Let us cut to the chase, the Jetta is what the Japanese should worry about.
It has been a while since we've paid attention to the Jetta. It has always been the niche choice in the local market in the past, while sales of the Japanese sedans have been in the limelight for ages. After witnessing the paradigm shift of the growing popularity of continental cars, the Jetta, now priced at $112,800 for the base model, is a very strong showing that Volkswagen wants a huge piece of the family sedan pie.
Anything with a “Sport” badge naturally gets our attention — something that the new Jetta doesn't seem to want. Bigger and sharper-looking than the outgoing model, the new Jetta features Volkswagen's latest design language, an unassuming grille paired with prominent cheekbones and jawlines.
The rear looks familiar to an older VAG car, but we feel that it complements the front nicely. The rear light do look a little busy, but the overall look of the car doesn't punch your eyeballs out. In fact, we are compelled to call it the mini-Passat rather than the Golf with a boot, which the previous model was so famously known for.
Usually, going for a higher-spec trim level means bigger wheels. Volkswagen is offering the Jetta with 16 inch wheels for the three different trim options. We think that the Sport does deserve bigger rims to complete the sport moniker, those stock wheels do look small when compared to the size of the car itself.
Big wheels aside, there is still plenty to like about the Jetta Sport, starting with the interior. Unlike several futuristic designs that the Japanese and Koreans are offering today, the Jetta Sport does the job with the same uncluttered and easily accessible dash we've seen again and again. It's beginning to look dated, but it does the job just fine.
What you do get in return is space and loads of storage cubbyholes placed in all the right locations including doors, centre console and under the air conditioning panel. There is enough space to fit three big... make that fat humans in the back seat with relative comfort — which is improved with the inclusion of rear air conditioning vents. More creature comforts include two-zone climate control, KESSY the keyless entry system and the RNS 510 navigation system.
There is a little worry we have about the interior: Some of the less-noticed panels do feel a little hard and cheap, but kudos to the designers for keeping the quality in a fair majority of the panels. The boot can easily swallow a week's worth of groceries, even if you have pets. It is huge, the waist-level loading lip makes loading easy and it extends deep into the cabin. If that is not enough, the rear 60:40 split ratio seats can be folded down for even more booty space for that flat-packed furniture spree.
No surprises lurk under the bonnet here. It's Volkswagen's 1.4-litre turbo and supercharged TSI engine that churns out enough power for a good shove into the seats. Paired with the 7-speed DSG gearbox, the car never feels underpowered. There are steering wheel mounted paddle shifters for that special moment when you find a quiet twisty road.. but don't put the pedal to the metal just yet.
The handling does let down the sport badge a bit. The ride is ok — firm, but not crashy. It's the big circle in front of us which we have a beef with. While there is certainly a good amount of grip from the tyres, a road-hugging suspension feel and well-weighted steering, there is almost a certain sensation that the car is hiding something — feedback from the front tyres. It is not as sharp to drive as a Golf, which can be attributed to a longer wheelbase. The Jetta Sport overall isn’t a bad car to drive, but it is almost criminally bland.
In conclusion, if you are shopping for a good car, the Jetta Sport does have some very good points that makes it a safe choice. Firstly, it's big. Secondly, it's fast. Thirdly, it's priced to worry the competition (with that said, the competition offers thirstier 2.0-litre engines for roughly the same price). With these three big pluses, it won't be long until you come across a Jetta Sport on the road. We'll pick it if we want a sensible family sedan, but as a sports car... we can only hope that the GLI and the speculated R variants will pack all the necessary thrills.