Over the years the Jetta has been gradually separating its identity from that of the Golf. Now, with the sixth generation, the divorce is complete. Look carefully at the well-honed shape of the new saloon and you will not see any panels like those of its hatchback brother.
The new Jetta is closer in size to the latest Passat than to the Golf and that may help its salvation in Europe. Lets face it – while the Jetta is the best selling European car in North America, it has been a bit of an also-ran on this side of the Atlantic. The Euro-Jetta will be better tuned to the tastes of drivers in these parts.
The Jetta to be sold here will have the clever four-link rear suspension that transformed the handling of the Golf Mark V. This system has yet to be introduced on the other side of the pond. After driving the car in the South of France I can tell you that it is a much tidier drive than the current model.
Of course the Euro cars will have smaller, more efficient engines that are, indeed, shared with the Golf. When they go on sale in February at prices from around £17,000 the expected best seller will be the 1.4 TSI turbo-charged petrol version. With a useful power of 122PS, I enjoyed this engine in the Golf and expect it to be just as smooth and refined in the new Jetta.
The more powerful 160PS version of the 1.4-litre petrol will offer more peppy performance to exploit the Jetta’s improved suspension. The extra power comes from a combination of supercharging and turbo charging.
VW is also fitting its latest 1.6-litre turbo diesel (105PS) to the Jetta and this is a real fuel miser. In Bluemotion form with features such as stop-start and battery regeneration this is claimed to return 67mpg and emit just 109g/km of Carbon Dioxide. But you will have to pay for the economy as the starter price for the diesel versions will be £18,500!
Like the previous Jetta, the new one is being built in Mexico. The launch cars felt well built and finished. Safety features such as ABS braking, electronic stability control and six airbags are standard. There are S, SE and Sport trims.
To sum up, the Jetta can now be seen as a posh and comfortable saloon with a big boot. It feels taut to drive and could handle more power than the current engines offer. All this may well appeal to people who find that the Passat has got a bit big and expensive for them!