2011 VW Jetta | road test
German engineering! German build quality! German interiors! Anything with a “German” prefix is usually associated with performance, quality or desirability. But does the People’s car encompass all this “German-ness” in its DNA.
We drove VW’s latest offering, the all-new 2011 Jetta to find out how German this car really is. Our test car came in shade VW calls Candy white, not our favourite colour for this car and was the mid level trim, called Comfortline, also not our favourite.
This born-of-a-Golf sedan is in its 6th generation and has certainly come a long way since its early days in 1979. It started out with the boxed out shape popular in the 80’s and has moved on to the bulbous proportion of the previous generation and finally found design peace with the sleek and chiselled lines of the current Jetta.
The silhouette and some detailing have been borrowed from the sister company Audi which make the Jetta look like a bargain Audi A4. Don’t be surprised, if the plastic casting moulds for the rear lamps on both the cars match. This is certainly good for owners one of the two and I’m guessing it is not for the Audi.
The “Navarra” alloy wheels are a 16” 5 spoke design and lend the car some visual athleticism. Those who wish for the Jetta to look its aesthetic best inside and out, can opt for the Comfortline Plus with the 10 spoke 17-inch “Porto” alloy wheels and nice ribbed leather interiors. Perhaps white is the colour of choice for most GCC residents but it does not accentuate the shape defining lines of this car. We think Toffee brown, Tempest blue and Plantium would fair better. Overall as with exterior styling, VW have played their cards right. The tester notes recall that the shark-fin antenna was liked but the front spoiler is far reaching and might meet with a few curbs in the many years of ownership.
VW was renowned for introducing improved interior quality in low budget cars and it continues with the Jetta. It keeps with German tradition from the look of it but differs in feel. Unlike the last generation Jetta, the dashboard plastics are hard but look like they are built to last. Simplicity of the centre console is appreciated. The leather seats on the Comfortline Plus models are ribbed and look expensive, but the seat fabric on the test car was slightly gruff, but durability was sensed.
In recent times VW has used steering wheel designs that have been a hit with buyers, readers and journalists alike. The aluminium accents and the steering mounted controls keep things busy while the leather that wraps the wheel and the shift lever feels genuine and posh. One interesting detail was the temperature display that encompasses the knob that operates it.
ENGINE & PERFORMANCE
The engine is a run of the mill 2.0-ltr 4 cylinder that produces a Jurassic 115 bhp. By comparison the 1.8-ltr engines from Japanese carmakers, make 25% more power. There is some consolation though in the 6 speed gearbox that provides greater mechanical advantage i.e. shorter first few gears and longer final gear. For GCC expect no more engine options. Hopefully, the 2.5-litre 5 cylinder engine available as an option in other markets should make it here soon.
Our tests revealed the lack lustre performance of the Jetta. It failed to match the claimed 0 to 100 km/h time of 12.6 seconds. The car recorded a snail paced 14.3 seconds to a 100. With 3 people in the car it did it in 16.4 seconds. Acceleration and throttle response is acceptable up to 80 km/h, which is achieved in a rather brisk 6.1 seconds. This means traffic and traffic-signal bound city driving are within favour but when you take on the highways, it’s a whole new ball game.
RIDE & HANDLING
The Jetta fairs well in the ride comfort department. The occupants seldom felt unsettled in the city or the highway, even on the cobble stone reminiscent paths of JBR, Dubai it maintained its composure. On the other hand consider handling and opinions shift. There is noticeable amount of under-steer that you must over come, especially around those many sweeping curves on the cloverleaf when pushed a little hard. Torque steer is not evident; there is not enough power to put down to begin with. A perfect example of vice playing virtue.
COMFORT, FEATURES & PRACTICALITY
The car has observed an overall increase in length and now is 4.64mtr long. With that added length comes augmented legroom for the rear seats, increasing by 6.7 cm now 96.7cms. As for the front seats, in 3 days of driving, I don’t remember getting the drivers seat to suit my posture perfectly. This could be a personal thing though. The cabin is generally quite but at 120kmph which is the standard cruising speeding for the highways in the most of the Middle East the engine noise is loud and annoying and at no point do you get used to it.
The audio is courtesy the RCD 310 sound system with CD player and eight speakers with mp3 capability. Versatility of a multi-cd deck can be found on the RCD 510 system with a touch screen colour display, and a mobile device interface MEDIA-IN with ipod/iphone adapter cable on the Comfortline Plus.
“Climatronic” with dual zone climate control for you’re A/C is available. Although VW’s are slightly notorious for having poor air conditioning systems, this one worked fine. Still, not at par with the Toyotas and Nissans. There is even a cooled glove compartment for your drinks. The trunk is deep and has a capacity of 439 litres.
There are a few other quirks worth mentioning. The start/stop button on the top spec model should have been placed more appropriately. It currently sits next to the shift lever. The knob for controlling the electric mirrors is posted on the door, unlike most cars where it is located on the lower dash, which makes mirror adjustments tricky, the first few times. A few buttons and turn knobs on the console and everywhere else have a expensive feel and are soft touch, but are rather too small or too slim.
The entry level Trendline gets six airbags, safety-optimized front headrests, daytime running lights, 3-point belts with height adjustment and seat-belt tensioners, automatic hazard lights on hard braking, ABS with braking assistant. Both Comfortline and Comfortline Plus get Parking Distance Control with acoustic warning signals at the front and rear of the vehicle, and an anti-theft alarm system. In the event of an accident VW’s Intelligent Crash Response System (ICRS) intervenes, turns on the hazard lights, unlocks the doors and cuts off fuel the fuel supply to the fuel pump. Finally some sensible technology.
The low output 2.0-litre engine, the 6 speed auto-box and the light weighted-ness all means that the car was designed to go the extra mile, literally.
In our test term, the German car returned a fuel economy of 7.9l/100kms on a mixed cycle. The Toyota Corolla and Chevrolet Cruze trump the Jetta in this category.
PRICING & WARRANTY
The Trendline, Comfortline and Comfortline plus, cost Dhs, 69,400, Dhs 79,500 and Dhs. 89,500 respectively. The base model price seems compelling until the retail price on some of its competition, say the larger more powerful Sonata is brought to notice. Currently Al Naboodah Automobiles offers a 5 year / Unlimited km warranty and 3 year 45,000 kms free service i.e. 3 free services on avail, one every 15,000 kms.
The 2012 VW Jetta is like a sci-fi movie, not quite Steven Spielberg but more Night Shyamalan, one with an interesting plot, killed by vague dialogue and some directorial randomness. What this means for the Jetta is that it really is a mixed bag that leaves you little “blaaa”, wondering where does it stand in the market. The proportions are elegant, but a little anonymous, the engine displacement seems apt but the power is never there, the ride quality is a high but the handling is average, interior space is good but the material have been down graded. As you can see, the Jetta has some good things going on for itself but the competition can be better looking, offer more space, more power and be cheaper as well. If VW does not bring the US market 2.5-litre 5 cylinder engine to the Middle East and improve a few bits it’s not going to be as popular as it was sought out to be.
Engines: 2.0-litre four cylinder
Max power (bhp @ rpm): 115 @ 6,500
Max torque (Nm @ rpm): 170 @ 4,500
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Driven wheels: Front wheel drive
0 to 60 km/h: 6.1 seconds
0 to 100 km/h: 14.3 seconds (tested)
0 to 100 km/h: 12.6 seconds (claimed)
Trendline: Dhs 69,400
Comfortline: Dhs 79,500
Comfortline Plus: Dhs. 89,500