With a quick nip and tuck, Volkswagen tries to give the plain Jane Jetta more oomph and aggression. But is it enough to make this very capable sedan stand out and set VW’s cash counters ringing?
Volkswagen has decided to give the Volkswagen Jetta another shot, with a second facelift in three years. Though the German car manufacturer will roll the dice and take their chances, they’re unlikely to hold their breath and expect this sedan to take a serious bite out of the segment’s sales figures. The 2015 Volkswagen Jetta, as a product, remains a very well built sedan that feels quite luxurious on the inside.
I hate to start off on a dull note, but the refreshed Volkswagen Jetta doesn’t look too different from the outgoing model. But hang on! Take a step closer and you realise that the front-end has been re-worked – just about. After a long hard look, you realise that the Vento-like two-strip chrome grille is now replaced with a three-strip one. Earlier the Volkswagen Jetta used to come across as a bigger Vento, now it’s a mirror image of the Passat. There’s no doubt that the broader front grille, which merges with the headlamps, boosts its premium credentials – but the Jetta’s design, like most of its siblings, is so subtle that it tends to get lost in the crowd.
That said, the designers have made an effort. The front bumper has been re-sculpted to give the car a more edgy look. The lower lip protrudes prominently, and the air intakes stretch all the way to the fog lamps at both ends. All of this has been done to improve the sedan’s aerodynamics, as well as to improve airflow into the engine bay. The fog lamps are now bigger, and the bonnet gets prominent creases. It’s quite obvious that Volkswagen wants to give the Volkswagen Jetta a more aggressive stance, but (in all honestly) it needs a bit more to really stand out. And there’s no tectonic shift at the rear either, although Volkswagen has added creases and reflectors to the rear bumper as well as reshaped the taillights.
Step inside, and the cabin feels all too familiar – but that’s a good thing. The interiors remain virtually unchanged, but what catches the eye is the new three-spoke flat bottom steering wheel. Even better are the paddle shifters, which are only available on the diesel variant. The steering-mounted controls are knock-offs from the Polo GT. The Volkswagen Jetta does, however, get some additional goodies – such as a driver fatigue detection system, which analyses steering movements and makes a fatigue estimate. If detected, warning lights blink and buzz – this is a great feature, especially on long drives.
The Volkswagen Jetta may be loaded to the gills with technology, but Volkswagen chose to ignore a basic feature that could have greatly eased parking woes – a rear-view camera. While the twin instrument cluster pods get a chrome garnish, the two-tone cabin, in black and beige, oozes a luxurious feel. Even the faux wooden panels on the doors and above the glove box add an air of sophistication.
The Volkswagen Jetta has always been, and still remains, an extremely spacious car. The seats are very supportive, but feel slightly low – especially at the rear. Getting in and out of the car for a 6-foot plus passenger can be cumbersome, as your knees keep touching the seat. But once settled, there’s plenty of legroom – though the seat squab could have provided more under-thigh support.
The Volkswagen Jetta retains its current powerplants – the 1.4-litre TSI and 2.0-litre TDI. The former is mated with a six-speed manual transmission, while the diesel comes with both a six-speed manual and a dual-clutch automatic. The 1.4 petrol, with 120 ponies, provides refined yet linear acceleration. It doesn’t have blistering pick up, but once you cross the 1,800rpm mark, the horses really begin to gallop and before you know it the Jetta is cruising around the 120km/h mark.
The diesel, on the other hand, has been a mainstay in the Volkswagen family. It throws a calculated punch, while the DSG shifts on demand – neutralising any lag. But getting into manual mode is where you derive the most from the 138bhp engine. The slick and easy-to-use paddle shifters can be quite addictive, as I kept down shifting even when the Volkswagen Jetta was in auto mode.
The Jetta doesn’t use the new MQB platform, from which the Skoda Octavia and Audi A3 roll out. But when it comes to build quality, the Volkswagen Jetta feels superior to the Octavia and seriously raises the question of whether you actually need to spring for the Audi. It becomes even more evident when you close the doors of the Volkswagen Jetta and hear that solid thump, which is not something you can say for the Skoda. And relative to most variants of the Octavia, the VW certainly has a far more accomplished ride – thanks to the independent suspension at the rear. It carpets anything that comes in its way, and on our roads this is a huge plus.
This Volkswagen sedan is, without a doubt, as solid as a tank. It has all the safety and comfort features you can think of, barring the rear camera. The cabin is spacious, has comfortable seats, and a fairly powerful air conditioner – well, in this weather at least! But the Jetta’s similarity with the Vento and Passat remains its Achilles heel, as it lacks its own presence. It’s time for VW to change their subtle design philosophy and be bolder. Apart from that, the Volkswagen Jetta is a rock solid car that oozes German build quality and attention to detail.
- Volkswagen Jetta 1.4 TSI
- Volkswagen Jetta 2.0 TDI
Transmission: 6-speed manual / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 120bhp @ 5,000rpm
Torque: 200Nm @ 1,500 – 4,000rpm
Price: Rs. 14.15-15.67 lakhs (ex-showroom, Delhi)
Transmission: 6-speed manual / 6-speed DSG automatic / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 138bhp @ 4,200rpm
Torque: 320Nm @ 1,750 – 2,500rpm
Price: Rs. 15.67-20.17 lakhs (ex-showroom, Delhi)