2007 Volkswagen Jetta | road test

Posted on Jan 15, 2007 by

 

At a time when
dynamics of the car industry are evolving at a frenetic pace – witness the
increasing interest in alternative propulsion systems such as diesel, hydrogen
and electric, not to forget the shift from larger vehicles to small, more
efficient cars – manufacturers in Europe are forging ahead making cars that are
not only appropriately sized but quality is also moving several notches up.

’s new
Jetta is one of these products which strikes a good balance between size,
price, and quality. It’s nicely sized – not too big nor too small – and is
loaded with a measured amount of German luxury and quality, which is fantastic
for a mid-size sedan. In this regard, it definitely counts as a genius.

The Jetta was launched
in the UAE, indeed in the Middle East, in a
lavish event in the third quarter of 2006, to cover the segment between the
Polo/Golf models and the larger Passat. This centres on the Jetta
Comfortline and on paper it does make a damn good case for itself. It makes
quite an impressive package as is with burr walnut wood trim; electric sunroof;
xenon headlights;ABS & ESP; electromechanical power steering; dual zone
climate control; multi-function steering wheel, a cooled glove compartment;
central locking; power windows, cruise control and many other features. It also
has a well-sorted CD stereo system, not to mention a raft of safety features,
and it’s got a surprisingly cavernous boot, sporting 527 litres of boot space,
which puts many bigger cars to shame. In fact, the Wolfsburg firm has done an exceptional job in
space management for the Jetta which came as quite a shock to me, particularly
when one considers that the Jetta is very similar to the Golf in its
dimensions. After all, the Jetta has always been refered to as a ‘Golf with a
boot’. Maybe that was in some ways true of the earlier models but it is being a
bit rude to today’s version as there is a more classier feel to it. That said,
the Jetta does share a number measurements with the clever Golf, including its
2578mm wheelbase. The only major difference in dimensions between the cars is
length – the Jetta is 338mm longer than the Golf, and therein lies the boot’s
cavernous storage space.

Typically teutonic
flair (if you can call it) engulfs the cabin. Ergonomics are absolutely spot on
and good too, with the switchgear sensibly laid out. VW makes some of the best
interiors – along with sister company Audi – and the attention to detail shows
glaringly. I was hard pressed to find any flaw, as hard as I tried. In many
ways, the attention to detail and quality reminded me of a sterile environment
where nothing is left to chance. Its so damn perfect in an imperfect world!
There’s a sense of quality to the Jetta that permeates almost all facets of the
car. Even the dash and centre console with red back lights look fantastic. The
wooden steering wheel adds a bit of class to proceedings, but is sort of
mismatched as it gets quite hot to the touch when the car is left parked out in
the open. This is the only negative for me as far as the interior goes. Not a
big grouse but a valid one.

In and around town
the Jetta is a very easy vehicle to pilot, with its electro-mechanical steering
working wonders in tight situations, but and this is a big but, the engine
seems hard pressed to keep up with its styling, quality and equipment. A genius
I called it earlier on in the report. Let me rephrase,  a flawed genius, thanks to the insipid
engine. Now many will cant and rave about my view but in my humble opinion, the
1.6-litre four cylinder powerplant is the new Jetta’s biggest drawback.

 

 

This engine
develops 102 bhp at 5600rpm and 148 Nm of torque at 3800 rpm and is mated to a
6-speed automatic gearbox which again on paper looks very impressive but in
reality lets the car down. The gearbox intuitively shifts ratios, so on many
occasions the Jetta is sluggish as the engine mapping searches for the right
gear, resulting in the gearbox having to work extra hard in finding the right
ratio. A six-speed in a car with a small engine does make me wonder if
technology for the sake of it is really relevant to a particular product. And
the engine does not even adopt the new-fangled FSI technology which would have
not made me feel the way I felt when driving the Jetta.

It would really be
to VW’s advantage to get the bigger 2.0-litre engine for the Jetta as available
here to provide more go to the show, as the Jetta is truly a refined and
elegant car. It drives well and quietly with its advanced new suspension
providing a settled ride. Apart from the car’s solid feel and quality trim, I
was mightily impressed by its comfort and well-controlled ride. Gentle
understeer through a fast corner is hardly a vice. And thanks to its
torsionally stiff body I even found the suspension’s tendency to float mildly
over some undulating surfaces acceptable because of the overall feeling of
security.

It’s an elegantly
understated, if aesthetically unexciting, booted saloon which drives well,
delivers impressive safety equipment, a high specification and will appeal to
those looking for a roomy and comfortable half-way house between a Golf and a
Passat. In many ways the Jetta is a better car, by far, than both.

The tyres do
generate a bit of road noise, but what’s road noise when you’ve got the impressive
10-speaker stereo blasting out the Doors’ ‘Roadhouse Blues’ when cruising? Not
much, that I can tell you. The speed-sensitive electro hydraulic steering works
well enough when cornering on the open road, and the relatively light 1466kg
car is pretty responsive to steering input, although it doesn’t quite provide
the levels of feedback than a more traditional rack and pinion set up. The
chassis is well suited to fast driving (when the engine is pushed hard),
allowing the car to change direction quickly without dragging its feet. I even
felt a bit cheeky driving the wheels off this thing when it looks for all the
world like an innocuous German small sedan that shouldn’t be hacking round
corners at such speeds.

Overall, the Jetta
is a good daily commuter, has good looks and the quality and fit and finish is
flawless, almost! The boot can really swallow a lot of luggage for that weekend
getaway. I like the Jetta – it did make some compelling impressions.It
definitely has the soul of a small luxury sedan with the safety levels of an
armoured vehicle, well almost. What it desperately needs now is the heart of a
Golf to complete what could be, in my opinion, a truly coplete car.

 

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