Volkswagen, which means ‘The people’s car’ in German, is not a newcomer to this country as the venerable Beetle has roamed our roads for decades.
This enduring favourite can still be seen from time to time, conjuring fond memories of yesteryears.
The German marquee is striving to be the world’s number one automaker via bold strategies and measures undertaken to win over automobile owners just as the Beetle had generations ago.
The Jetta, currently in its sixth generation with notably advanced engine and transmission technologies, is one of Volkswagen’s best sellers, having rolled out about 10 million units since its inception more than three decades ago.
Despite a relatively high price tag, it makes a formidable competitor to the current crop of C-segment vehicles available in the market, particularly the Asian contemporaries.
The test drive model featured a 1.4-litre twin-charged four-cylinder engine mated to a seven-speed direct shift gearbox (DSG) transmission with normal (D) and sports (S) modes.
The exterior of the vehicle was well designed with strong fluid and aerodynamic lines; the 16-inch wheels complemented the design well as they looked proportionate and complementary to the overall beauty.
The collapsible integrated key provided comfort and convenience as the doors and the boot were opened remotely via the remote buttons on the key.
The driver’s seat was manually adjustable in six directions, providing precision and comfort for a well-executed driving experience. The seats themselves were firm but accommodating, rendering a sporty feel.
The control buttons and dials on the steering wheel and centre console were well designed and strategically placed to provide visually intuitive and ergonomic interaction.
Two particular features that caught my eye were the multi-function display units at the centre console and behind the leather bound steering wheel.
The centre console display enabled visuals of various functions and parameters (such as radio, CD player and parking distance) while the latter had multiple functions such as digital speedometer, fuel consumption rate and so on.
The boot space was quite generous with a volume of 510 litres, enabling many possibilities in storing and transporting items. Even more accommodation could be made possible by collapsing the rear seats.
The test drive began with the normal D mode of the DSG; the performance was quite pleasing as the Jetta cruised along city roads with minimal effort.
The response was impressive in D mode as the seamless shifting of by the DSG were barely perceivable were it not for the visual cues from tachometer readings.
I had high expectations of the Jetta’s 160PS powertrain as I took it to be a larger version of the 105PS, 1.2-litre engine of the Polo TSI which I had driven in the past.
As previously experienced in the Polo, this vehicle was impressive as the 1.4-litre TSI engine and the twin-charger propelled the vehicle with amazing efficiency and grace.
The engine and twin-charger system delivered ample power and torque at an appropriate portion of the tachometer. The optimum performance band from 1,500 to 4,000 rpm was quite sensible and practical, in my opinion.
I marvelled at Volkswagen’s achievement in coaxing such magnificent performance to out of a small capacity engine which put many larger capacity contemporaries (under two litres) to shame.
In the sports mode (S), the vehicle took on a different personality as the TSI engine and DSG worked together with more aggressive and performance-oriented overtones.
The vehicle could rocket down highways well enough but that was not the entire story as I did not perceive any vibrations or rumblings which would normally be experienced by some cars straining to maintain high speeds.
In fact, I found the stability of the Jetta to be absolutely steady and rock solid. This was part of the thoroughly comprehensive German engineering that was incorporated into the vehicle.
This level of engineering along with the safety features such as six airbags (including curtain and side), electronic stability programme, hill hold control and traction control system, justified the premium price tag.
At face value, the price seemed to be high but this would be offset in the long run by fairly low maintenance costs with scheduled servicing (every 15,000 kilometres or one year) and a worry-free five-year unlimited mileage warranty.
This is where the vehicle would excel: top notch engineering, outstanding performance, comprehensive safety features and good value for discerning vehicle owners, making it a long term keeper.