The Volkswagen Jetta was introduced to the market in 1999 as a larger and more sophisticated alternative to the Volkswagen Golf. In its original incarnation in particular, the Jetta is seen very much as a Golf with a boot; however, despite the inevitable comparisons that are drawn between the two, it also manages to fulfil its role as a family car, positioned somewhere between the sportier, younger-at-heart Golf and the Passat, with its air of elder statesman gravitas.
In an arguably misguided attempt to bring an updated, sportier feel to the VW range, the Jetta was withdrawn from manufacture in favour of the Bora, which in turn failed to set the world alight, heralding the hasty return of the Jetta the following year. These post-2006 models are the most popular on the used car market and offer decent value for money, reliability, and efficiency to drivers looking for a mid-size family cruiser.
The post-2011 sixth-generation Jetta is proving particularly successful, thanks to its lower entry price combined with upgrades that have well and truly completed its transformation away from its Golf sibling into a dedicated sedan worthy of consideration in its own right.
Fifth-generation Jettas dating from 2006 to 2010 come in a choice of seven models, ranging between the base model and a 147 TSI with full sport package.
The 2011 Jetta base model comes with a 6-speed manual gearbox and a 1.4L 118TSI petrol engine that provides 118kW and 240Nm of torque. In total there are five of these sixth-generation models, comprising a choice of two petrol engines and a diesel option with three different trim levels. Other than the base model, all feature 6- or 7-speed DSG (direct-shift gearbox) dual-clutch multiple-shaft automatic transmission. The base model has the DSG available as an optional extra. Ddont rule out a used Jetta 118TSI on the basis that it doesnt have it.
Expect the 118 to return 6.2L/100km using premium unleaded, and dont be put off by the higher fuel cost as this is more than offset by the Jettas significant reduction in overall fuel consumption.
Jettas come packed with plenty of kit, even on the base models. A typical 147TSI dating from 2010 features cruise control, launch control, hill start assist, automatic rain-sense wipers, and a turn-down left mirror for reversing, all of which make for an easier drive. Throw into the equation 7 airbags including side curtains, a cooled glove box, and a 10-speaker sound system with speed-sense automatic volume control, and youre in for a pretty comfortable ride as a passenger too.
Plenty of Jettas come with leather interiors, which were either standard or an optional extra depending on the model, along with heated seats, and plenty enough legroom to front and back, with the exception of perhaps a particularly robustly sized adult sitting in the rear centre. Leather steering wheel with audio and telephone controls has come as standard on all Jetta models since its reintroduction in 2006. Alloys are standard on higher-spec trims but dont expect to find them on a base model unless selected as an optional extra at the time of purchase.
The Comfortline spec accounts for the bulk of Jetta sales. If you are looking at this model, expect to find 6-speed DSG automatic transmission, 16-inch alloys, and plenty of interior gadgetry to increase ride comfort and performance.
The Jetta competes with several models from its own Volkswagen stable. Obvious comparisons are drawn with its smaller but sporty sibling, the Golf, and with its larger big brother, the Passat. With just 25cm length to distinguish later Jettas from the Passat, if you are after a good-size European-engineered sedan at a reasonable price, choosing the Jetta really does make economic sense.
Buyers considering an earlier fifth-generation Jetta might also consider the Bora, VWs rival model that briefly replaced the Jetta on the forecourts before ushering in its hasty return. You may find the Boras lack of mainstream success is also reflected in a lower price tag for what is essentially an extremely comparable car.
Competition from other manufacturers includes BMWs 3 series, Volvo S40, Toyota Camry, Lexus IS200, Peugeot 406 sedan, Mazda6 sedan, and ALFA 156 sedan, with the Jetta mostly winning them over on standard kit and price tag.