Volkswagen Jetta 1,6 Comfortline (2006) Driving Impression

Volkswagen Jetta 2006

My, how you’ve grown! It’s the size of the new Volkswagen Jetta that strikes you first. Parked next to a first-generation Jetta, which later was marketed here as the Fox, the latest version of Volkswagen’s popular family sedan is starting to edge closer and closer to the D-segment, where you’ll find such offerings as the Honda Accord and Mazda6. In a way that also explains the controversial price positioning of the new Volkswagen Jetta – it occupies a gap between its original rivals (Focus, Astra, Corolla etc) and those of a higher class. Volkswagen, of course, explains the high price by saying it is not only about size, but also premium build quality. Do they have a point or is the new Volkswagen Jetta simply priced beyond its station?

Size, presence and class for Volkswagen Jetta

In truth, much of the Jetta’s visual “girth” is the result of its design, not necessarily its physical dimensions. At 4 554 mm in length, it is not significantly longer than most of its rivals, but because the boot section “looks” so long and the wheelbase is relatively short (2 578 mm), the car appears bigger overall. Overall, the Volkswagen Jetta looks rather upmarket, offering conservatism, but also a measure of elegance. The use of chrome to give the Jetta a distinctive persona has been particularly effective, especially around the grille area. At the rear it gains the circular detailing in the tail lamps that have become the norm with most new-generation Volkswagens. Of course, the Golf roots are obvious, but Jetta does indeed possess some design character of its own.

Ignore the massive boot – capable of swallowing 527 L-worth of luggage – and the cabin is pretty much standard Golf fare, which is certainly not a criticism given the popular hatchback’s enviable perceived quality and high comfort levels. The facia design is actually not dissimilar to the Touran MPV’s, and this means that the controls are placed nice and high, within easy reach. All the surfaces that are touched often boast a premium, “silky” feel that boosts the ambience into the near-premium class. In that regard Volkwagen’s promise of a higher quality B-segment sedan has certainly been fulfilled, because the Volkswagen Jetta does a good job of feeling like a junior Audi inside.

Comfort levels are exceptionally high, even though the standard specification is not particularly generous (more of that later). Volkswagen products always offer excellent seating and the Jetta’s are no different, offering superb long-distance comfort and impressive support. The steering wheel is adjustable for rake and rearch, further boosting comfort levels. Those seated in the back will also have very little to complain about, even though leg room is ultimately no better than most of its B-segment rivals – a surprise to some given the vehicle’s visual size.

Down on power?

Weighing in at just under 1,3 tonnes, the Volkswagen Jetta seemingly isn’t too obese, but nevertheless there were concerns that the marque’s 75 kW 1,6-litre petrol engine would struggle moving the big body around, especially at altitude. The torque figure, too, seems unimpressive, with 148 Nm only being on tap at a relatively high 3 800 rpm.

It’s fair to say that sprinting ability is unlikely to be a high priority for most target consumers, but for what it’s worth, the 0-100 km/h time of 12,2 seconds is significantly slower than most price competitors. Far more worrying is the overtaking punch as this is a car that just begs to be loaded to the brim and taken on a long-distance holiday. The engine is certainly refined, and very quiet when cruising, but there is not much power left at higher speeds to effect safe overtaking manoeuvres. You will have to stir the typically notchy (for a VW) five-speed ‘box often. The upside is exceptional fuel economy – a figure of 7,4 L/100 km is quoted.

Comfortable, plush ride

Volkswagen rediscovered its ride/handling mojo with the Golf 5 and thankfully the Jetta has benefited from this. The ride set-up is on the soft side, as is required by the target audience, but it’s also very stable and doesn’t exhibit too much bodyroll – mainly as a result of the advanced multi-link rear suspension set-up. It really is a lovely cruiser, with the suspension’s suppleness seemingly ironing out any road imperfections while also staying impressively quiet. In fact, the low levels of NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) add further credence to Volkswagen’s claim that the Jetta is of a higher class.

Volkswagen Jetta - Verdict

In the end, the market will judge the Jetta not by what VW says the yardsticks should be, but by what they really are in terms of real-world rivals such as the new Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Toyota Corolla. Against these products the Volkswagen Jetta seemingly offers superior ride quality, refinement and interior ambience. With six airbags it also boats good safety spec. But there are some flaws too… While the boot is big the cabin space is not class-leading. The engine is certainly refined and frugal, but it lacks power, particularly at altitude, which limits its appeal as a long-distance family car. And perhaps most importantly, given its high price, the standard specification is rather meagre – even a multi-function steering wheel is optional. Overall, the Volkswagen Jetta perhaps just falls short of offering an entirely convincing value for money case.

We like:

  • Conservative, classy looks
  • Massive boot
  • Very comfortable interior
  • Likely resale value
We don’t like:
  • Price
  • Lack of power
Fast facts

Engine: 1,6-litre, four-cylinder, petrol

Power: 75 kW @ 5 600 rpm

Torque: 148 Nm @ 3 800 rpm

Transmission: Five-speed manual

Wheels: 16-inch alloy

Top speed: 186 km/h

0-100 km/h: 12,2 seconds

Fuel economy:  7,4 litres/100 km

Source: www.um.co.za

Also consider:

  • Honda Civic 1,8i-VTEC VXIBrand new and of significantly higher specification. The quasi-concept car looks will be a turn-off for some, but at least it shows some character. Engine is beautifully refined and punchy. Expensive, but the quality is good, too.
  • Ford Focus 2,0 Trendline: Ford’s competitor offers significantly more power at a lower price. Trendline specification is however not particularly generous (but then neither is VW’s Comfortline) and the Focus struggles to match the Jetta’s overall feel of refinement and sophistication.
  • Toyota Corolla 180i GSX: For even less money you can have a 1,6-litre Corolla, one of the country’s top-selling cars, but the 1,8-litre model is also well-priced. It is now a slightly outdated offering, and a new model isn’t too far away. Good spec and reliability, but the cabin lacks refinement and sophistication.

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