The four-door cars take a fraction of sales that their hatchback siblings do, and often look ungainly thanks to a boot being grafted on the back.
But this hasn’t deterred Volkswagen, which has just embarked on a massive advertising campaign for its new Jetta.
The firm expects to sell between 8,000 and 9,000 Jettas in the UK this year – smallish fry compared to the 75,000 Golfs registered annually.
Ah yes, the Golf. We had to mention it at some point, despite Volkswagen insisting that the Jetta is absolutely, positively and definitely NOT a Golf with a boot.
It’s got a whole new body structure, the PR bumpf points out, and is actually a successor to the Bora.
While undeniably Golf-like, the Jetta is actually larger than the Bora all round, and certainly larger than the Golf thanks to the roomy boot. You could easily fit a couple of sets of golf clubs in there.
The back end, therefore, is all new, and reminiscent of the larger Passat.
The design is pleasant, but not that exciting, although the rear LED light clusters are rather cool. The lashings of chrome found on the front of the car continue with a strip around the windows, which add a modicum of spice to what is a fairly conventional looking machine.
Inside you may as well be in a Golf. No marks for originality here, but thankfully the Golf, and so the Jetta, is a nice place to be.
Build quality is good and the plastics on the dashboard have a nice solid feel to them. The 2.0-litre TDI engine is expected to be the biggest seller in the Jetta range.
Turn the ignition key and the engine chugs into life rather more noisily than I’d like. Having jumped straight into the Jetta from a 1.9 TDI Golf, the difference in volume when idling is immediately noticeable.
However, despite the noise the 138bhp unit is a good one, pulling strongly from the off thanks to 174lb-ft of torque which is available right at the bottom of the rev range.
This makes overtaking easy – simply prod the throttle and go, with no need to drop the gearbox down a cog or two.
The six-speed manual gearbox is also a plus point, with just the right amount of throw and a feel that’s not too heavy, but still solid.
The steering weight is really good, although it could perhaps be a little more direct.
Handling is surefooted and competent, with little in the way of body roll and a firm, though not uncomfortable ride.
The Jetta looks and feels refined.
And even though the asking price is only £17,352, it would look perfectly at home parked next to cars worth thousands more. At, say, the golf club.
Volkswagen Jetta 2.0 TDI SE
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £17,352
CO2 emissions (g/km): 157
BIK % of P11D in 2006: 21%
Graduated VED rate: £135
Insurance group: 7
Combined mpg: 38.7
CAP Monitor residual value: £6,375/37%
Depreciation 18.29 pence per mile x 60,000: £10,974
Maintenance 2.70 pence per mile x 60,000: £1,620
Fuel 9.23 pence per mile x 60,000: £5,538
Wholelife cost 30.22 pence per mile x 60,000: £18,132
Typical contract hire rate: £383
At a glance
We don’t like:
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
THE Jetta is the cheapest of the four to buy in its mid-spec SE trim and comes with alloy wheels, electric windows, air conditioning and a CD player as standard. The Megane is slightly more expensive but adds a six-disc changer and xenon headlights. The Focus in Ghia trim costs £65 more than the Volkswagen, while the Volvo S40 in entry-level S trim is the most expensive, costing nearly £800 more than the Jetta.
ALL four cars will offer low service, maintenance and repair costs, but the Volkswagen Jetta is likely to cost the most with a bill of £1,620 over three years and 60,000 miles. The Volvo S40 works out as the cheapest to maintain, costing £1,224 over the same period. SMR costs for the Ford Focus and Renault Megane are similar, with the former demanding £1,500 to keep going and the latter £24 more.
ANOTHER category with low running costs, but it’s the Focus and Megane which share the honours for being the most economical, with claimed combined fuel economy figures of just over 50mpg. They are both likely to cost £5,346 in fuel over three years and 60,000 miles. The Volvo S40 will milk the diesel pump for £5,436 with its claimed average figure of 49.6mpg, while the Jetta returns a claimed 48.7mpg for a likely diesel bill of £5,538 over the same period.
THE Jetta is predicted to retain its value far better than the rest of the cars here. Keep it on your fleet for three years/60,000 miles and CAP estimates it will be worth 37% of its cost new, losing £10,974. Compare that to the second-place S40, which will shed £11,712, keeping 35% of its value. The Focus is likely to depreciate by £12,288, keeping 29% of its value, while the Megane will lose the most – £12,852, thanks to its low residual value forecast of 26%.
WITH its favourable depreciation rates and low front-end price, the Jetta is the cheapest car to run over a three-year/60,000-mile life. Put one of these on your fleet and you can expect to pay £18,132 over that time. The S40 is close behind, costing just 0.4 pence per mile more, with the Focus more than a penny per pile more expensive. The Megane is almost a penny more expensive per mile again at 32.87ppm.
EMISSIONS AND BIK TAX RATES
THE cheapest company car tax bill for a 22% taxpayer will come with either the Focus or Megane, which both have the lowest emissions. Drivers of these cars can expect to pay £60 a month in tax. The Volkswagen and Volvo are also equally matched. Although the Jetta is in a higher tax band, its cheaper price means the bill will be the same as the S40 at £66 a month. VED rates are £115 for the Ford and Renault, and £135 for the Jetta and S40.
IF your drivers can cope with a slightly higher company car tax bill, the logical choice in this comparison is the Volkswagen Jetta. As well as being a fine car to drive and well put together, it is the least expensive to buy and is also the cheapest to run over its fleet life, thanks mainly to a substantially better residual value prediction than its rivals. The Volvo comes a close second and is also strong on wholelife costs.