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2006-02-27 14:11

Passat-styled rear lights for new Jetta

Wilmer Muller

Since VW introduced the first Jetta here in 1980 the company has sold more than 350 000 units. As with the Golf, the Jetta has been a sales hit for VW and it is a car the public has high expectations of.

Despite the fact that the first Jettas were described as a booted Golf, the Jetta has slowly started to develop its own identity.

With the launch of the Jetta 4 in the late nineties, the car managed to break away from its "Golf with a rucksack" image.

For the first time the Jetta had its own identity and there were no obvious similarities with its Golf sibling. There was no way you could mistake the Jetta 4 for a Golf as it has a complete different front and rear-end design to the Golf.

The Jetta 5 continues to have its own identity, or so VW claims... but to some it might just seem that the latest model is again a "booted Golf" or perhaps a scaled down version of the Passat.

At first glance it is clear that the new Jetta's face resembles that of the Golf but VW is also quick to point out that this is where the styling similarities with Golf stops.

According to VW the rest of the body panels are unique to the Jetta. However, the engine range, safety equipment, trim levels, fit and finish and interior design reflect those of the Golf.

So how much uniqueness does the Jetta offer? Good question.

The Jetta has a different grille from Golf - unlike the Golf the Jetta offers a striking chrome trimmed grille similar to that of the Passat.

But recent spy photos published on Wheels24 show that the Golf is to get the same front-end treatment as the Jetta sometime in 2006 - so there goes that bit of individuality.

Aha, the most obvious difference is of course that the Jetta is a saloon.

As a sedan it offers 527 litres of boot space, which is 72 litres more than its predecessor. And VW says that if you fold the rear seats down you can even load goods as long a 1.9m into a Jetta.

This is indeed a unique attribute as the Golf has only 270 litres which is about half of the Jetta's boot capacity. Naturally the Jetta offers a bit more interior room too and legroom for rear passengers is better than on the Golf.

So, the Jetta's enormous boot space will indeed be a main selling point and potential buyers will be pleased to know that it comes with a full-size spare wheel too.

Looking at the rear design of the car there is no way you could mistake the Jetta for a Golf, but you could just think it is a Passat. Its taillights, with LED lights, are of a similar design to those of the Passat.


Under the skin the Jetta is pure Golf. As with its hatchback sibling the Jetta comes with six engine choices of which two are diesel. Depending on the engine derivative, you can also choose between manual and automatic (Tiptronic or DSG) transmissions.

The entry-level model comes with VW's 75 kW 1.6-litre unit, which is a bit flat in the Jetta, and we would recommend buyers to rather go for the four-cylinder 85 kW 2-litre model, which is only about R5 000 more expensive.

The other two petrol engines available are the 2.0 FSI unit, which kicks out 110 kW at 6 000 r/min and 200 Nm at 3 500 Nm, and its turbocharged version.

The latter is the very popular GTI engine, with a power output of 147 kW at 5 100 r/min and a torque figure of 280 Nm at 1 800 r/min.

Like before the Jetta also comes with a 1.9 TDI engine, but it now has 77 kW of power instead of 85 kW. However, torque is up from 235 Nm to 250 Nm.

At R204 770 for the five-speed manual version the Jetta 1.9 TDI is probably the best buy in the range.

For those who crave for more diesel grunt, there is the 2.0 TDI model. It thrusts out 103 kW at 4 000 r/min while torque is a lekker 320 Nm at 1 750 r/min.

Driving it

VW says the new Jetta is 15% stiffer than the previous model and it is firmer than the Golf too. The front strut axle with lower wishbone from the previous Jetta/Golf has been extensively revised in numerous areas for use in the new model. It shares its multi-link rear axle with Golf.

The Jetta also has VW's electro-mechanical steering system called Servotronic - this system only acts when the driver turns the steering wheel.

However, if the 'intuitive' steering detects that the road is sloping crossways, it will counter-steer accordingly so that there is minimal effort on the part of the driver.

Thanks to its Golf genes, the Jetta offers the same stable ride. In general the ride is balanced and handling is accurate. In general the car behaves well and at higher speeds the Jetta is sharp and controlled.

We only sampled the 1.6, 1.9 TDI, 2.0 TDI and the 2.0T FSI models. As mentioned the Jetta feels dead with the 1.6-litre engine and it would be worth paying a bit extra for the 85 kW 2-litre or 1.9 TDI model.

The 1.9 TDI engine is a sober choice and comes with a five-speed or VW"s highly-acclaimed DSG transmission. This direct-shift gearbox compliments diesel power well, and once you tried it, any other auto transmission feels dated.

Although the 1.9 TDI engine might not be the most entertaining in the range it has enough oomph to get the 1300kg Jetta going. It perhaps lacks a bit of zest lower down but when it is on the go it offers a satisfying ride.

For those with sportier taste buds the 2.0 TDI and 2.0 T FSI will satisfy your cravings.

Like the 1.9 TDI the 2.0 TDI model might sound a bit rough but its power and eagerness could just leave some hot hatch drivers red faced.

The 2-litre turbo-charged Jetta is as expected the best engine option (and most expensive) model in the range but it is probably one of the nicest sport sedans in its price segment too.

This Jetta's instant power makes you want more and its road manners are almost on par with those of the GTI. It is good fun to drive and if you can't wait almost eight months for a GTI, this is a good second choice if you are VW brand loyal.

With stunning 17-inch alloys and some other sporty touches the 2.0 T FSI definitely looks the hot wheels part too.


The old Jetta set class-leading standards for medium-sized sedan, especially in terms of build and interior quality. Again the Jetta 5 is a quality and solid built vehicle, which will offer its owners a great motoring experience.

The Jetta comes with a comprehensive safety package and all the usual trimmings but on most models you will have to pay extra for comfort features such as a multi-function steering wheel with audio controls, which we feel could be standard.

On the base 1.6 and 2.0 Trendline models a radio/CD-player is also still optional - again a feature which should be standard for a car such as a Jetta. In general pricing is slightly up from its predecessor but VW guarantees that the newcomer is better value for money.

However, as with most VW products car buyers will probably be okay with paying a bit extra as the Jetta badge is a tried and tested South African brand.

The new generation is everything one expect a Jetta to be - well engineered, solid build quality, a good drive and spacious.

In its latest guise the Jetta is a still looker too. On the Jetta's launch route in Mpumalanga we once drove behind a Corolla and Megane, both serious rivals to the Jetta. But it was clear for my co-driver and me that both cars suddenly looked dated when compared to the Jetta.

Whereas some people describe the Golf's nose as dull the Jetta's chrome grille gives it a classy look. Its rear design works well too and in general the car's chunky appearance makes it look sporty too.

The Jetta might have design similarities with the Golf and Passat, but why should it be a bad thing?

Yes, there could be the stigma that the car is still a "booted Golf" as well, however, what is new? This image has worked well for South Africans for more than two decades, and there is no doubt that the latest Jetta will again be a popular buy.

As before the Jetta is still the classier offering in its segment and it is geared to become another good selling VW product.


Petrol models:

  • 1.6 Trendline (Manual): R172 930
  • 1.6 Comfortline (Manual): R190 850
  • 1.6 Comfortline (Tiptronic): R202 570
  • 2.0 Trendline (Manual): R177 030
  • 2.0 Comfortline (Manual): R194 950
  • 2.0 FSI Sportline (Manual): R215 780
  • 2.0T FSI Sportline (Manual): R246 580
  • 2.0T FSI Sportline (DSG): R260 080

    Diesel models:

  • 1.9 TDI Comfortline (Manual): R204 770
  • 1.9 TDI Comfortline (DSG): R218 270
  • 2.0 TDI Sportline (Manual): R234 400

    All models come with VW's AutoMotion plan of 5 years/60 000 km.


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