Volkswagen Jetta saloon
Price: £18,075 - £23,620
- Cheaper than a Golf
- More passenger space than Golf, too
- Cavernous boot
- Low-spec base car
- Saloon body not as versatile as hatch
- Dull image
"The Jetta distances itself from the Golf with its own look, a longer wheelbase and more room inside."
Whether you think of the Volkswagen Jetta as a saloon version of the Volkswagen Golf (it's built using the same platform as the previous generation of Golf) or a manageable alternative to the larger dimensions of the Volkswagen Passat, it shares the same high standards as the rest of the VW range. It certainly looks more like a Passat, but underneath it's pure Golf. That means tried and tested components and parts, but it's longer to give more space inside the Jetta. The Passat-alike styling certainly makes it look more grown up – or dull, depending your point of view. As with the rest of the VW range, the Jetta is well constructed from high-quality materials. Engines on offer include a 1.4-litre TSI petrol, plus 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre TDI diesels. The 1.6-litre TDI is also offered fitted with VW's BlueMotion Technology pack, which uses stop-start to save fuel by turning the engine off when the car is in neutral. The Jetta comes in three specifications – entry-level S, mid-range SE and top-of-the-range Sport.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Diesel with BlueMotion Technology is frugal choice
From the engines on offer in the Jetta, we’d recommend the 1.6-litre TDI diesel with BlueMotion Technology. This means you get a stop-start function that cuts the engine when you put the car into neutral, further boosting fuel economy. In fact, it helps the Jetta return 67.3mpg and emit only 109g/km of CO2 – the latter keeping road tax costs down to only £20 a year.
Interior & comfort
More space inside than the Golf
Naturally, anyone riding in the front can expect the same high-quality interior and superior levels of comfort as you find in the Golf. Thanks to the fact that the Jetta is longer than the Golf, passengers in the back get some more room than they do in VW's top family hatchback. The extra 73mm really creates what feels like a lot more legroom for those sitting in the rear of the car. That means this saloon model is much more comfortable on longer motorway journeys than the Golf, especially for families.
Practicality & boot space
Big boot, but a hatchback is more versatile
Bigger doesn’t always mean better, and while the extra length has created space inside the Jetta for passengers, the saloon shape has reduced its flexibility. You get a 510-litre boot that is 160 litres bigger than the one in the Golf hatchback, and a negligible 55 litres smaller than the boot in the Passat. SE and Sport models also come with 60:40 split-fold rear seat and ski hatch for loading long and thin objects. There are also handy features designed to further enhance the load bay, such as a shopping bag hook and 12V power supply. But again, that four-door saloon body shape means that the Jetta isn’t quite as versatile as a hatchback when it comes to loading and carrying bulky items.
Reliability & safety
All parts have been tried and tested across VW range
The Jetta itself doesn’t feature in the 2013 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but, as it's based on the Mk6 Golf, we have a pretty good gauge of just how reliable it is. With the latest Mk7 Golf still too new to place, the previous model still manages a respectable 16th place finish. This is a drop of eight spots on the 2012 poll, but with the latest generation already on sale, you can expect that model to enter the chart pretty high. With the Jetta sharing the Golf's platform, including tried-and-tested gearboxes and components, reliability really shouldn’t be an issue at all. Surprisingly for a manufacturer with such a solid reputation, VW itself only came 16th in the manufacturers list – this is also an improvement of two spots on the 2012 ranking. But that doesn’t make the Jetta any less effective. The Jetta also comes with a full range of airbags, including curtain units, electronic stability control and anti-whiplash headrests all fitted as standard. No surprise then that, like the Golf, it's a safe car, with the hatchback securing the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests.
Engines, drive & performance
Sharp handling on a par with the old Golf
For a good gauge of how the Jetta drives, just look to the sixth-generation Golf hatchback, with which it shares its suspension. That means that it has good grip, feels secure and has responsive handling. The steering is nice and sharp, as well, while all the engines on offer produce plenty of performance, although the 1.4-litre TSI petrol does need to be worked harder to get the most out of it. It's not as much fun as Ford Focus or Ford Mondeo, but then very little on the market is.
Price, value for money & options
Saloon is cheaper than the Golf
Considering it's bigger, it's quite good that the Jetta saloon is actually cheaper to buy than the Golf hatchback. List prices for the Jetta are lower than for the equivalent Golf (even though the new Golf is even better than the old model), so you get more interior space for your money. All cars come with air-conditioning and all-round electric windows, while SE models add alloy wheels, cruise control and steering wheel controls for the stereo and trip computer. The top-spec Sport gets chrome trim, sports seats and lowered sports suspension (which does make the ride somewhat less comfortable). General interior quality is hard to find fault with, with the logically laid out dashboard proving robust and easy to use. And if you go for one of VW's fixed-price servicing packages, it only adds to the sense of value for money. Resale values on the used car market aren’t quite as strong as for the Golf, but as it's cheaper, any second-hand deals do tend to balance out better than many of the Jetta's rivals.
What the others say
It's the entry-level 1.6-litre that will be the biggest seller – it is predicted to account for nearly one-third of sales. With only 104bhp, performance is leisurely and there's some clatter under load, but refinement at speed is decent.
Even though it's been completely reworked inside and out, the Jetta still doesvery little to stir the emotions.Particularly the styling. Never a car to win a beauty contest, the Jetta has moved from being a rather awkward-looking effort to an almost invisibly bland design. Maybe the brief was ‘just make it disappear'.In which case Wolfsburg's finest have done an excellent job.
The Jetta is an elegant, neatly proportioned saloon that's well built and attractively priced. It has plenty of cabin space and a deceptively large boot.
Sitting somewhere between the Golf and Passat, the compact saloon is often overlooked as buyers opt for the more fashionable Golf or bigger Passat. However, the sixth-generation Jetta is no longer just a Golf with a boot. That boot might have shrunk a little – it still has more than 500 litres of space, but rear passengers get an extra bit of leg space to compensate for the minor loss of luggage space.
Last updated: 14 Aug 2013