Right Proportions | Volkswagen Jetta Highline

BY Azfar Hashim

Can the latest facelift exercise make the Jetta any more desirable?

Photos: Azfar Hashim

They say sedans lack character. Well, not all of them - because the Jetta is one of those sedan power-loving dads who have to outgrow the hot-hatch phase the ability to still, somehow, continue their obsession with force-fed powaaah albeit in a more practical package.

So now, here's an updated Volkswagen sedan with a 1.4-litre TSI engine.

I hereby begin this specific part of my review by saying that the Jetta is a proportionate car that manages to escape the horror of hatchbacks-slapped-with-a-boot. Volkswagen didn't just paste the front end of the Golf to the rear end of a Passat to call it a small sedan - they actually bothered to redesign the Jetta to make it its own standalone model without sharing any exterior parts from any other model in its stable.

That said, the Jetta is a major departure from its conservatively styled Bora (remember that one?). Walk around it, and you’ll notice how its sporty frontage is akin to a bull glaring fiercely, waiting to charge towards the matador with the VW emblem making itself known. Those new headlamps with LED daytime running light however, only come standard with this top-tier Highline version by the way. Also, Volkswagen redesigned the front bumper to improve the car's overall aerodynamics - thankfully, it still remains handsome…

It may not come with a bodykit or fancy alloy wheels as standard (those 16-inch sadly looks too puny on this car unfortunately), but it somewhat, just somewhat, manage to stay sporty and equally dynamic.

This update Jetta has an interior that’s quintessentially Volkswagen, and of course that’s said in a good way - a largely beige interior ('Corn Silk Beige' in VW speak) matched with solid build quality, and topped off with seats that can accommodate a family of five comfortably, the Jetta is indeed showing how things should be done in a proper sedan. Controls are also well laid out, and designed as idiot-proof as possible, ensuring that anyone driving it - lets face it, the car will be shared between you and the Mrs anyway - won’t have any difficulty toggling between the audio or air-con.

To add more value, VW even made its high-end audio head-unit with GPS a standard affair here. The telescopic flat-bottomed steering wheel makes an appearance as well - brilliant for Asian-sized drivers as it also won't get in your belly's way. Then the set of control buttons - for audio, Bluetooth, cruise control and onboard computer - ensures you don't have to stretch and move around to operate any of them. From this, you can just know a lot of thought went into sorting out the cockpit.

The 510-litres boot space remains a class-leading act altogether; now for the sake of comparison, the crowd favourite Corolla Altis can only manage 470-litres. And with that cavernous design, there should be space to wallop all sorts of bags into the boot. In fact, it can swallow everything in, I reckon it’s a vortex — all you need to do is just put your bags before the boot, open the boot and, tadaa, everything will be sucked nicely into place. Definitely useful during those long driving holidays up North.

Of course, any driver would notice something was up because there’s such useable, accessible power across the band. Volkswagen claims 122 bhp at 5,000 rpm, but more importantly, torque of 200 Nm from as low as 1,500 rpm - unsurprisingly the highest when compared to the rest of its peers. With that, it’s hard to keep your foot planted to keep it going at legal speeds, as there’s just that tendency to floor the accelerator once the road opens up. Power is constantly on demand, and even the slightest prod is adequate to keep the Jetta moving; just to add, cruising at three digit North-South highway speeds is not an issue either.

However, there’s that noticeable lag when you suddenly floor the accelerator to overtake - but that’s easily forgivable seeing how fast it accelerates once it gains back its composure and start climbing up towards the redline. Torque is easily available and at every traffic-light grand prix, the Jetta sets off first in a blink of an eye. This is no exaggeration, mind you.

The DSG unit in this Jetta feels more refined, and the shifts are pretty much seamless when left to run on its own. Of course, it still remains more satisfying when shifted manually via the paddle-shifter.

The sporty bit of the Jetta can be felt even when driven hard. It moves and reacts about as fast as you can think, and feels balanced and sharp. Steering is nicely quick and precise - just something rare for a sedan in this class, true, but it still cannot beat the Focus in this aspect. Although the suspension feels a little soft compared to the previous version, it does its job well of soaking up bumps and road irregularities, hence you can rest assure everyone will still travel in comfort.

But it also bears the bane similar to most sedan: Understeer. One disadvantage of having a boot is that at corners taken with speed, it tends to understeer with the rear end pushing out. Normal drivers would find this harrowing but thanks to the ESP, a simple tweak of the throttle and correcting the steering will easily keep things back under control.

Admittedly, the Jetta may not win any beauty contests, but it's a well built, well-equipped family car overall. And on top of that list is the fact that it does a good job of providing everyday practicality and at the same time, bang-for-buck performance; the latter being its biggest trump card.

(P.S. - Well sized means it works equally well as a wedding car.)