EXPERTS who can make a complicated concept understandable for the layman are much cleverer than those who inadvertently blind their listeners with science and jargon. I’ve got a very bright nephew, for instance, who makes the concept of quantum physics intelligible even to me.
I think the designers of our new Volkswagen long-termer fall into that category. What I love most about the Jetta is its simplicity. It does what it says on the box with no fancy fripperies or fussy foibles.
The instrument dials have the minimum of information – for instance, just three temperature marks for the excellent heating system – and everything labelled as if for the partially-sighted. I can even imagine my easily-confused 83-year-old dad getting to grips with it all in no time.
For this idiot-proof vehicle, there is no need to pore over the handbook – everything works in the most logical way, and that’s something that’s becoming less and less common in modern cars – particularly the more expensive ones – as manufacturers try to out-do each other with their high-tech extravagances.
Refuelling is the time I’m usually flummoxed. It seems ridiculous to have to look up how to open the filler cap. On the Jetta, the filler cap release is immediately next to the driver’s seat and is easily visible – it’s even helpfully lit up at night – instead of being tucked away inaccessibly underneath the dashboard.
I was pleased to calculate on the Jetta’s first-ever fill-up that I had achieved 33.1mpg, not far behind Volkswagen’s claimed combined figure of 34.4mpg, but I’m wondering if that was a mistake as a month of mainly short urban journeys in cold weather has seen it plummet to 25.6mpg.
Using super unleaded, as recommended by Volkswagen, costs around £3 a tankful more than standard unleaded but presumably makes up for that in improved performance.
Even the satellite navigation system controls are straightforward. It’s amazing how many variations of input there are for something that should be generic yet manages to differ markedly from make to make.
But despite its simplicity, the Jetta still has all the kit, either standard or optional, that any discerning driver could ask for. And it’s good to drive too, managing to combine a nippy round-town gait with excellent motorway cruising ability.
The Jetta replaces the Bora, and signals the revival of the Jetta name in Europe.
By introducing a worldwide, uniform name for its compact saloon, Volkswagen decided to adopt the one already used in the USA, where the Jetta is not only the company’s best-selling car, but also the top-selling European car outright.
It is larger than the Bora it replaces, giving improved interior space. At 4.54m long, it has grown by 17.8cm. Width has increased by 4.6cm to 1.76m, height by 1.3cm to 1.46m and wheelbase by 5.9cm to 2.58m. The luggage area has also increased, offering 527 litres of space – a 72-litre improvement.
To differentiate the Jetta from its Golf stablemate, the saloon comes with a distinctive chrome grille which continues a theme already seen on the Golf R32 and new Passat.
This gives it a more upmarket appearance and, hopes Volkswagen, will tempt buyers away from Ford Mondeos, Vauxhall Vectras and Honda Accords.
This creates something of a crossover, as this is the traditonal upper-medium sector territory of the Jetta’s larger cousin, the Passat.
There will inevitably be some mixing of sales between top-spec Jettas and lower trim level Passats, although the Jetta’s main sales rivals are more likely to be saloon versions of the Ford Focus, Renault Megane and Volvo S40.
From our initial impressions, the Jetta has what it takes to dominate a sector that has always sat in the shadow of the hatchback versions.
The manufacturer’s view
THE Jetta is proving to be tremendous vehicle for both the fleet and private markets.
It recorded a steady rise in interest as the year progressed to post in excess of 7,500 sales throughout 2006. Combining value, dynamic ability and versatility the Jetta would appear to be a hit with the fleet market. With the new range of TDI 170 diesel and innovative TSI engines the Jetta now benefits from a performance edge in addition to its practical virtues. We’re looking forward to building on its success of 2006.
Vincent Kinner, head of fleet services, Volkswagen
Equipment and options
Price: £16,650 (£20,095 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 197
Company car tax bill (2007) 22% tax-payer: £76 per month
Insurance group: 11E
Combined mpg: 34.4
Test mpg: 33.1
CAP Monitor RV: £6,000/37%
Contract hire rate: £350
Expenditure to date: Nil
Figures based on three years/60,000 miles