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Sense and sensibility

The Volkswagen Jetta 1.6 is quintessentially German—unassuming to look at but brilliant to drive.

Vikrant Singh | Print Edition: September 7, 2008

Acar’s nationality says a lot about its personality. The Japanese makes, like the people, are lean, efficient and consumed with technology. And just as American people love greasy food—fried chicken, cheesy burgers and dripping French fries—their cars, like them, are bulky, cumbersome and as agile as a sloth. And yes, the cars gorge on the greasy stuff (petroleum) as well. Germans are more like the Japanese—they are efficient and they embrace technology. They are, however, well built and take the “safety first” motto quite seriously.

But, unlike the Americans, they somehow manage to haul around their weight with finesse and precision. But the Germans aren’t exactly a dressy lot. And the Volkswagen Jetta, now also made in India, is just that—a German with a dress sense that can at best be described as conservative, unassuming and straight-jacketed—both inside and out.

Take the instrumentation, for instance—it’s easy to decipher and clearly marked out, but design wise, it can, at best, please the traditionalists. To give the Jetta its due, it’s superbly built—the quality of plastics used, the immaculate fit and finish and the attention to detail is noteworthy. It’s loaded to the gills as well—six airbags, traction control, and a glove box that doubles up as a cool box and auto up/down function for power windows on all four doors. It’s reasonably spacious, has comfortable seats and the ride quality adds handsomely to the comfort factor.

The damping is well sorted, meaning that the ride and handling of the car doesn’t go for a six when completely loaded, and the car does not go around licking every speed breaker. This is one aspect where the Jetta simply annihilates its competition. It dispatches road inconveniences with aplomb at all speeds, with only a slight sensation of the exertion seeping through. It works especially well at high speeds and over poorly-surfaced roads, and the poise shown in handling unexpected dips and crests is
remarkable.


A) The Jetta has a neat and easy-toread instrument panel
B) The DSG in the diesel car makes for a better drive than the manual
C) The reasonably spacious boot adds to the comfort factor of the Jetta

The Jetta is available in three trim levels and two engines options. There’s the base Trendline variant with a 1.6 litre petrol engine and a manual gearbox. Another Trendline but with a 1.9 litre diesel (the same engine as on the Skoda Laura). And then, there’s a fully-loaded 1.9 Comfortline trim, which comes with the brilliant dual clutch automatic transmission. We sampled the 1.6 petrol Trendline, and it is a fine car in its own right. That is, of course, till you drive away in the competition, which sport bigger, more powerful engines. The thing about the VW petrol engine is that it only makes a little over 100 bhp, but has to haul in excess of 1.2 tonne. As a result, it does feel underpowered and lethargic, and also needs to be worked hard to keep the momentum up. 

 The 1.9 diesel is better; it’s more powerful, more efficient and the DSG (DirektSchaltGetriebe, which translates into Direct Shift Gearbox) is a joy to use. But it might prove to be a bit noisy for the highly discerning customer. Volkswagen is a relatively new entrant in India. And its latest, the Jetta, isn’t the best driver’s car or the most handsome. It’s more loaded with safety and convenience features, however, and offers more comfort than the competition. It is a car that a sensible individual, rather than the emotional, shepherded crowd, will buy.

Specs
Engine:
1.6 litre petrol
Gearbox: 5-speed manual
Max power: 102 bhp
Max torque: 148 Nm
0-100 KMPH: 13.8 seconds
Top speed: 174 kmph
Price: Rs 12.9 Lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi

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