VOLKSWAGEN JETTA 147TSI REVIEW
- What’s hot: All-new sharp lines, sharp handling, and sharp pricing
- What’s not: Doesn’t have the GTI’s brattish exhaust
- X-Factor: It feels a cut-above, like it could comfortably carry an Audi badge
Vehicle Style: Medium sporting sedan
Fuel economy (claimed): 7.5 l/100km (combined cycle)
Fuel economy (tested): Not recorded
Just spent the day in the new 2012 Jetta. Impressive. No longer is it a ‘Golf with a boot’; there are no shared panels, it sits on a longer and wider (marginally) wheelbase and the glasshouse is set further back.
It feels, in fact, a different car. The Jetta is no longer the Golf’s staid and sensible brother – no, if anything, its leaned-out lines and balanced stance give it the edge for style.
More to the point, its handling is as sharp as the Golf, and it shares the best of the Golf’s engines but rides better.
Sized right, and priced to match, the new Jetta range is going to make its own mark. In the case of the nimble 147TSI, the subject of this review, it has that elusive feel of class of a smaller European sporting saloon.
Quality: Built at VW’s giant Puebla plant in Mexico, the all-new Jetta 147TSI’s paint and panel fit (of the fully galvanized body) is typical Volkswagen – at this price as good as you’ll find.
So too the interior: soft-touch tactile surfaces, understated metal and piano-black highlights, and impeccable leather.
Comfort: Same again: nicely-shaped front seats with electric adjustment (also heated), and tilt and reach adjustable multi-function wheel.
Legroom for rear passengers is good though the seats are perhaps a little short in the squab and a tad flat. But, access is fine and passengers there get their own air-con vents.
Equipment: The Jetta 147TSI Highline comes with a multi-function display with trip computer and audio controls, Bluetooth, temperature display and dual-zone air-con menus; also, as standard, optical parking system display, warning sensors front and back, an in-dash six-disc CD/MP3 player (eight speakers) with aux in and MDI interface (iPod) and optional sat-nav.
Storage: No shortage of cubby-holes: there’s a chillable glove-box, centre console compartment, front seat drawers, storage pockets in the backs of the front seats, cup-holders in centre console and rear armrest, and front door pockets with bottle holders.
The boot is huge for a car of the Jetta’s dimensions. It offers 510 litres of space with rear seats upright. For larger items, the split fold rear seats can be tipped forward (with a remote release in the boot-lip).
ON THE ROAD:
Driveability: With standard six-speed DSG and turbo-driven direct injection 2.0 litre DOHC engine producing 147kW @ 5100rpm and 280Nm @ 1700rpm, the 147TSI feels very lively.
Throttle response is instant (these modern engines somehow ignore the physical laws of inertia), and, although redlined at 6000rpm, it will happily spin beyond 6500rpm under the whip, though urge tails off sharply as it nears the limiter.
It’s quick, but doesn’t have quite the urgency of the GTI, its hot-hatch little brother. It could be the extra weight and the GTI’s extra muscle (it musters 155kW); no matter, its 147kW has no trouble spearing it out of a corner or around slower traffic (VW claims a 0-100km/h dash in 7.5 seconds).
A shame it doesn’t get the GTI’s throaty rasp at the exhaust though.
Refinement: On road, the composure and improved compliance of the new Jetta is immediately apparent. Thanks to the boot, and the better fore-aft weight distribution, there is none of the jiggle over undulations on secondary tarmac that you’ll occasionally notice in the Golf.
Wind noise is all-but absent; road-roar is also well-suppressed, intruding only barely on coarse-chip surfaces.
Suspension: Down below, it’s typical Volkswagen fare: struts up front with lower A-arms, and independent coil-sprung rear (with anti-roll bars front and rear).
As we found giving it a serious belt through the curves, the Jetta 147TSI can be hunted into a corner with absolute accuracy and can carry buckets of speed through to the other side.
There’s some ‘tugging’ on exit when pressing hard, but torque steer is barely evident (and anyway, who cares).
Braking: The pedal feels excessively soft at first, but you’ll quickly adjust. Braking performance is superb: all in the Jetta range come with ventilated discs up front, solid discs at the rear and, naturally, ABS and electronic brake-pressure distribution (EBD).
ANCAP rating: untested
Safety features: No shortage of features here; the Jetta gets ESP, anti-slip regulation (ASR) and electronic diff-lock. It also comes with driver and passenger front and side airbags and curtain airbags front and rear, safety optimised head restraints (to reduce whiplash), and, as standard fit, VW’s Crash Impact Sound Sensor (CISS) system that controls the deployment of the airbags, and hill-start assist.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Not available at launch.
Service costs: Speak to your local Volkswagen dealership before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES:
Honda Accord Euro Luxury ($37,840) - Similar kW and brilliant drive, but the Commodore-sized Accord has outgrown itself. The Jetta 147TSI is more the size of the older model (the one we all loved), has a more appealing interior, and is more fun at the wheel. (see Accord Euro reviews)
Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.7T ($41,990) - We’ve offended them, they won’t give us one to test (but we’ve driven it anyway); it’s actually a super drive with a stonking engine, but resale values will kill you. (see Alfa Romeo reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL:
Who said life is dull? The Jetta 147TSI might have four doors, a big boot and a family-friendly price, but it doesn’t compromise enjoyment at the wheel.
This is a really good car from Volkswagen; the Jetta is as big a step-up for the small/medium sedan class as the new Polo was when it arrived late last year.
When at the wheel of the Jetta 147TSI, it’s hard to not think of earlier compact sporting sedans, like the defining BMW 3 Series of the 80s. This is one to have on the list.