2012 VOLKSWAGEN JETTA REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small sedan
Price: $32,490 ($41,490 as tested)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 6.2 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 6.9 l/100km
Volkswagen’s 2012 Jetta was the last of VW's current model line-up to convert to the new corporate ‘face’. And, arguably, on the handsome but restrained Jetta, those corporate lines work best of all.
Open the door, and it looks just as good on the inside. In fact, whichever model you pick over, the new Jetta exudes class.
The mid-spec 118TSI Comfortline is easy to enjoy at the wheel, and also fuel-efficient. It’s expensive when optioned up, but with the Jetta you get what you pay for.
Quality: Volkswagen’s sixth-gen Golf took interior quality for sub-$30k hatchbacks to new heights; now the 2012 Jetta has done the same for mid-priced small sedans.
Plastics are almost faultless for fit, finish and material quality - no complaints at all about the build of the Made-In-Mexico Jetta. We would prefer to see some softer surfaces on the centre console and door cards however.
Comfort: Our tester was optioned with the leather upholstery package, as well as an electric driver’s seat. Comfort is very good, with supportive cushioning and thick bolsters on the front seats.
A tilt and reach-adjustable steering column makes finding a natural and comfortable driving position easy, and the powered driver’s seat also features adjustable lumbar support.
The rear bench seat provides decent leg, knee and headroom for two adults. Rear passengers also get a pair of air outlets at the back of the centre console.
Centre tunnel intrusion and the Jetta’s relatively narrow width means the centre seat isn’t well suited to carrying adults, only younger children.
Equipment: Standard features on the 118TSI Comfortline include dual-zone climate control, cruise control, dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear parking sensors, a trip computer and 17-inch alloys.
The standard CD tuner is supplemented by Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity as well as USB and 3.5mm auxiliary audio inputs.
Our car was fitted with optional sat-nav, which also adds a 30GB onboard hard-disk drive and SD card reader.
In addition, our tester was equipped with the Sports Package, which adds privacy glass, sportier 17-inch alloys, foglamps and a lower and firmer sports suspension.
Storage: There’s plenty of in-cabin storage, with the glovebox and centre console box providing plenty of room to keep valuables hidden from view.
The boot can carry up to 510 litres of cargo, which puts it near the upper end of its segment for luggage capacity.
Disappointingly though, the 60/40 split rear seats don’t fold flush with the boot floor, and the loose fitment of the boot carpet leaves a lot to be desired.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Jetta’s 118kW 1.4 litre petrol four has an eagerness to its power delivery that belies its small capacity. There’s 240Nm of torque between 1500rpm and 4000rpm - right where you need it - and that’s plenty for a small sedan such as this.
That said, it can feel a bit lethargic when off-boost, and the twin-clutch DSG transmission can also sometimes be caught out if slowing down then speeding up (such as when approaching an intersection). This can produce a protracted pause while the DSG re-shuffles its gears.
Most times though the gearshifts are lightning-quick although it is not as smooth off the line as a conventional automatic. Other features such as hill-hold assist are handy; preventing roll-back while the gearbox engages its clutch.
Refinement: There’s the usual tyre roar on coarse bitumen, but otherwise the Jetta is above-average for NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) performance.
Suspension: Volkswagen has always been at the pointy end of the handling spear, and the Jetta 118TSI’s on-road performance lives up to this reputation.
It comes at a cost though. Our test car was equipped with the optional sports suspension package and had excellent grip, cornered flat and composed, and had a meaty and connected feel to the steering.
Unfortunately though, we found it almost intolerably stiff on ordinary suburban roads.
If you've got your own private racetrack, then by all means opt for the sports suspension. We’d advise to stick with the standard suspension hardware otherwise.
Braking: The Jetta’s brakes aren’t as 'grabby' as some in Volkswagen’s range, which is a good thing. The pedal is now smoother and more progressive in its engagement and, when prodded firmly, stopping performance from the all-disc system is impressive.
ANCAP rating: 5 stars.
Safety features: The SX4 offers driver and passenger front and side airbags, full-length curtain airbags, four-wheel disc brakes, ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, ESP with TCS, and three-point ELR seatbelts front and rear.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000 kilometres
Service costs: Speak to your local Volkswagen dealership before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY:
Ford Focus Titanium Sedan ($33,090) - Ford’s highly-polished and all-new Focus Titanium sedan trumps the VW for value, with many things on its standard feature list (like sat nav and heated seats) costing big dollars as options on the Jetta.
The Jetta’s torquier engine gives it a slight edge in driveability though. (see Focus reviews)
Renault Fluence Privilege ($29,990) - With sat-nav and leather as standard, the sub-$30k Fluence is more generously equipped than the Jetta. It can’t match it for refinement or dynamic performance though. (see Fluence reviews)
Honda Accord Euro Luxury ($37,840) - A much sportier choice, thanks to its 148kW engine and Honda chassis dynamics, and more fully featured. But more expensive than the comparable Jetta 118TSI Comfortline.
Worth the extra expense though, and the pricetag is only slightly higher than a similarly-optioned Jetta anyway. (see Accord Euro reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The 2012 Jetta is a big improvement over the last model - which wasn't half bad anyway - particularly in terms of interior refinement.
It offers good passenger comfort, sharp design and a capacious boot (although those non flush-folding backrests irk us), as well as a willing and efficient engine.
While it is more expensive than some in the segment, especially if you start ticking the options boxes, we like its classy interior and premium feel.
We didn't like the optional bone-jarring sports suspension however - give it a miss and save yourself $2000.