Dated, but still a great drive...
Dated, but still a great drive
Let's be frank: The 2011 Jetta will be welcome with open arms. We've seen the styling of the current model for quite a while and despite looking nice in isolation, when compared with the Mk VI Volkswagen Golf it looks positively outdated. So, is it an old car trying to be new? Or does it genuinely have some merit?
Sales figures tell us that the Jetta's interest is waning slightly. Last year from January to June, 962 Jettas were sold. This year, in the same time period, 843 were purchased. Interestingly, the more expensive Passat outsold the Jetta, by a comfortable margin, despite being in the same VFACTS category. We decided to spend a week in the 118TSI to see what's what.
Our test car came with the $2500 Sport Package, which adds front fog lights, 17-inch five-spoke alloys, dark tinted rear and side windows and a 15mm lower ride height with stiffer suspension - effectively what the MkV Golf GTI had. It takes a standard Jetta and makes it look a little more mean, a little aggressive, which is what it really needs. Although the styling is inoffensive, it can be a little bland. Plenty of chrome on the front end helps things. The boot also looks like it was always meant to be there, being a natural extension of the C-pillar.
The Passat-style tail-lights round out the rear, with a curious omission of a Golf-derived badge-activated boot release - it's a standard touch-pad on the underside of the boot lid. But what a boot it reveals. It's wide, flat and low. You can easily fit a pram in - even a big one which doesn't collapse completely flat - which you would expect with 527 litres of capacity. Putting it into perspective, that's more than the Toyota Aurion and Holden Commodore, and only eight litres less than a Falcon.
Inside, there's plenty of space up front, the shapely front seats a familiar sight from the Golf. No getting around it, they're excellent. The back seats also offer enough room, and in this particular car, seemed to be a little softer than in previous, more board-like iterations.
The dash is pure Mk V Golf, too, which means if compared with the stylish and classy Mk VI Golf, it's again looking a little tired. However on its own, it's nice to look at, very functional and practical, too. With a huge glovebox, plenty of drink spaces and decent sized door bins, there's plenty of storage space.
The driving controls are all well placed, and ergonomically, there's little to fault with the whole cabin. Driver interaction is a little muted, with not a lot of steering feel, but plenty of weight, and braking isn't too snatchy or wooden either.
The suspension is probably a little too firm for this sort of car - if it's sports you're after, buy a Golf GTI - as it tends to make the ride fairly uncomfortable with its short, sharp vertical pitching. That said, it follows the road faithfully, with little crash, and gives the Jetta heaps of grip.
The new seven-speed DSG shifts more smoothly than the previous generation six-speed, with slightly softer changes. On full throttle this is most noticable, with shifts not being as rapid, however for everyday driving it's a much better compromise. It also doesn't delay as much when engaging from a standstill, meaning less hairy moments pulling into traffic.
The 118TSI uses Volkswagen's 1.4-litre twincharged engine, which combines a supercharger for boosting torque instantly at low revs, with a turbocharger for upping the power at higher revs. The result is a small-capacity engine with big-capacity numbers. 118kW at 5800rpm gives the 118TSI a very spritely feel, especially when it's wound up, however it's the 240Nm coming in at a diesel-like 1500rpm that keeps the show rolling.
It's an extremely tractable engine, pulling from low revs without hesitation, and it builds power parabolically, increasing its pull as the revs rise. The official 0-100km/h time is 8.5 seconds, however it feels a bit quicker when on the move. Fuel consumption is reflective of its small capacity, with ADR testing returning a 6.6 litre/100km use.
On test this week with almost exclusive city and suburban streets, we eeked out 7.5L/100km. Not a bad result for a petrol car, and normal driving. It's also the lowest emitting CO2 car in its class at 153g/km, so if its a petrol car you want, but want to keep your emissions low, then it's an excellent choice.
It wasn't all sweetness and light, though. A few times in traffic, we had cause to back off and then reapply throttle to keep our distance and then accelerate as everyone else around us did. Each time we did this, a high-pitched chirp appeared, almost like a very loud squeak. Most noticable when sitting around 70km/h and in fifth gear, it came from the engine bay. It was also consistent - the same conditions caused it to happen again and again.
We wound down the window and the sound was much louder, so it wasn't just happening in the cabin. It would also happen on sharp acceleration immediately after the DSG shifted up. Having spoken to the Volkswagen service agent when we dropped off the car, we were told that it does happen on this particular motor, and that a revised waterpump was the fix. We're just hoping that a revised waterpump will be standard fitment on later built Jettas.
If it is, then there's little to complain about. Sure, the styling is a little old, and the interior may be starting to age but it's still a pleasant drive. It offers heaps of space - most noticably the boot - and feels solidly screwed together. Throw in excellent economy, decent power and a smart DSG which is closer to an automatic than ever before, and you've got a pretty decent package.
Mind you, if you want to hold out for another half a year at least, the newly styled 2011 Volkswagen Jetta will be here. It's already out in America, and based on the new Golf, its styling is modern and clean-cut. Based on American pricing, it's also cheaper, too. Whether Australia follows suit with costs is anyone's guess. We won't be holding our breath...
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