|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
From a quick glance, the Jetta won’t win any flashy looks contest. In fact, it’s styled conservatively, but not in a boring way. It’s handsome, crisply-styled, and decisively Teutonic. It’s clean and without unnecessary body cladding; two key features which will age it very well. The overall theme is one of horizontal lines from the front’s bisecting bumper and slit headlamps, the body length creases on the sides, to the rear end’s rakish profile. Each corner is filled by 16-inch alloy wheels fitted with 205/55R16 tires, which look nicely proportioned but don’t really stand out. By and large, the Jetta looks like an Audi in training down to the high-quality paintjob and the weighty doors that surprise you as you pull the handles to get inside.
At first, the interior appears as promising as the exterior. The dashboard is cleanly styled in the classic Volkswagen idiom. The leather, plastics, and metal accents too are presented very well. However, as your fingers start running through the cabin, things start to take a different turn. In areas where you’d expect some give, there’s none. The upper panels of the cabin are fine, but everything else feels rather cheap. The single biggest culprit is the door panels which don’t offer any sort of soft-touch insert be in leather, fabric, or plastic. Knock it and it reverberates with an unconvincing hallow sound that seems more Chinese than German. The beige color doesn’t help things either.
Thankfully, it’s not all bad.
Despite a noticeable cheapening of the interior, the Jetta doesn’t shortchange you when it comes to the most important aspect: the controls. The leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter are pleasing to operate and the control stalks feel great. The wheel adjusts for both reach and height while the seats are widely adjustable for a great ergonomic fit. Air conditioning controls and all other secondary controls are intelligently located and pleasingly simple to use. Other automakers could do well in learning from Volkswagen when it comes to designing control layouts. A big plus is the available cabin space for all occupants, front and back, where there’s more than ample space for five full-grown adults. The trunk is also cavernous with a relatively flat and unobtrusive load space perfect for luggage or golf sets.
One sour note though is the RCD 310 infotainment system which is laggy at best and counter intuitive to use most of the time. It’s supposed to offer both iPod and Bluetooth audio streaming/hands-free telephony, neither of which could be done after countless hours of fiddling with the controls and flipping through the owner’s manual. And even after resorting to playing tracks on a USB stick, navigating through the folders is painfully slow. That said, if you just leave the car to play your music for you, the 8-speaker sound system is awesome offering crisp vocals and deep bass.
Equally appreciative is the way Volkswagen has dialed in the Jetta’s on-road demeanor. Although the sheet metal doesn’t look sporty, it’s actually quite spirited and fun behind the wheel. The 2.0-liter TDI turbo diesel, with its 110 horsepower output, may not seem like the first choice of enthusiasts, but the 280 Nm of torque from as low as 1,750 rpm certainly is. Cranking up the diesel-fed engine to life reveals a characteristic clatter before settling into a surprisingly quiet hum. It idles smoothly with little engine vibration compared to German diesels twice or even thrice the Jetta’s price. The jumpy throttle and high clutch engagement requires patience (and a well-honed left leg) to master, but after a while, you’ll get used to it. The gearbox itself engages crisply with precise, but slightly long throws. Being a diesel, the Jetta could certainly use an extra gear, but the spacing of the five-speed box is just as good. It makes full use of the TDI’s power band and produces both excellent in-city response and stellar highway cruising ability. Get this: 100 km/h comes up at an ultra-low 1,850 rpm on fifth gear. The engine/gearbox pairing produces 14.28 km/L in city traffic and up to 27.78 km/L on the highway; meaning the Jetta can realistically travel past 800 kilometers between fill-ups with its 55-liter tank.
The Germanic level of engineering continues with the Jetta’s body structure, which in a word is solid. The highly rigid platform then sees the fully independent suspension bolted on top of it. Thanks to this, the Jetta feels right at home tackling pothole-ridden city streets or curvy mountain passes. Everyday dynamics is largely superb with feathery-light steering and little friskiness from the suspension. It’s able to absorb most bumps save for a few ones. These few though make their way through the cabin rattling and jiggling the occupants, especially the rear, in the process. On more enthusiastic roads, it behaves neutrally at first through a corner, only to understeer midway. More than once, a steering correction is needed. On the flipside, it feels very composed at high speeds. The brakes offer a firm, easily modulated pedal with confident halts when needed.
The Volkswagen Jetta’s claim to German engineering aside, you don’t get much for the P 1,295,000 asking price. Aside from cowhide on the steering wheel and shifter and the usual power features (windows, door locks, and mirrors), you don’t get much luxury features after that. Thankfully, the thin list of convenience features doesn’t scrimp on safety which includes a full suite of airbags, anti-lock brakes, parking sensors for both front and back, and electronic stability control. This all means that the Jetta is bound to attract only a specific set of buyers. For one, you need to be comfortable driving a manual on a daily basis. But for those who’re dead set on getting one, it’s an underappreciated gem of a car. It may be rough around the edges, but there’s some high quality stuff in there. The Jetta just needs some polishing, but drive one and you get glimpses of what Das Auto is all about.
2015 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0 TDI
|Ownership||2015 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0 TDI Trendline M/T|
|Body Type||4-door sedan|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Turbo, Common Rail Direct Injection|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||Inline-4|
|BHP @ rpm||110 @ 2,750-4,200|
|Nm @ rpm||280 @ 1,750-2,750|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Diesel|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,450|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Multi-Link|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Michelin Energy Saver 205/55R16V (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||Yes, Front and Rear|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Rear|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|No. of Speakers||8|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|