2012 VOLKSWAGEN JETTA REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small sedan.
Price: $ 26,490 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 6.5 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 8.6 l/100km
It’s the baby of the range, and not exactly overburdened by high-tech creature comforts.
Still, the Jetta 118TSI is a comfortable drive, offers neat understated European style and is a good entry point to Volkswagen’s sedan range.
Quality: Hard plastics abound, but the Jetta’s interior features finer furnishings than the majority of its small-sedan competitors.
We saw some inconsistent trim fitment on this test car, however with previous Jetta press cars exhibiting nearly flawless fit and finish, we’d say this was an isolated case.
It’s a very plain-Jane design though, and we can see the hard plastic door handles getting easily scuffed by rings and jewellery.
Comfort: The manual cloth-upholstered front seats of the base model provide reasonable comfort, and the driving position is good thanks to a good range of seat adjustment and a reach/rake adjustable steering wheel.
Despite the presence of a third seatbelt, the back seat is best occupied by two adults at a maximum. The high centre tunnel makes the centre position suitable only for small children.
On the plus side, back-seat occupants get face-level air outlets - a rare feature in this segment. There are no cupholders for back-seaters though, nor a fold-down centre armrest.
Equipment: We’ve tested the base model here, and its standard equipment list isn’t as generous as the higher-grade Comfortline and Highline models in the Jetta range.
Among the standard features in the 118TSI are Bluetooth, cruise control, trip-computer, manual air-conditioning, an MP3 compatible single-CD audio system, USB and 3.5mm audio inputs, power windows and multi-function buttons on the steering wheel.
Storage: In-cabin storage is plentiful. Each door has a storage bin, there’s a useful tray under the centre stack for phones and wallets and the centre console box is lidded.
The boot is a decent size too. With a capacity of 510 litres, the Jetta’s boot is among the larger in its segment.
Disappointingly though, the 60/40 split rear seats don’t fold flush with the boot floor, and the boot carpet is poorly fitted.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Volkswagen’s 1.4 litre twin-charged (turbocharged AND supercharged) petrol inline four has long been a favourite of ours, and it works well in the Jetta’s chassis.
Peak outputs of 118kW and 240Nm won’t set the front tyres alight, but the engine’s generous torque spread - peak torque is available from 1500rpm to 4000rpm - gives it good around-town tractability and ample urge for overtaking.
It gets a little breathless near the top of its rev range, but power also tapers off - it’s best, and quickest, when kept in the meat of the torque band.
The standard six-speed manual has a light clutch, but the gap between second and third gear is a bit wide and can leave the engine off-boost during gearchanges.
The shifter also feels quite rubbery and notchy when rowed through the gate.
Refinement: Road roar seems less prominent than on other Jetta’s we’ve tested (all of which were equipped with the optional 17-inch wheels), and overall sound suppression is good.
Suspension: Jettas we’ve tested with the optional Sports suspension package have been monumentally stiff (far too firm for Australian roads). The 118TSI’s standard suspension set-up is the polar opposite.
With softer spring-rates, it has no trouble soaking up rutted, broken asphalt and road imperfections, and is well-matched to the dampers which keep body movements under control.
There’s a fair amount of body roll in corners and the Jetta doesn’t feel quite so sprightly without the sports suspension, but for general driving duties we much prefer the standard suspension tune.
Braking: The Jetta’s brakes engage more smoothly than the Golf, with a softer, less grabby pedal movement.
Stomp on the brakes hard, and stopping performance from the all-disc hardware is impressive.
ANCAP rating: 5 stars
Safety features: The Jetta 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: Volkswagen servicing can be costly. Speak to your local Volkswagen dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Ford Focus Ambiente Sedan ($24,290) - The all-new Focus has an interior that rivals - and in some areas, exceeds - the Jetta for quality and space, and in sedan form it also comes standard with an excellent twin-clutch six-speed automatic.
Its 92kW 1.6 litre petrol engine is down on power compared to the VW however. (see Focus reviews)
Mazda3 Maxx Sport Sedan ($24,490) - The interior design is starting to date, but the Mazda3 is solidly built and comes complete with goodies like dual-zone climate control and satellite navigation.
It’s an entertaining drive too, although its 108kW 2.0 litre engine is also less powerful than the Jetta. (see Mazda3 reviews)
Hyundai Elantra Elite ($23,590) - The Elantra is not as impressive as the Volkswagen for interior refinement or quality, but it’s good value and offers a lot more equipment than the Jetta. (see Elantra reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It doesn’t offer outstanding value for money, but what you get with the Jetta 118TSI is a good powertrain, quite sharp on-road dynamics, a comfortable ride and very strong resale thanks to that VW badge.
There are better-equipped small sedans out there for less money, but few offer the totality of the package you get with the Jetta.