In Europe, at least, the Volkswagen
Jetta has never really enjoyed the success it deserves. It started off its life as very obviously a booted version of the ever-popular Volkswagen Golf and has subsequently lived in the shadow of its hatchback sibling.
On the other side of the Atlantic, however, it is a different story. In the USA there is a preference for saloons, or sedans, rather than hatches. So, while the Volkswagen Rabbit (as the Golf is better known Stateside) is popular, the Jetta has always had a strong following, selling at a rate of 110,000 in recent years. Compared to that, Volkswagen UK are expecting to sell just 3,000 in the coming year.
With recent versions of the Jetta, Volkswagen has been trying hard to strengthen its appeal and establish it in Europe as a model in its own right.
To me the latest Volkswagen Jetta really does succeed in that aim. This feels very much more like a distinct model in Volkswagen’s range. Part of that may be due to this latest Jetta being rather longer than the previous model. Volkswagen have extended it by 90 mm, 73 mm of which have been added to the wheelbase. The good news for rear seat passengers is that 67 mm of this has gone to give them extended legroom in the back.
Interestingly, despite the fact that the Jetta is produced in Mexico, there are significant differences between European and American Jettas under the surface. the European version has a sophisticated multi-link rear suspension, electro-mechanical steering and a more advanced engine line up of TSI and TDI diesels linked to manual or DSG gearboxes.
My test car was the Volkswagen Jetta SE 2.0 TDI 140 PS. While the looks would not send students of car design into eulogies of praise about the styling, to my eye this latest Jetta really does look as though it was designed as a saloon from the outset. It looks the part, while retaining the Volkswagen family design cues. Like the interior the design wins on simple good taste.
It is becoming a habit, but Volkswagens do seem to have a way of producing interiors that tick the boxes for comfort, practicality and ergonomic layout. Good quality materials (while not impinging on Volkswagen Group stablemate Audi’s territory) and sensible layout mean that this is a very pleasurable driving environment.
The Jetta is also a practical four to five-seater and, if the separate boot makes you think it is less of a load carrier than a hatchback, just take a look. This particular cavern will swallow a substantial 510 litres of luggage.
There is the usual Volkswagen attention to detail, except in one area. Who was it who signed off the doors? The clang when they shut is very un-Volkswagen like.
With 140PS the Jetta sprints to 62 mph in a respectable 9.5 seconds. Top speed is 130 mph.
The combined economy is 58.9 mpg – a figure that is all the more creditable when I discovered that my overall trip-computer average for five days of country and city driving was a remarkable 51 mpg. Carbon dioxide emissions are 126 g/km, putting the Volkswagen Jetta SE 2.0 TDI into Band D for UK road tax.
Apart from the name, the Volkswagen Jetta can really deserves to jettison its Golf-saloon image. Welcome out of the shadows!