– by Jon B
“It’s premium German engineering at a price engineered to get you moving”. The tagline is certainly appropriate for the Jetta, with a starting price of Cdn$14,990. Canadians certainly responded as Volkswagen Canada moved 31,042 Jettas in 2014, which accounts for nearly 50% of its total sales. One may recall that the cost of entry into the Volkswagen family started in the low $20,000s less than a decade ago, so how did Volkswagen manage to drop the price substantially?
Typical of a European manufacturer, a wide range of engine options are available on the Jetta. You could have a 2.0 litre engine from The Flintstones, an advanced 1.8 litre TSI, a torquey diesel engine with excellent fuel economy and a powerful 2.0 litre TSI with 210 turbocharged horsepower. An assortment of transmissions are also offered with 5 and 6 speed manuals, 6 speed automatics with or without Tiptronic and a Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) with 6 gears and with or without flappy paddles.
My test car was equipped with the reasonably sized 2.0 litre engine but with a single overhead camshaft providing 2 valves per cylinder mounted transversely under the hood. It produces a paltry 115hp @ 5,000rpm but a torquey 125lb-ft @ 4,000rpm. If you’re a high school student, this engine has been in use in the Jetta since well before you were born. And while I was never left wanting for more power in the city in part because of the shorter 1st and 2nd gears of the automatic transmission, the fuel consumption of 10.5L/100km is rather appalling and certainly last century. It’s even bested by its own turbocharged 2.0 TSI sibling. On the positive side, the number is close to the revised 2015 city fuel economy ratings of 10.4L/100km (22.6mpg) for the Jetta 2.0L. My preference will be to spend the extra coin for a more modern engine, such as the 1.8 litre TSI with 4 valves per cylinder, a timing chain and direct fuel injection.
Nip & Tuck
The 2015 arrives with a mid-life refresh with available LED DRLs, a tweaked front grille and active grille shutters on all engine models except the base 2.0 litre. It’s a handsome car with clean lines, void of eccentric bolt-on appendages that will draw attention from the local constabulary. It certainly doesn’t look out of place parked on Savile Row. When I first approached the car, I thought I was going to drive a Passat. It certainly looks much larger than any Jetta before it and it pays dividends in interior accommodations.
A German Affair
A black cloth interior greeted me with some patterned silver trim to break up the monotony. The seats were comfortable and supportive. The interior plastics are well put together and it feels solid that one expects from a German company. However, with the low entry price, cost cutting is evident with moulded plastic interior door panels with no cloth inserts and a shiny black dashboard that doesn’t quite exude the premium quality that Volkswagen is known for. My past experience with Volkswagen is that if you go with their more expensive trim, you will be treated with contrasting colours, attractive materials and a generally posher experience worthy of a car one class up. As it stands, my test vehicle is a modern interpretation of a functional interior. Visibility is excellent all around, even with large rear headrests, something that is becoming a rarity in today’s vehicles. My vehicle was equipped with a reverse camera to aid in parking; a pity that Volkswagen decided not to use the entire real estate of the screen to display the camera, but rather dedicate an entire column on the right side of the screen to simply display the “Back” button. On the positive side, this touchscreen is standard on all models and comes with a CD changer, AUX input and on the Trendline+, a Media Device Interface that allows the owner to plug in their Apple product or USB-equipped audio source.
Rear seat passengers will appreciate the increased legroom and shoulder room and 12V power outlet to charge small electronics; a handy bi-level shelf nearby offers a place to rest your phone should your fingers become tired. However, Trendline and Trendline+ trim levels lack rear cup holders, a rear armrest or seatback pockets.
Around the back, a commodious trunk that typically bestows Volkswagen sedans is present but is ever so slightly smaller than the previous generation. At 440 litres (15.5 cu. ft.), it will swallow luggage for four for a weekend trip comfortably.
Autobahn for All
The marketing tagline is certainly appropriate. The Jetta certainly imparts solidity and confidence in the concrete jungle or out on the open road. The suspension is firm yet compliant but the hard compound tyres certainly make themselves known. Noise intrusion into the cabin is kept to a minimum, a refreshing luxury that’s still not too common in this class. However, on wet roads, the sound of water spraying beneath the vehicle call to mind waves lapping onto the shore so some improvement can be made in that area.
I certainly enjoyed my time with the Jetta. It shows that Volkswagen is serious in competing in the compact class and has put forth a valiant effort made more attractive by offering good value for money. It drives like a larger car, it doesn’t feel tinny and in my Trendline+ trim level, it’s well equipped with extra touches such as heated front seats, Bluetooth connectivity and one-touch power windows for all windows. The greatest letdown for me is the engine and the associated fuel economy. The more aggressive gearing for the automatic to account for the lack of power is reflected in the city rating compared to its competitors that are up to 2.0L/100km more fuel efficient in the city. Out on the highway, it’s actually comparable.
The Jetta makes for a great first car or a family car. With a large range of price and features, it caters to a much wider range of buyers than ever before. And with a warranty that’s more typical of luxury cars than mainstream, it provides additional peace of mind, even as life whizzes by.
US (Prices listed for manual transmission. Auto add $1,100)
$17,325 2.0L S
$18,320 2.0L S w/ Technology
$18,995 1.8T SE
$20,895 1.8T Sport
$22,325 1.8T SE w/ Connectivity
$23,650 1.8T SE w/Connectivity & Nav
$25,380 1.8T SEL
$21,640 TDI S
$24,075 TDI SE w/ Connectivity
$26,410 TDI SEL
$27,645 Hybrid SE
$30,245 Hybrid SEL
$31,895 Hybrid SEL Premium
$26,920 GLI SE
$29,280 GLI SEL
Canada (Prices listed for manual transmission. Auto add $1,400)
$14,990 2.0L Trendline
$17,690 2.0L Trendline+
$20,690 1.8 TSI Trendline+
$22,890 1.8 TSI Comfortline
$25,990 1.8 TSI Highline
$23,890 2.0 TDI Trendline+
$25,290 2.0 TDI Comfortline
$38,290 2.0 TDI Highline
$32,790 GLI Autobahn
As tested: 2.0L Trendline+ w/ 6-Spd Tiptronic Automatic – Cdn$19,090 (PDI/Taxes extra)