Volkswagen Jetta saloon
Price £18,815 - £24,715
- Very large boot
- Cheaper than a VW Golf
- More passenger space than Golf, too
- Dull image
- Low-spec base car
- Saloon body not as versatile as hatch
At a glance
"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 on the same platform as the previous-generation Golf) or a manageable alternative to the larger 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 the Jetta is longer to give more space inside. The Passat-like styling certainly makes the Jetta look 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 two 2.0-litre TDI diesels – one with 108bhp and another with 148bhp. All get VW's BlueMotion Technology, which uses a stop-start system 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 GT.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The 108bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine is the most frugal choice
Thanks to VW's BlueMotion Technology, no engine in the VW Jetta range is particularly heavy on fuel, but if it's efficiency you're going for, one of the two 2.0-litre diesels is the best choice.
If you want the best possible fuel economy, choose the five-speed 108bhp version, which returns up to 71mpg and emits 105g/km, for £20-a-year road tax. However, we prefer the extra power and six-speed gearbox of the 148bhp engine, which still manages a very creditable 67mpg and also costs £20 a year to tax due to its 109g/km CO2 emissions.
The 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine is a good choice for low-mileage drivers, with 52mpg fuel economy and £125 annual road tax being the key figures. It's cheaper to buy than the diesel in the first place, as well as being quieter on the road.
Jetta 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.
Engines, drive & performance
Sharp handling is on par with the old VW Golf
For a good idea of how the Jetta drives, just look at the previous-generation VW Golf hatchback, with which it shares suspension parts. It has good grip, feels secure and responds nicely to your inputs.
The steering is nice and sharp as well, yet while the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine produces plenty of performance, the 108bhp version and the 1.4-litre TSI petrol need to be worked harder to get the most out of them.
Interior & comfort
More space inside than the VW Golf
As the Golf that this Jetta is based on has now been replaced, it can't help but feel a bit behind the times inside compared to some of the competition – especially when it comes to layout and the quality of materials used.
However, 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 family hatchback. The extra 73mm 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 Jetta's extra length compared to the Golf creates space inside for passengers, the saloon shape reduces its flexibility. You get a 510-litre boot, which is 130 litres bigger than the one in the Golf hatchback, but 75 litres smaller than the one in the Passat saloon.
SE and GT models also come with 60:40 split-folding rear seat and ski hatch for loading long, thin objects. There are also handy features such as a shopping-bag hook and 12v power socket. But again, that four-door saloon body shape means that the Jetta isn't quite as versatile as the Golf hatchback (or estate) when it comes to loading and carrying bulky items.
Reliability & safety
All parts have been tried and tested across VW range
The Jetta itself didn't feature in our Driver Power 2014 customer satisfaction survey, but, as it's based on the previous VW Golf, we have a pretty good indication of just how reliable it is. That model placed 89 th overall out of 150 models in 2014 – a drop of 73 places on the previous year.
As the Jetta sharing that Golf's platform, including tried-and-tested gearboxes, engines and other components, reliability really shouldn't be an issue – but the 2009-2013 Golf was ranked a lowly 136th out of 150 models in that very area. Surprisingly for a brand with such a solid reputation, VW itself only came 19th in the manufacturers list
In terms of safety, the Jetta comes with a full range of airbags, electronic stability control and anti-whiplash headrests all fitted as standard. A rear traffic alert system and blind-spot monitoring are optional. The Golf on which it's based secured the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests – although the criteria have become even more stringent since that test was carried out.
Price, value for money & options
Saloon is cheaper than the Golf
The Jetta saloon is generally cheaper to buy than the equivalent Golf hatchback – although obviously it's based on the previous generation – so you get more interior space for your money.
All Jettas come with air-conditioning and all-round electric windows. The SE model sports 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control and steering wheel controls for the stereo and trip computer.
The top-spec GT gets 17-inch alloy wheels, front foglights, sports seats and lowered sports suspension (which does make the ride somewhat less comfortable).