Volkswagen Jetta features conservative styling and great build quality.
Volkswagen Jetta features conservative styling and great build quality.
1.4-litre engine offers strong performance and efficient fuel consumption.
1.4-litre engine offers strong performance and efficient fuel consumption.
Cabin is conservative but classy.
Cabin is conservative but classy.

Let’s face it, it will take a while before motorists believe that a 1.4-litre badge on the boot gives them street-cred. Which is perhaps why Volkswagen’s new Jetta 1.4 TSi is simply badged as a TSi.

Call me old-fashioned, but only now after having driven the sixth-generation Jetta 1.4 Highline which we have on long-term test, have I come around to the idea that big displacement engines can be replaced with small turbo- or supercharged engines. The two things that put me off were that smaller engines often had huge turbo lag and that they worked hard and had to be driven at high revs.

I reached my nadir with this about five years ago when a turbocharged vehicle I was driving had so much lag on pull-away, that after stopping to open the gate to my home, I had to ask passengers to get out of the car as it was unable to pull away on the slight incline on the driveway due to the lag.

But this sprightly 1.4 TSi churns out a very creditable 118kW and 200Nm of torque thanks to the twincharger which is a combination of an exhaust-driven turbocharger and an engine-driven supercharger. To put this into perspective, it makes more power and torque than an average normally aspirated 2-litre car.

During our Gauteng altitude test the Jetta TSi covered the 0-100km sprint in just over 9 seconds which is very respectable, and quicker than any 1.8- or 2.0-litre rival with a normally aspirated engine.

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

The advantage of this dual system is that the weaknesses of each system are pretty much cancelled out once they are used in tandem. The supercharger provides zero lag on pull-away and good performance at low revs, and voila, when mated with a turbocharger provides a good powerband and torque at all speeds.

With its manual 6-speed gearbox and long gear ratios the Jetta also avoids my pet hate – high-revving little engines that work so hard that they actually burn more fuel than their larger counterparts. The Jetta is just ticking over at around 2 000rpm at 100km/h.

Although we have been unable to match Volkswagen’s claimed fuel consumption figure of 6.3l/100km, we did manage a creditable 7.1l/100km driving on a combination of urban and freeway driving. We found the gear shifts to be a bit notchy, which is unusual as the Jettas are usually quite slick.

Jettas have never been the vehicle of choice for those wishing for a flashy ride – although back in the early 1980s I was the proud owner of a 1.8-litre fuel-injected Jetta GLi, which back then I thought was pretty cool with its boot spoiler. The new Jetta range is good-looking in a subdued way, exuding class and taste. While the basic platform is similar to the Golf, the Jetta is longer and wider, which translates into more space inside the cabin and boot.

We recently parted with our long-termer VW Passat and we immediately felt at home in the cabin of the Jetta as it’s very similar, being almost a slightly scaled down version of the Passat interior. The cabin is business-like, with good quality finishing and a carefully thought out dashboard ensuring intuitive ease when operating.

The driving position can be adjusted to suit people of all lengths and sizes, with reach- and height-adjustable steering and manually adjustable seat.

Our test vehicle comes with the optional leather-trim Vienna sports seats and although they’re supportive and comfortable, at first I was bothered by a protruding ridge at the base of the seat which forced me to sit slightly more forward than I normally would on the seat. However I seem to have adjusted to it and am no longer so aware of it. The glove compartment is cooled and is a handy storage space for keeping items chilled on a hot day.

Our only hiccup was a loose wire that sometimes resulted in the alarm going off when the car was locked, and this has been fixed.

A number of the nice-to-have features on the test car are optional extras and come at a price. Our test vehicle comes kitted out with extras such as Bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights (R10 900), Park Distance Control (R4 610), RCD-510 MP3 with 6-disc CD changer (R4 080), leather-trim Vienna sports seats (R12 320) and electric sunroof (R6 760). A navigation system will put you back R28 850.

VERDICT

The Jetta has come of age with Audi-like build quality and features and will appeal to the more conservatively minded motorist. With a R283 900 price tag, the Jetta’s on the pricey side of the C-segment sedan offering compared with rivals like the Toyota Corolla 2.0 Exclusive R272 400 (102kW & 189Nm), Hyundai Elantra 1.8 exec R246 900 (110kW & 178Nm), Ford Focus sedan 2.0 Trend R259 100 (125kW & 202Nm), Chevrolet Cruze 1.8 LS R233 800 (104kW & 176Nm) and Honda Civic sedan 1.8 executive R274 300 (104kW & 174Nm).

But its strong all-altitude performance and classy interior probably justify the higher price tag. -Star Motoring