What is it?
The new Volkswagen Jetta is not an all-new car but a substantial upgrade over the 2014 model.
Officially still the Jetta Mk 6, this facelifted new car, however, does look much more upmarket and Passat-like. Up front, the headlights now merge even more seamlessly with the all-new taller grille and there is a new wider chin that makes the nose of the car looks bigger. The more upmarket looking nose is complemented by the Xenon headlights that get 15 LEDs inserted in a neat L shape. There are substantial differences at the rear too, but they are a bit more difficult to spot. Look closely and you can see that the surface of the rear is now much cleaner, the new boot lid has a spoiler integrated into it and the new tail-lights have a neat-looking wedge to the lower section. Also carried over are the 16-inch alloys that give the Jetta a nice, planted look. Other significant aero changes include refined rain gutters on the roof and a partial encapsulation for the floor.
Unlike the new Skoda Octavia, the new Jetta isn’t built on VW’s new MQB platform but uses the previous Golf's PQ35 as a base. As a result, it is around 60kg heavier on average compared to the Octavia. The engine however remain the same – 140bhp for the diesel and 122bhp for the petrol, with the latter sold as a manual only. There is a claimed improvement, however, in fuel economy. The 2.0 TDI is said to be a full eight percent more efficient and other optimisations carried out include low-tension piston rings, low friction cams, a variable-speed oil pump and individual cooling loops for the cylinder head and crankcase. And both the updated engines now use a belt rather than a chain drive.
The insides have been mildly refreshed as well. There's a new 'twin tube' instrument cluster, the multi-function wheel from the Polo has been used on this car and cruise control is now standard. What does feel really nice is the solid old-world German build quality. The doors close with a reassuring thump and what's even better is that everything you touch and feel seems built to last. What's also particularly nice is the back seat. There's plenty of space here and though the seat is a bit low, it is very supportive both for the thighs as well as the back.
What's it like to drive?
The Jetta has always displayed a really good balance between relaxed comfort and high-speed stability, and that's exactly what shines through on this new car. The electric steering isn't bursting with feel, but it's fairly accurate, giving you a good degree of confidence. And the Jetta doesn't shy away from carrying a bit of speed through corners either. Even bump absorption is good, and you'll love the way this solidly built car muscles its way over bumps.
Buyers will also appreciate slight improvement in refinement of the engines. This is especially true of the diesel that has lost a lot of the gravelly, growly tone it possessed earlier. It now feels a bit smoother and freer revving, especially in the mid-range. It still feels strained when pulled hard though. And power and performance seem only sufficient, nothing more. A bit more power and performance surely would have gone down well.
Should you buy one?
The new VW Jetta slots in high on a list of cars that seem to have a good balance between appeal, practicality and desirablility. The new design of the car makes it more attractive to look at, the updated engines are a bit nicer and the build of the car is something you are likely to appreciate every day. It has a very comfortable rear seat and the huge boot adds to practicality as well. Yes, more power would have been nice and the Jetta is missing a petrol automatic, but if you want a no nonsense car that delivers plenty of comfort and decent amount of luxury, VW's bestseller has plenty of the right stuff.