October 20, 2016 @ 01:48 PM

Volkswagen Jetta facelift - Better late than never

A new engine for the Jetta but that’s not even what we’re excited about as more equipment brings it on par with the segment’s frontrunners

The new head honchos holding the Volkswagen portfolio in Malaysia certainly have their work cut out for them and are quickly getting down to things with new models launched or in the pipeline as well as shoring up their aftersales.

However, new products alone won’t be able to shoulder the expectations and need to be backed up with the right appeal to its buyer demographic. The new management has just launched the facelifted Volkswagen Jetta; soon to be followed by the all-new Passat.

Early impressions with the way things are being handled point towards promising times. Apart from increased kit, the new Jetta also benefits from a reduction in price over its predecessor. Although C-segment buyers generally prioritise refinement and comfort over outright value for money, both those factors combined does tilt things in its favour and that never hurt anyone before.

The biggest change comes under the hood with the new 1.4-litre TSI engine replacing the older 1.4-litre twin-charged unit. This time around, the supercharger has been binned with forced induction provided solely by the turbocharger. Horsepower drops by 10bhp to 150bhp but torque increases by 10Nm to 250Nm. The same engine also powers the Golf TSI.

Linking the new engine to the front wheels is Volkswagen’s familiar seven-speed DSG that now incorporates a coasting function to further reduce the fuel consumption. When cruising and the throttle is released, the transmission decouples the clutch for the car to roll on its own momentum until the you get back on the throttle. Coupled with the addition of a stop-start and regenerative braking, the official fuel figures are rated at 5.0-litres/100kilometres.

All this works in its favour to have the Jetta certified as an Energy Efficient Vehicle and qualify it for tax breaks that are behind the price reduction.

Cosmetically, enhancements are pretty subtle with redesigned bumpers the most obvious, after the bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights and LED taillights. Together, the understated changes combine to give the Jetta a much more upmarket appearance whilst further increasing its physical similarities with the current Passat; quite a handsome machine in itself.

Equipment wise is where the new Jetta has truly plucked itself up. With three variants available, we’re putting our money on the majority of buyers opting for the flagship Highline with the full bells and whistles.

The cabin is still instantly recognisable as a Jetta with its monotonous function over form dashboard that could use a little more detailing. God knows they tried with the faux wood inserts but it ends up looking extremely out of place. Some brushed aluminium or even piano black high gloss would have looked more at home. The leather seats look the part of a continental C-segmenter and a powered driver’s seat is a welcome touch.

Nonetheless, we’re keener on getting to know the equipment count that has grown considerably. Keyless entry is one of those features that we now take for granted and the convenience it assures is appreciated by everyone that has ever walked back to their cars with their hands full of bags only to realise the key is in the pants pocket.

A push start button also adds considerable modernising to the cabin but not being designed from the start to accommodate these features is glaringly obvious in its integration. The button is a little smaller than what we’re used to, about the size of a 20 cent coin, in order to fit one of the black buttons in front of the shifter that would otherwise be utilised as a switch for other functions.

The entertainment front steps up a notch with a touchscreen system although you still can’t get a reverse camera even in the Highline. Volkswagen’s parking display is pretty competent nonetheless.

A quick daytrip to Malacca the day after the launch gave the media an initial impression of the Jetta with a fair mix of highway, trunk roads and city streets.

Volkswagen’s TSI engines have always been spritely and quick, lending the car some verve and nippiness that others find hard to replicate. The loss of the supercharger can be felt though as the engine displays a pinch of lag as you get on the gas before it picks up and hauls ass.

Mystifyingly though, the Golf TSI that runs on the same engine is quick and instantaneous with input from the right pedal. A concurrence couldn’t be reached on the exact cause but in the end, it doesn’t even matter as its just one miniscule black mark on an otherwise sublime engine.

The seven gears and shorter spacing between the lower ratios help the Jetta capitalise on its peak torque that kicks in early in the powerband. Quick bursts of acceleration at any speed made overtaking a cinch and the speedo piled on the numbers with considerable haste. Paddle shifters have been added into the mix as well and play its part in accentuating the sporty nature of the sedan.

Plonk it in seventh gear and it’ll cruise comfortably until you run out of road. Continental vehicles always exude a sense of composure and nonchalance with long drives. They swallow up miles of highway or even trunk roads without tiring out the driver or seeming overworked.

The move to larger 17-inch wheels makes good cosmetic fodder but the ride comfort has sacrificed a little in place with undulations and imperfections on the road seemingly amplified through the seats courtesy of the lower profile tyres. To balance it up though, the road holding has improved with a little more confidence on the move.

Granted, it’s a little late to the party with equipment that is becoming pretty commonplace in the segment but even so, the Jetta can still make a good case for itself with that engine and transmission combo that gives it an edge over its peers. Jumbled in with the updated features, the Jetta can now take on some of the more popular entries such as the Honda Civic and Mazda 3 with a better fighting chance although its unlikely to unsettle the Japanese dominance.

 

Volkswagen Jetta 1.4 TSI Highline

Price: RM129,578 OTR w/o insurance

Engine: 1395cc, inline-four, DOHC 16V, direct injection, turbocharged, variable valve intake, 150bhp @ 5000rpm, 250Nm @ 1500rpm

Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive

Performance: 0-100kph 8.6-seconds, 220kmh, 5.0l/100km

Dimensions (l/w/h): 4644mm, 1778mm, 1482mm

Weight: 1289kg

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