► VW’s updated four-door saloon
► Big on space, refinement, usability
► Small on flair, charm, personality…
I’m going to declare my feelings about the VW Jetta early on here. It’s a perfectly decent car, in many ways a very good one. But crikey it’s dull.
Volkswagen revised the four-door saloon in 2014 – though it’s questionable whether anyone noticed – with a Passat-esque facelift, slipperier aerodynamics and a slimmed-down engine range, including start-stop and brake energy recuperation tech across the board. It’s now a straightforward pick between petrol-fuelled 1.4 or diesel 1.6, with a brace of power outputs available for each.
We’ve already reviewed the renewed Jetta in depth – you can read our range overview and test of the lower powered 108bhp diesel manual here, but this time we’re taking the more potent 148bhp diesel with the optional dual-clutch DSG auto ’box for a spin. Worth the extra cash?
Is the VW Jetta still a Golf underneath?
Its underpinnings still have their origins in the Mk6 Golf, as the Jetta’s current position in its life cycle means it’s not yet its turn to get VW’s latest clever clogs MQB platform.
That’s not a bad thing by any means – there are worse starting points for a car than the Mk6 Golf, and the Jetta not only drives perfectly well but has also been packaged effectively enough to offer a deceptive amount of space within its anonymous shell.
Despite its mid-sized hatch genes the Jetta’s not actually that small a car, with a boot that’s genuinely quite enormous and reasonable space for two largish rear passengers, three at a push.
Does it get any more interesting on the inside?
The solidly put together but plainer than plain cabin’s starting to feel a generation behind now as well as look it, but it’s comfy, roomy and the ergonomics are spot-on.
Our test car had the optional sat-nav system, an oldish display that’s familiar from a cavalcade of VW Group models old and new but still does the job. In another luxurious touch, it featured front and rear carpet mats, which seem a touch steep at £85.
What’s that engine and gearbox combination like?
Surprisingly swift. If you’re in a hurry the TDI 150 can really get a move on, and when you’re not it’s an adept motorway cruiser. Volkswagen claims 62mpg – the 108bhp version edges nearer to 70, and cruises well enough despite its lower power. So whether the more muscly engine’s worth the extra grand or so in price depends how often you run late, really.
The DSG transmission makes do without paddles on the wheel, just a straightforward selector lever. If you’re as clumsy as I am, it’s easy to select Sport mode by mistake – one click below the ordinary Drive position – and then put it in neutral on the way back. Otherwise it goes about its business efficiently and unobtrusively.
Once you’re underway, everything has a heavily damped feel that’s typically Volkswagen – the steering, the ride, the major controls. It’s entirely agreeable to drive, just as it’s equally forgettable.
It’s not difficult to see the Jetta’s appeal: not too big, not too small, a well-regarded badge, unobtrusive looks and easy-going driving manners. For the sort of buyer for whom cars are primarily a way of getting from one place to another without getting cold or wet, it’s great. But if cars are anything more than that to you, move along, please. There’s nothing to see here.
As for alternatives, the Jetta’s pressured by enemies within. The smaller, newer Golf and the bigger, also newer Skoda Octavia are ultimately both better buys.