Initially, the Jetta will come with four engines, two 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol units (producing 120 or 158bhp) and a pair of diesel engines. The petrol engines are smooth and strong, so you don’t need to rev them hard to make brisk progress. The potent 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine will no doubt prove popular, but the best-seller will be the more frugal 103bhp 1.6 TDi. It's extremely fuel-efficient and a willing performer, providing plenty of pace and strong mid-range overtaking punch.
The front end of the car is predictably grippy, while the suspension is compliant enough to take the sting out of most ruts and bumps, yet strong enough to prevent the body from rolling too much. Turn into a corner and the nose of the car reacts predictably with plenty of feedback through the steering wheel, helping you to place the car exactly where you want it.
The Jetta is a solidly engineered car featuring the type of smooth, well-weighted controls that we’ve come to expect of Volkswagen products. The diesel engines produce a slight bark of mechanical clatter under hard acceleration, but it’s nothing that’ll spoil the calm. The petrol cars are smoother and quieter still, with just a hint of road- and wind noise at motorway speeds.
The Jetta is outstanding value for money compared to the likes of a BMW 3 Series, but the VW won’t hold onto its value nearly as well as the Beemer. Reasonable discounts are already available, however, which make the Jetta well worthy of consideration as your next company car. Running costs are good, too, especially if you go for the 1.6 TDI Bluemotion model, which is capable of 67mpg.
Inside, the dashboard and door trimmings bear more than a passing resemblance to those found in the VW Golf, even if some of the surfaces don’t feel anywhere near as lustrous. All the switches work smoothly with positive precision, while the build is generally solid. Most engines are well proven.
The Jetta has every piece of safety equipment that you’d expect of a 21st century family car. You get stability control to help you prevent having an accident in the first place, and if you can't avoid it, you have front, side and curtain airbags to keep you safe. Side airbags can also be fitted in the back for a nominal fee. All this helped the car achieve a five-star crash rating from Euro NCAP. On the security front, you get deadlocks, a visible VIN and plenty of marked parts.
Drivers of all shapes and sizes will have no problem getting comfortable thanks to simple adjusters and a wide range of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel. Visibility is good all round, too. Compared to more contemporary offerings, the dash favours a rather bland, traditional layout, but it’s clearly laid out and easy to use.
This latest Jetta is 90mm longer overall than the car it replaced and has 70mm extra between the front and rear axles, allowing plenty of room inside for four burly blokes. With a hefty 510-litre boot, there's enough space to ram in a quartet of golf bags and, if you need even more space, 60/40 split folding rear seat backs are fitted as standard.
S trim is well equipped, with air-con, four electric windows, remote central locking and the full safety kit. However, if you want to get standard alloy wheels, you'll need to step up to SE trim, which also brings a smarter interior, an iPod-connector, cruise control and split-folding rear seats. Top-spec Sport models have lowered suspension, sports seats and automatic headlights.
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The Jetta is a very likeable and very capable compact saloon, and this version is an affordable option for high-mileage drivers.