RELIABLE CHOICE: New VW Jetta has well-appointed cabin, decent space and better value than before
RELIABLE CHOICE: New VW Jetta has well-appointed cabin, decent space and better value than before

2015 VW Jetta 103TDI road test

THE Jetta tends to play second fiddle to the Golf, the much-loved wunderkind of the Volkswagen stable, but it is not without its supporters - those people who favour substance over form, who are attuned to its quiet confidence and are lured by its underlying comforts.

But at close to five years old, the second-generation Jetta was in line for a little re-imagining.

Volkswagen has acted to sweeten the deal with the 2015 range dropping some $3700 off its 2011 launch price.

SENSIBLE DIESEL: Jetta 103TDI returns a quoted 5.5-litres/100km and costs from $36,990 drive away. Jetta range starts at $21,990 drive away.
SENSIBLE DIESEL: Jetta 103TDI returns a quoted 5.5-litres/100km and costs from $36,990 drive away. Jetta range starts at $21,990 drive away.

Comfort

Unreservedly, it is the spacious interior that is the hero for the Jetta as it gainfully straddles the line between small and medium sedan.

It may be based on the outgoing Golf platform but has been pulled and stretched within an inch of its life, resulting in oodles of room for occupants - even those in the rear pew - to stretch out in comfort.

The boot, at 510 litres, is big, too and despite a smallish load opening is able to accommodate school bags and the weekly shop with room to spare.

There are useful storage compartments dotted around the cabin, and cup holders and door bins sized for the real world.

The cabin, though, could be much more exciting and even our Highline test car with its upgraded trim was dull and dreary.

The layout, as you would expect from a Volkswagen, is cleverly organised, but both the instrumentation and switchgear could do with a bit of jazzing up.

On the road

A 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel paired with a six-speed DSG transmission is the lone option for those who prefer an oil-burner. And, frankly, so capable is its performance that a single variant is all you need.

The engine is a cracker, making for effortless commutes even under load and having no trouble up steeper inclines or when required to find that handy burst during overtaking.

It can sometimes be rudimentary at take-off, the diesel clatter springing into voice, but is confident once it finds its stride.

The DSG takes a while to catch up down the hill, holding gears longer than audibly ideal, but it is not such a heavy cross to bear.

The ride is pleasant - bar a little road noise - the steering mid-weighted and the brakes reliable and efficient. The Jetta is of course no GTI, but handling is good and it certainly won't shrug away from a challenging corner even when pushed at speed.

PLAIN AND SIMPLE: Range topper gets leather and toys, but cabin lacks any visual flair
PLAIN AND SIMPLE: Range topper gets leather and toys, but cabin lacks any visual flair

What do you get?

Volkswagen has opted to lower prices rather than up the spec levels in this close-to-end-of-life model. The entry-level offerings look decidedly pauperish, especially in technology. But this diesel, available in the top spec only, comes equipped with most of the bells, including sat-nav with colour touchscreen, reverse camera with parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, auto lights and wipers, five-star safety rating and 17-inch alloys.

Running costs

This 103TDI is frugal, decidedly so, with the claimed 5.5 litres/100km easy to replicate during our test week.

Competition

Not quite a small sedan, sometimes a medium-sized one, the Jetta can be hard to place, but the biggest obstacles will likely be the Holden Cruze (from $27,990), Skoda Octavia (from $35,940), Toyota Corolla ZR (from $30,990) and Kia Optima (from $30,490), to name just a handful.

Practicality

While it may not be loud and inviting, there is still much to be said for a quiet underachiever. The Jetta 103TDI does well in offering reams of space, tough easy-wipe surfaces and capable handling. It is a car that suits a multitude of sectors, including families with small or teenage kids. The challenge will lie in luring customers to a car that is not quite as class-leading as it was when this generation first made an appearance in 2011.

Funky Factor

The Jetta is as staid and uncomplicated on the outside as it is within. There have been some tweaks to the exterior, a redesigned front bumper and headlights being the most noticeable among them, but hardly enough to get the blood rushing.

The lowdown

A price drop, especially on the lower-end models, is a crafty move by Volkswagen to keep interest in this car. The diesel, though, can stand on its own capable footings, mixing performance and handling with space and economy in a package that may not be exciting but is certainly sensible. And there is no shame in that.

FAMILY SIZED: Jetta's rivals include Holden Cruze, Skoda Octavia, Toyota Corolla and Kia Optima.
FAMILY SIZED: Jetta's rivals include Holden Cruze, Skoda Octavia, Toyota Corolla and Kia Optima.

What matters most

What we liked: Humungous cabin with big boot, excellent engine, good handling and drive

What we'd like to see: Pepped up interior and exterior, better inclusions in entry models

Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty and capped price servicing. Service is every 15,000km or 12 months, with an average price of $527 per service over six years.

 

Vital statistics

Model: Volkswagen Jetta 103TDI Highline.

Details: Five-door, front-wheel small to medium sedan.

Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel generating maximum power of 103kW@4200rpm and peak torque of 320Nm @ 1750 - 2500rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed DSG.

Consumption: 5.5 litres/100km (combined).

CO2 emissions: 143g/km.

Bottom line: From $36,990 drive away (Jetta 118TSI manual from $21,990 drive away).

TOP SPEC: Diesel Jetta gets the toys, including sat nav with colour touchscreen and reversing camera
TOP SPEC: Diesel Jetta gets the toys, including sat nav with colour touchscreen and reversing camera


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