Review and road test of the Volkswagen Jetta (2011 - 2014)
By Andy Enright
If you've even read this far, then congratulations. You're one of an exclusive band of car buyers who would countenance buying a Volkswagen Jetta. It's hard to think of a car quite as talented as VW's midrange saloon that has been so roundly ignored. For a car that's ostensibly a Golf with a boot, the Jetta has had a tough time squeaking sales out of British buyers, its hatchback sibling outselling it by nine units to one. Independent thinkers might like to know what to look for when shopping for a used Jetta. Read on here.
4dr saloon (1.2, 1.4, 2.0 petrol, 1.6, 2.0 diesel [S, BlueMotion, Limited Edition, SE, GT, Sport)
Volkswagen has tried, tried and tried again to sell us a medium range saloon and we've largely nodded, agreed that they were quite nice and then bought something else. The Jetta first appeared in 1979 as a booted version of the Golf Mk1. Designed by Giugiaro, the lines didn't appear to have a single curve on them. This car was replaced by the Vento, then the Bora and then we came back to the Jetta badge again in 2005. Its replacement is the car we look at here, the Jetta that was spawned from the sixth-generation Golf, launched in 2010 and carried through to 2014.
What You Get
The Jetta drew its inspiration from Volkswagen's elegant New Compact Coupe design study, first shown at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show. Most show cars are wildly indulgent, with flip-up doors, interiors that look like Zaha Hadid architecture and 22-inch alloy wheels shod with rubber bands for tyres. The Volkswagen NCC was different. It looked production-ready. It was a mature, cohesive design that smacked slightly of a better-resolved, slightly shrunken version of Audi's A5. With some spy shots already in the bag of the prototype Jetta being durability tested, it was obvious that the NCC would spawn the next generation Jetta - the similarities were obvious.
And so it proved. The sleek shape of the Jetta, unveiled again in the US in New York's Times Square, was styled under the leadership of Klaus Bischoff, head of design for Volkswagen. No body panel was carried over from its predecessor, lending the Jetta an elegant appearance that marked the evolution of a new phase of Volkswagen design. It was a significantly bigger car than before as well, the overall length swelling by 90mm to 4,644mm. In addition, the wheelbase was also extended to 2,648mm, an increase of 70mm resulting in 67mm more legroom for back seat passengers. A 510-litre boot offers serious carrying capacity and a pragmatic layout.
In order to incentivise sales, equipment levels were strong; certainly better than the German stereotype. An all-new dashboard with aluminium highlights sat ahead of a leather-trimmed three-spoke steering wheel. Every Jetta model also got an integrated multifunction display, air conditioning and a CD stereo system. Available as an option was touchscreen satellite navigation. As you would expect from Volkswagen, a comprehensive array of safety features also made the specification sheet including six airbags, anti lock brakes and an Electronic Stabilisation Programme.
What To Look For (used_look)
What to Look For
First off, make sure that if you're looking at an early car that it is a late shape car and not the last of the previous model. Keep a look out for cars that have been flogged by corporate users and ensure that servicing has been attended to diligently. Check the car's specification carefully, as some of the more desirable features, like air conditioning, weren't standard on lower spec cars. Satellite navigation is a desirable option and the DSG twin-clutch gearbox will also make your Jetta easier to sell on when the time comes to part ways.
(approx based on a 2011 Jetta 1.4 TSI excl. VAT) Parts aren't priced too badly with a clutch assembly will be around £75 and an alternator should be close to £115. Brake pads front and rear are about £55 and £45 respectively.
On the Road
The Jetta offers customers a choice of two petrol and two diesel engines. Petrol units are 1.4-litre TSI powerplants with 122 or 160PS. The TSI units utilise a turbocharger, and in some cases a supercharger as well, to produce a smooth flow of power across a wide section of the rev-range. Want a diesel? The 2.0-litre common rail diesel offers a power output of 140PS, which was later supplemented by a 110PS version. Further down the range, the 1.6-litre oil-burner was made available with 105PS. Options included Volkswagen's Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) which allows the driver to select from normal, comfort or sport modes to define the desired suspension, steering and accelerator response settings for any particular journey. ParkAssist, which takes over steering inputs to facilitate parallel parking manoeuvres, was also offered.
The Jetta's chassis uses a combination of MacPherson struts at the front wheels and four-link suspension at the rear promising to replicate the supple ride and adroit handling of its predecessor. The electro/mechanical steering system was also carried over from the previous model, enabling an 11m turning circle. Power is fed to the wheels through a standard five- or six-speed manual gearbox, but a fast-shifting six- or seven-speed DSG twin clutch gearbox was also available.
The Volkswagen Jetta morphed into something with real presence and elegance with the 2010 model. Recommending one over a Golf is always tough as the added practicality of the hatch and the buoyant used demand for the more popular model means the Jetta's residual values tend to be a little depressed. If you are sold on four doors and a boot, you also have to cope with a cut down engine selection compared to that from which Golf buyers could choose, so there's no sporty Jetta GTI this time round, nor 170PS diesel. It's still a great used car buy but one that's only going to appeal to the odd one in nine.
Volkswagen Jetta (2011 - 2014) review by Andy Enright