Volkswagen suddenly found form with the new Jetta. Unlike the earlier model that didn’t cause too much of a flutter among the car-buying public, this one starts off on the right foot. It looks right, like a proper saloon should, and that’s half the battle won. While the earlier car looked like an old Golf with a boot tagged onto it, the new Jetta has both the right size and profile.
It’s attractive to look at, with its chiseled features, low-slung cabin and crisp detailing — attractive enough to give it a once-over every time you park it. Which is what I’ve been doing over the past week or so that I’ve been driving our new long-termer.
The flip side, of course, is that there’s too much ‘Formula Volkswagen’ at work with the new Jetta. It’s easy to confuse the nose of this car with VW’s considerably cheaper Vento and, truth be told, that’s quite galling, especially when you’ve forked out close to twice the price of that car for this one.
Our Jetta, however, is getting more than its fair share of attention at Autocar India, and is in strong demand. Most of us agree that VW has got this car’s size spot-on — it’s just right for city traffic, just right to be comfortable on the highway, and it’s got just the right amount of space on the inside too. You can also be really comfortable four up, and the Jetta can squeeze into most parking slots with ease.
Then there’s the fact that it drives and feels like a mini Passat. You’re sure to arrive at the other end of town refreshed and relaxed. The steering, accelerator and brake pedal are superbly weighted, and the Jetta can be quick if you are willing to use maximum power and S or Sport mode on the gearbox. The two-litre diesel may develop only 140bhp in this state of tune, and it may not shoot off the blocks with quite as much gusto as a Passat, but it has sufficient torque in the midrange to make overtaking a breeze. It’s pretty quick when traffic is light, too.
The Jetta’s also brilliant in denser traffic. Idle is vibration-free and smooth, the cabin is well insulated and general noise levels are very impressive. It may not be as hushed as a Passat but it doesn’t have the Passat’s spiky power delivery either and so is much easier to drive in traffic. However, the ride can get stiff over poorly surfaced roads and at low speeds, which means you can’t ‘steamroll’ bad roads as comfortably as does its bigger sibling. But it is not harsh or uncomfortable either.
The biggest surprise for me though has been that it is possible to extract some amount of driving pleasure from this car. My commute to work takes me over two long flyovers, and loosening the reins on the Jetta here can be fun. This VW saloon has a nice balance to it, the paddle shifts behind the steering wheel mean a downshift is just a click away and the nicely weighted steering often puts a smile on my face.
The problem with the Jetta isthat you feel a bit shortchanged. While quality on the inside is first-rate and build quality is leagues better than the Vento’s, VW has deleted some essential bits. Features like climate control, leather seats (this car has only imitation Leatherette seats) and even Bluetooth are missing. So, while this car is well built and well put together, it doesn’t really pamper you. And that feels a bit miserly, especially at a price tag of around Rs 20 lakh.
Still, fans and followers of this superbly engineered performer continue to grow at Autocar India. Stay tuned to see how we get along once we’re even more familiar with the Jetta.