What is it?
Volkswagen's Jetta is back, and it's predicted to sell as hotly in the UK as ever... Estimated annual volume is all of 3000 units a year, equating roughly to Golf sales over a decent fortnight. The UK doesn't quite 'get' saloons like this one.
They get them in the States, where more than 120,000 Jettas will sell a year. It's also cheap (there): it's built in Mexico, where US models are fitted with torsion beam rear axles and hard interior trim. Euro variants are priced higher thanks to multi-linked rears, better trimmed insides and their Atlantic cruise. Still, £17k-£22k or so isn’t bad, given its size.
Ah yes, the Jetta's size. VW says it bridges the gap between the Golf and Passat. Yet, at 4.64m long it's a good 45cm longer than a Golf, and just 12cm shorter than a Passat. Its boot holds 510 litres (Golf only 350, Passat 545) and there's ample room for adults to sit behind adults in the cabin.
The Jetta is longer even than a BMW 3-Series, leaving it in a peculiar hinterland, especially for those compiling company car lists, entitled 'what the heck is it?'
That solving nothing, let's move on.
What's it like?
Not at all bad. Competitive in its class? Definitely, if you can define its competitors. The meat of the Jetta range finishes where the Passat's gets going, so it undercuts its nearest obvious rival, Volvo's S40, which it also betters.
In terms of interior quality the Jetta's at Golf, perhaps just sub-Golf, levels rather than Passat ones, but in terms of dynamism and involvement it's closer to its larger sibling. Which means it's… fine. Its electrically-assisted steering is responsive and well weighted, it rides respectably, turns adequately.
Our test car was equipped with the ubiquitous 2.0-litre TDI unit developing the same 138bhp you'll find throughout the VW range, and noise levels are low. Very low, in fact. The six-speed optional DSG transmission (a six-speed manual is standard) is fine, too – at its worst during low-speed manoeuvring.
All of which makes the Jetta a car with some reasonably compelling characteristics.
Should I buy one?
Maybe. Tell me you were thinking of buying one, and I'd think that was a decent enough idea.
Yet, tell me you wanted a family-sized Volkswagen, and it wouldn't occur to me to recommend a Jetta over a Golf. Plus ça change.
Volkswagen Jetta 2.0TDI 140 DSG
Price: £21,000 (est); Top speed: 136mph; 0-62mph: 9.5sec; Economy: 53.3mpg; Co2: 138g/km; Kerb weight: 1411kg; Engine: 4cyls in line, turbodiesel; Power:138bhp at 4200rpm; Torque: 236lb ft at 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd dual-clutch auto