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Volkswagen Jetta 2011 review: snapshot

The VW badge has joined the ranks of the affordable small sedans. The sixth generation of the Volkswagen Jetta is a new design that no longer owes any heritage to its Golf parent, other than sharing drivetrains and basic suspension set-up.

With a $26,490 starting price for the 118kW "twincharge" 1.4-litre petrol engine, this is a genuine rival to the Mazda3, Holden Cruze and Toyota Corolla that dominate the small-sized market and VW Australia head Anke Koeckler said it will form one of the four volume pillars (along with Golf, Tiguan and Polo) for the company.

To do that it will have to return sales to far better than the 2007 heyday when the Jetta sold 4000 units. This time around it's a better product and at a sharper price, inviting buyers to join the Euro club for a few grand more than a local or Asian-built vehicle.

VALUE

The base model comes with a six-speed manual but even Koeckler admitted at the launch that the car is expected to account for only five per cent of sales. Opt for the seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission and it's a $2500 premium. That still delivers a 118kW/240Nm engine with standard Bluetooth, USB>iPod connectivity, cruise control and a full-sized spare wheel.

The Comfortline range is where the action is expected to be. It replaces the base model's 16-inch steel wheels for alloys and adds rear parking sensors, low tyre pressure monitors, automatic lights and rain-sensing wipers at $32,490 for the twincharge engine or $34,990 for the 103kW/320Nm 2.0-litre turbodiesel. Both models run the DSG transmission, as does the top-spec 147kW/280Nm 2.0-litre petrol model.

TECHNOLOGY

The Jetta is new from the ground up, with a 190mm longer body compared to the Golf hatch. The wheelbase is now 55mm longer and the track 3mm wider, but the Jetta is also 15-69kg lighter than the outgoing model.

VW puts up the fuel economy as one of the reasons to buy a Jetta and the numbers back that claim: 6.5 litres/100km for the manual 118TSI petrol and 6.2 for the auto, 5.5 litres/100km for the diesel and 7.9 litres/100km for the 2.0-litre petrol.  In comparison the 103kW/200Nm Cruze delivers 6.7 litres/100km and the Mazda3 SP25 with 122kw and 227Nm is good for 8.6 litres/100km.

DESIGN

The Jetta is a new project from the ground up and lead designer Jose Pavone said being liberated from the Golf platform was a dream come true.

"We have to reshuffle the proportions (of the Golf-based model). We shift back the cabin, so the bonnet is much longer, the wheelbase is much longer and the trunk (boot) has a quite compact look even though you have 510 litres."

SAFETY

A crash impact sound sensor is the latest hi-tech technique out of the VW stable to save lives. It was launched on the Golf and is based on the principle that the crumple zones will absorb the shockwaves of a crash to the sensors, but the sound of a crash is consistent. The resultant millisecond difference in the deployment of the six airbags could be the difference between life and death. The latest Jetta hasn't copped the ANCAP treatment but it should earn five stars based on VW's recent reputation.

DRIVING

I want a Jetta. It's a very good car in 1.4 twincharge petrol or turbodiesel guise but . A couple of disconcerting thumps while driving on typical B-grade Aussie roads were a worry. Carsguide needs to get hold of it on our test loop to put it in context, but it is otherwise a worthy contender in a tough market. The ride is fairly responsive, to the point where the suspension can probably be detuned for family duties.

As set up it is very responsive and while it soaks up the hits, it still transmits too much data back into the cabin for a family cruiser. The 16-inch wheels look a better choice than the 17s.

VERDICT

If I was shopping in this segment, I'd test drive the VW Jetta. Yeah, it costs a bit more but it is well built, well thought out in term of interior space and holds its own on the road. Will Cruze owners pay the extra? Time will tell.

Pricing Guides

$9,905
Based on 23 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$4,990
Highest Price
$11,788

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
103 TDI 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $7,700 – 10,780 2011 Volkswagen Jetta 2011 103 TDI Pricing and Specs
103 TDI Comfortline 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $7,950 – 10,450 2011 Volkswagen Jetta 2011 103 TDI Comfortline Pricing and Specs
118 TSI 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $4,990 – 10,980 2011 Volkswagen Jetta 2011 118 TSI Pricing and Specs
118 TSI Comfortline 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $9,880 – 9,998 2011 Volkswagen Jetta 2011 118 TSI Comfortline Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$4,990

Lowest price, based on 28 car listings in the last 6 months

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