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VW Jetta driven

  • Saloon-booted Golf alternative
  • Costs from Β£17,000 - Β£21,000
  • On sale May 2011
Words By What Car? Staff

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We might have a special relationship with America, but we dont agree on everything. Take our respective tastes in Volkswagens, for example. The Golf is the UKs favourite VW with its sharp looks and hatchback practicality, while the US markets insatiable appetite for saloon cars means the Jetta is the best seller across the Atlantic.

Euro-style makeover

Its no surprise, then, that the latest Jetta has been designed specifically for American tastes. Dont panic, though before the car arrives on our shores next year, itll undergo a raft of changes to make it more palatable to European tastes.

Those orange indicator lenses will be the first things to go, the European models coming with clear lenses instead. Other than that, the European versions will look identical from the outside. The hard plastics we found inside the US cars will be replaced with softer, more tactile materials, too, so expect Golf-like levels of sophistication and quality.

There is also generous space for four adults, plus a 510-litre boot thats well-shaped and comes with a split-folding rear seat.

Comfort and control

There'll be mechanical differences, too, and its just as well. Most of the US cars have hydraulic steering, which is a little too light at high speed, and a torsion beam rear suspension, which gives a slightly knobbly ride. European cars, on the other hand, will have the same electro-mechanical steering and multilink rear suspension as the Golf, which VW says will make it more civilised. Having driven a European-spec prototype, we can confirm that. The suspension gives you a great balance between comfort and control, while the steering is well-weighted and consistent.

Engines

Expect some cracking engines, too. Rather than the large-capacity petrol engines that American customers will snap up, well have the choice of more familiar VW offerings. Petrol options include the 104bhp 1.2 TSI, a pair of 1.4s with either 120bhp or 158bhp, and a 2.0-litre with 197bhp. Diesel buyers can choose between the 104bhp 1.6 and the 138bhp 2.0. Weve tried both 2.0-litre engines, and both feel as strong and as smooth as weve come to expect.

UK prices and equipment levels are a long way off being finalised, but expect the new Jetta to cost about the same as the outgoing model. That means it wont be cheap, but it wont be top-dollar, either.

What Car? Says

Most of the Golfs strengths in a sleek and sexy saloon package

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