Volkswagen Jetta driven
* A match for the best compact executives? * We drive the new Jetta * Costs from £18,500 (est), on sale February...
By any measure, the UKs compact executive car class is a pretty exclusive club, with Audis A4, BMWs 3 series and the Mercedes-Benz C class dominating sales. So, you may well scoff at the idea of Volkswagens new Jetta trying to muscle in on the big boys.
However, this latest incarnation may well have timed its arrival just perfectly. For a start, the new car no longer looks like a Golf with a carbuncle of a boot grafted onto its behind.
It has been styled from the ground up to be a bespoke model, and is now a well-proportioned, elegant saloon that will attract the attention of buyers looking for something a little different from the norm.
It's 90mm longer overall than the car it replaces and has 70mm extra between the front and rear wheels, so theres plenty of room inside for four. The hefty 510-litre boot gives them plenty of space to ram in their luggage. For those who need even more space, 60/40 split folding rear seat backs are fitted as standard.
Inside, theres no disguising the Volkswagen DNA, because the dashboard and door trimmings are almost a carbon copy of those found in the Golf, but thats no bad thing because the vast majority of materials look and feel good and the overall standard of construction is great.
Under the bonnet
From launch, the Jetta will be offered with four engine choices: a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol, producing either 120bhp or 158bhp, and a pair of diesels. A potent 138bhp 2.0-litre will no doubt prove popular, but the best-seller will be the 103bhp 1.6 TDI.
Its easy to see why, because it will return an average of 67mpg and emit just 109g/km of CO2, helped by VW's Bluemotion technology, which includes engine stop-start and brake-energy regeneration systems.
Its also a pretty willing performer, too, offering plenty of pace and strong mid-range overtaking punch.
The front end of the car is predictably grippy, while the suspension, although compliant enough to take the sting out most ruts and bumps is also strong enough to prevent the body from rolling too much. Turn into a corner and the Jetta reacts instantly and predictably, and theres plenty of feedback through the steering wheel to help you place the car exactly where you want it.
Its also reasonably refined, with just a bark of diesel clatter under hard acceleration and a smidgen of engine vibration sneaking into the cabin through the pedals and steering wheel.
What Car? says
The Jetta is a decent and attractive proposition and at £18,500 for a 1.6 TDI it's attractively priced too.