At first glance, you may think this is the VW Vento, but upon closer inspection you will realise that it is the all-new Volkswagen Jetta. For a car that’s making a fresh start, to be likened to its cheaper sibling can’t be a good thing. But there’s an upside too, VW has unified the look of all its latest-generation models. It’s also easy to mistake the Jetta for the bigger and more expensive Passat, which shares the same styling lineage.
The new Jetta really looks far removed from the model it replaces. The bland, rounded shape and soft contours are replaced by crisper (but equally bland) horizontal lines. The nose is the most interesting bit of the car with its wide, horizontal grille, angular lamps and a tray-shaped ‘splitter’. The overall styling is best defined as a clean and uncluttered.
The new car has grown in every dimension; it is now 90mm longer than its predecessor and gets an extra 58mm in the wheelbase, which hints at the best-in-class interior space. Despite all the extra sheet metal, the new Jetta weighs just 25kg more than before.
Step inside the Jetta and it feels like a mini-Passat, more than a grown up Vento with top-notch plastics, and exemplary fit and finish. The chunky steering wheel feels great to hold. The steering-mounted buttons are small but have a wonderfully tactile feel. The air-con vents feel solid too and the overall heft of the dashboard and door pads reveal the durable build of the car.
The new Jetta is better specced too, but the small details that made the previous Jetta special are missing. The driver gets a 12-way power adjustable seat, including lumbar support, and finding the perfect driving position is easy. The front seats are generous but a touch flat and you get synthetic fabric instead of leather seats. The top-of-the-line Highline variant gets eight airbags, while the Trendline and Comfortline variants get six.
The most glaring oversight in the new Jetta is the missing dual-zone climate control. Instead, it gets a simple air-con unit and though it’s still electro-mechanically controlled, there isn’t even a digital temperature readout. To make up, VW has given the Jetta other goodies like iPod connectivity, Park Distance Control with display on the central infotainment system, and daytime running headlights.
Moving to the rear, this VW has the most comfortable backseat we have seen in any Rs 15-20 lakh car. The ‘hip-point’ is nice and high so you sit more relaxed, legroom is class-leading and the seat base is generous and superbly contoured. If there is a fault, it’s with the cushioning which is a touch too hard and the backrest that’s a wee too upright. The rear seats now get an armrest and a 60:40 split. The boot capacity is a good 510-litre.
Under the hood, the 1968cc, 108bhp motor has been replaced by the 138bhp version of the same turbo-diesel engine. For the moment, VW is offering the new Jetta with just this single diesel engine which comes with six-speed manual and automatic options. There is no petrol option yet, but we understand a 1.4 TSI version is expected sometime in 2012.
The diesel motor is not the quietest of motors and though it’s not really intrusive you can’t miss its characteristic gruffness, especially at higher revs. There’s minimal turbo-lag and we just love the strong tug you get from low revs. Performance is more than adequate and there’s always a surplus of power and the swathe of torque, most of it low down in the rev range. But the DSG gearbox can make tight overtaking a tricky affair as well. There’s a huge delay in power delivery when you floor the throttle and then suddenly the car just takes off.
The way to work around this is to drive in manual mode which, apart from being good fun (the paddle-shifters feel terrific), keeps the engine in the right cog for instant overtaking. The six-speed manual is slick and precise like before but it’s mated to an engine that doesn’t like to be revved hard.
On the twisty roads, the new Jetta’s safe and benign handling was immediately evident. The steering, though accurate and well weighted, is rather numb and doesn’t bristle with feel. The gentle responses and the leisurely manner in which the Jetta turns into corners doesn’t make it overtly sporting.
The ride is again fantastic and the Jetta dispatches bumps with ease. The suspension feels a touch more damped than before. However, on bad roads at low speeds, you can distinctly feel the underlying firmness in the suspension. But the ride is never uncomfortable.
VW has priced the base Trendline at Rs 14.12 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), but as you move up to the Highline DSG which costs Rs 3.74 lakh more, the Jetta appears a bit pricey. But, if money isn’t the primary factor and what you want is a comfortable, well-built executive saloon with a bit of class, there’s nothing that fits the bill as well as the new Jetta.