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2010 Volkswagen Jetta V 125TDI, 147TSI, 77TDI First Drive Review Photo:
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Mike Stevens | Nov, 16 2009 | 30 Comments

2010 Jetta V 125TDI, 147TSI, 77TDI First Drive Review

TOYOTA HAS A PROBLEM. It is called Volkswagen. And it's breathing hard down Toyota's neck for the global number one spot for car manufacturers.

Interestingly, where Toyota 'zigged' ten or so years back, choosing to put its technological eggs in the Prius basket, Volkswagen 'zagged'.

Volkswagen's answer to the challenges of a 'green future' was to set about producing engines and drivetrains – right across its model range – of astonishing efficiency. And it has done this without sacrificing power and driver enjoyment.

It's not alone; other manufacturers are on the same path. But Volkswagen, with models and price ranges straddling nearly every sector, is the stand-out.

Its high-tech free-spinning diesels and zesty small capacity turbo/supercharged petrol engines (coupled with F1-style DSG transmissions priced for the common man), challenge Toyota's Prius for fuel efficiency, and murder it for driver dynamics.

That's not to say the Prius isn't brilliant, it is; Toyota (and Honda with its first Insight) showed the world that hybrid drive was a viable powertrain alternative.

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But where Toyota has overlooked, or down-played, driver engagement (where are its ‘fun to drive and own’ models?), every model in the VW range comes with personality as standard. Driving should be fun. Volkswagen hasn’t forgotten it.

The market would seem to be responding. This year, 2009, an ascendant Volkswagen Group has been closing fast on a becalmed Toyota in global vehicle production.

The 2010 Jetta V update is now in showrooms. Featuring a new line-up of petrol and diesel engine options, the new Jetta typifies Volkswagen's direction in producing cars that engage the driver but sip fuel like its poison.

Each, even the base model 77kWTDI, is an enjoyable steer. None we sampled could be accused of being “just transport”.

And each, as a medium sector alternative, is sharply priced.

 

The range

The range starts with the $28,990 (plus on-roads) 1.6 litre 77TDI diesel (launched with the Golf VI in August), producing 77kW and 250Nm of torque and achieving a fuel consumption figure of 4.9 l/100km.

The 77TDI is available with a choice of five-speed manual transmission, or the new seven-speed DSG.

Next in the diesel range, at $35,990, is the previously available 2.0 litre 103TDI. A carry-over from the 2009 Jetta range, the 103TDI uses 6.0 litres of fuel per 100km while producing 103kW and 320Nm of torque.

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The 103TDI is available only with a six-speed DSG transmission.

The third diesel engine on offer is found in the 125TDI Highline. While new for the Jetta, this is the familiar 2.0 litre 125TDI lifted from the Passat. It is a rorty unit, producing 125kW and 350Nm of torque while achieving fuel economy figures of 5.9 l/100km.

It is also nicely balanced thanks to its four-valve design and twin compensator shafts. At $38,990 (plus on roads), the Jetta 125TDI Highline shares top-of-the-range billing with the 147TSI.

Volkswagen claims the 125TDI will reach 100km/h in 8.5 seconds with the six-speed DSG - the only transmission offered with the 2.0 litre 125TDI engine. It feels exceptionally strong and is instantly responsive; we have no reason to doubt those performance numbers.

Priced to align with the 125TDI Highline is the 2.0 litre petrol-engined 147TSI Highline. Developing 147kW and 280Nm of torque, even the performance-oriented TSI returns fuel consumption figures of 7.8 litres per 100km.


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The 147TSI is also offered with the six-speed DSG transmission as standard and no manual option. It will bolt to 100km/h in a respectable 7.2 seconds.

At launch, Volkswagen said that as buyer preference in the medium car sector leans heavily to automatic transmissions, the DSG – which offers the convenience of an auto and the feel of a manual - has been specified for these models.

Second of the petrol engines on offer is the $30,990 (for the manual) 1.4 litre 118TSI. Familiar in the Golf where its performance belies its cubic capacity, the 118TSI develops 118kW and 240Nm of torque, with a fuel economy rating of 6.6 l/100km.

The 118TSI comes with a choice of manual or seven-speed DSG (the latter at $33,490).

 

Equipment and features

New features for 2010 include parking distance sensors front and rear, with the Optical Parking System as standard across all Jetta models.

Standard across the range are six airbags: driver and front passenger airbags, side airbags and curtain airbags front and rear. Also standard is ABS, ESP, electronic differential lock and anti-slip regulation.

There is an eight-speaker audio system as standard (10 speakers in Highline models) with CD, radio and MP3 compatibility. A 6.5-inch touch-screen display is standard in Highline models, but optional across other models. Bluetooth is optional across the Jetta range.

New trim choices have been added, along with the Golf VI’s steering wheel and an updated instrument cluster.

 

The drive

We drove the 77TDI, the 125TDI, and 147TSI. Each is an appealing drive and each is engaging in its own and quite distinct ways.

While based on the Golf, the addition of that boot gives the Jetta a quite different – and more conservative – personality.

You would hardly call the styling exciting, but the boot space is huge: 527 litres no less (and even more available with the split fold rear seats). The Jetta offers more than just extra cargo-carrying capacity however.

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The extra weight of the boot behind the rear wheels gives the Jetta improved innate fore and aft balance, and gentler rebound damping than the stumpy-tailed Golf.

It is more settled on secondary surfaces and more refined at the wheel generally. While the Jetta has the Golf’s sharp turn-in and direct feel through the steering, for the way it rides (if you didn’t know otherwise) you would hardly pick that they share the same basic platform and underpinnings.

It is a trick of perception, but the Jetta also feels bigger inside. It feels more like a ‘medium’ sector car – which is where VFACTS places it – than the ‘small’ car Golf.

And, sure, while we'd concede that just a day at the wheel is hardly a real test, the sharply-priced 2010 Jetta is an impressive steer and certainly one of the stronger contenders in the medium sector. It bridges the gap for young families outgrowing the Golf but not yet ready for the larger Passat.

While the 125TDI impressed with its robust torque and responsiveness, and the 147TSI for its seamless power delivery, the surprise of the bunch was the entry-level 77TDI.

At its $28,990 price point, the 77TDI is well-configured inside, quiet and comfortable.

Redlined at 5000rpm (the tractability of modern diesels never fails to surprise), it will happily rev its head off. It does it with an engaging throaty ‘groan’, and, like its more expensive diesel stablemates, is quite free of diesel clatter.

While not over-endowed with kilowatts, the manual we drove could be rowed along nicely provided you were prepared to use the gearbox. The trick is to keep those 250 Newton-metres of torque in the sweet spot between 1500rpm and 2500rpm.

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And, as we found through a moderate hill section and when overtaking, it will happily pick up its skirts when needed provided you’ve got some revs on board.

As refined as its more expensive siblings, and offering adequate power and useable performance, families on a budget can do a lot worse than the 77TDI Jetta.

At the other end of the range - the Highline 125TDI and 147TSI - both variants offer enjoyable performance driving and agile handling.

These are seriously quick cars. We’re not talking raw muscle here, but the more elastic European approach to performance driving by matching zesty engines with sharp, well-balanced chassis dynamics.

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Each sits on standard 17-inch alloys and with a 15mm lower ride height (an optional ‘Sports’ package with 18-inch alloys is available). Each also offers alcantara and cloth seat trim combination or optional leather.

Our pick is the 125TDI Highline. Where the 147TSI is quicker off the mark, its performance comes at the peakier end of the rev-range. The 125TDI however, with 350Nm to call on, feels strong everywhere, but particularly in those mid-speed gears - right where you want it when overtaking or pressing on through a winding pass.

The diesel also makes a terrific sound when under the whip: an urgent rising baritone growl. In the lighter Jetta, this engine really comes alive.

The ‘first drive’ verdict

With an expanded model range and new engine choices, the 2010 Jetta is a good car made better.

While not especially exciting style-wise, the Jetta is both refined and involving; keen drivers will appreciate its sharp on-road dynamics. Those with a family in tow will also warm to the family-friendly space inside and large boot.

Sharply priced, and offering brilliant fuel consumption figures across the range, the Jetta - in our view - is worth a very close look for anyone in the market for a medium car.

If enjoyment at the wheel is high on the list of priorities (just because you’ve got a family doesn’t mean you have to drive a brick), then have a look at the Jetta first or second.

 

Pricing

Jetta 1.6 77TDI 5-speed manual $28,990
Jetta 1.6 77TDI 7-speed DSG $31,490
Jetta 1.4 118TSI 6-speed manual $30,990
Jetta 1.4 118TSI 7-speed DSG $33,490
Jetta 2.0 103TDI 6-speed DSG $35,990
Jetta 2.0 147TSI Highline 6-speed DSG $38,990
Jetta 2.0 125TDI Highline 6-speed DSG $38,990

 
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