The Volkswagen Jetta has stormed back to the pointy end of Australia’s medium car class thanks to new design, new standard features, improved fuel economy and sharper pricing.
The 2011 Volkswagen Jetta is an all-new car, and the Passat-inspired styling will go a long way to shaking its ‘Golf with a boot’ reputation. The two no longer share exterior body panels or underpinnings, with the Jetta riding on a unique platform.
Volkswagen Australia has simplified the Jetta range, which means there are fewer models to choose from.
The 103TDI Comfortline is now the only diesel model, with the 77TDI and 125TDI Highline models from the old range no longer available. At $34,990, the 103TDI is $1000 cheaper than before. The bad news is, it’s $6000 more expensive than the entry price for a diesel in the old range, which puts the diesel option out of reach of those with sub-$30,000 budgets.
The good news for those shoppers is the base petrol model – the 118TSI – now starts at $26,490. That’s $2500 cheaper than the old starting price for the Jetta range and a substantial $4500 below the price of the previous 118TSI. Also available is the 118TSI Comfortline, which is equipped to the level of the 103TDI Comfortline. Volkswagen Australia expects the 118TSI Comfortline to be the volume seller in the new range.
The 147TSI Highline retains its position at the top of the Volkswagen Jetta tree. A $1000 price reduction means the Jetta range tops out at $37,990, coming in just beneath its big brother, the Passat, which starts at $38,990.
Although the sixth-generation Volkswagen Jetta is an all-new car, the drivetrains have been carried over with the key specifications unchanged. All models except the top-spec 147TSI Highline enjoy minor improvements to fuel consumption and acceleration.
The 118TSI is powered by a 1.4-litre twincharged (turbocharged and supercharged) petrol engine with 118kW of power and 240Nm of torque. Combined cycle fuel consumption has dropped to 6.5 litres/100km for the six-speed manual model and 6.2 litres/100km for the seven-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic (down from 6.8 and 6.6 litres/100km respectively). The sprint from 0-100km/h is now dispatched two-tenths faster in 8.3 seconds.
The 118TSI is a tremendous engine for a $26,490 base model. The same engine is available in the Volkswagen Golf from $29,490, making the entry-level Jetta great value from a mechanical perspective.
The 1.4-litre has been around for a while now, but rather than showing its age, it simply exudes more refinement (although it must be said the engine has been linked to some poor reliability issues in the past). Teamed with either the manual or DSG, the 118TSI a hard unit to complain about. There’s enough power when you ask for it, and minimal lag when you stomp down on the accelerator.
There’s a tremendously progressive sensation as you accelerate that makes you feel in control. With either transmission and regardless of your speed, you can always sit the engine below 2000rpm, which makes for a quiet cabin experience and improved fuel efficiency.
My early impression is that the $32,490 118TSI Comfortline is the pick of the bunch, although if you’re on a budget and are happy driving a manual, the $26,490 118TSI manual represents pleasing refinement and top value.
The 103TDI Comfortline retains the 103kW/320Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine, and as before is only available with the six-speed DSG. Like the 118TSI, the 103TDI is two-tenths quicker than before (0-100km/h in 9.5 seconds). Even better is the improved fuel consumption, which is down from 6.0 litres/100km to just 5.5 litres/100km on the combined cycle.
The 103TDI doesn’t feel particularly zippy, but with more torque than any other Jetta, the extra pull from low down is certainly noticeable and appreciated around town. There’s no hint of diesel clatter once you pick up speed, and only a slight gruffness when you’re crawling.
Surprisingly, the 147TSI Highline is now slower and uses marginally more fuel than before, despite weighing 33kg less than the previous model. The 147TSI produces 147kW of power and 280Nm of torque (if those figures sound familiar, it may be because it’s the engine from the Mk5 Golf GTI). Accelerating from 0-100km/h now takes 7.5 seconds (three-tenth slower), while its uses fuel at a combined rate of 7.9 litres/100km (old model used 7.8 litres/100km). That said, Volkswagen claims the new model achieves identical figures in city and highway conditions, and produces marginally less CO
than the previous model (183g/km vs 185g/km).
The 147TSI is the model to go for if you’re after a bit more fun. It’s $5000 cheaper than the current Golf GTI with the DSG but has just 8kW less power. There’s plenty of turbo lag when you jump on the accelerator, but the reaction borders on brutal, especially when you consider the Jetta is a rather sedate-looking medium family sedan. It sounds positively sporty too, with a more perceptable note in general traffic and a high-pitched scream as the engine dances above 5000rpm and pins you to the back of your seat.
All Volkswagen Jetta models equipped with a DSG transmission allow you to change gears manually using the gearstick. The gearboxes often sit in the higher gears to achieve optimal efficiency, so kicking back manually is great for overtaking and for those times when you’re channelling your inner racer.
Like most Volkswagen products, there’s a stronger emphasis on a sporty ride than cushiony comfort, with the feel likely to appeal more to engaged drivers rather than A-to-B cruisers. That said, the Jetta is far from uncomfortable, and only gets a bit jittery around corners on rougher surfaces.
The electro-mechanical power steering makes low-speed manoeuvres like parking a breeze. Rear visibility is also reasonable, despite the largish C-pillars. At higher speeds, there’s more weight to the wheel. There’s an encouraging amount of resistance through corners, although the feeling at dead centre is a little lifeless.
The brakes are quite sensitive and have a touchy feel when prodded. As you push down through the pedal range, however, the brake response evens out for a progressive, confidence-inspiring sensation.
At 4744mm long, 1778mm wide, 1473mm tall and with a 2633mm wheelbase, the new Jetta is 190mm longer, 3mm skinnier, 14mm taller and has a 55mm larger wheelbase than the model it replaces. The Volkswagen Jetta has grown up considerably, and is now just 25mm shorter than the traditionally larger Passat sedan.
The boot volume is down 17 litres from the previous model, although at 510 litres, the Jetta’s cargo capacity is still larger than that of a Commodore or Falcon. As before, a 16-inch steel wheel is standard in all Jettas – making it full-size in all but the 147TSI Highline, which rides on 17s. All models feature 60:40 split-fold rear seats for addition storage space, while the Comfortline and Highline models have the added convenience of a load-through portal in the middle rear armrest.
The entry-level 118TSI comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, daytime driving lights (not LEDs), cruise control, manual air conditioning, leather steering wheel and chrome/aluminium interior finishes.
The basic audio system includes the usual CD player and auxiliary input, and Volkswagen has finally come to the party with standard USB connectivity and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming. The Bluetooth system is not the most intuitive to set up the first time, but once connected it works well and should make your life easier.
You can pick the Comfortline models (118TSI and 103TDI) from the outside by the 16-inch alloy wheels, chrome grille highlights, and front and rear parking sensors. Other highlights of the mid-spec models include automatic headlights, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, dual-zone climate control, nicer cloth seats and lumbar adjustment for both front occupants.
The range-topping Highline scores 17-inch alloys, front fog lights with cornering function, sports suspension (lowered by approximately 15mm), leather upholstery, heated front sports seats, and a 6.5-inch touchscreen audio system with a six-CD changer and an SD card slot.
Safety reaches the usual standards with six airbags, ESC (Volkswagen calls it Electronic Stabilisation Program), ABS, EBD, ASR (traction control) and electronic differential lock. The new Jetta also gets the Crash Impact Sound Sensor (CISS) system from the Golf, which detects the sound of a crash and improves the responsiveness of the vehicle’s other passive safety features.
The cabin has a premium look and feel to it. Some may find it lacks a bit of character, but most will appreciate the clean design and functionality. The dash is covered in soft-touch plastic and the buttons and dial all have a high quality feel.
Whether trimmed in cloth or leather, the front seats are supportive remain comfortable on 100km+ journeys. Like most cars in this class, the rear bench seats two adults in comfort, while the middle position is best for smaller kids or short trips. Rear legroom is adequate, although anyone above six-foot tall will be either hunched or slumped in the back.
With its sharp new price and larger dimensions, the Volkswagen Jetta is now better equipped to take on the most popular vehicles in the medium class, including the Toyota Camry, Ford Mondeo, Mazda6 and the Honda Accord Euro. If the Jetta sounds like a winner to you, the Skoda Octavia is also worth taking a look at, as it is available with the same powertrain options (and more) and an impressive standard features list. Overall, the Volkswagen Jetta is an impressive medium sedan that is great to drive, efficient, comfortable, well packaged and neatly presented. You won’t be disappointed if you park one in your driveway.
Volkswagen Jetta manufacturer’s list prices (excluding government and dealer charges):
- 118TSI six-speed manual – $26,490
- 118TSI seven-speed DSG – $28,990
- 118TSI Comfortline seven-speed DSG – $32,490
- 103TDI Comfortline six-speed DSG – $34,990
- 147TSI Highline six-speed DSG – $37,990
- Metallic/pearl effect paint – $500
- Satellite navigation – $2500 Highline/$3000 Comfortline
- Sport Package – $700 Highline/$2000 Comfortline
- Electric glass sunroof – $1900 (Comfortline and Highline only)
- Leather upholstery – $3000 (Comfortline only, standard on Highline)