A great ride, but a trifle too sober in looks?
THE Jetta was one of the first offerings in India from German automobile heavyweight Volkswagen, but in its 8-year life, it never really got its due. Initially, the Skoda Octavia hogged the limelight. Much later, competition started to catch up, and the segment below too started punching above its weight.
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The Jetta suffered, and VW has given it a facelift, to make it look "somewhat" different.
It is a VW habit that there is no radical change from one generation to the next. In the Jetta, it is not even a generational change, so differences between the new version and the outgoing one are minimal. There is a new front grille and bumper, larger air dams, new fog lamps, refreshed tail lamps, bumper and boot lid. The list seems long, but the changes are subtle. There is no overt flourish nor a curve that stands out. Even the tail lamps aren't wraparound. It has that quiet confidence of a design that knows it looks smart without trying too hard. Smart, mind you — not smashing.
To the naked eye, the changes inside the cabin are even more microscopic. There is a twin tube instrument cluster that is new without being novel, and a flat-bottom multifunctional steering wheel carried forward from the Polo and Vento. Otherwise it is just a simple and well put together interior. The quality and fit and finish put even an Elantra and a Corolla Altis to shame. The seats are plush, and space more than adequate. But there is nothing that shouts for attention.
RIDE AND HANDLING
For any European car, the acid test is not just how well it rides, but how well it handles corners without compromising the ride quality. Some cars tackle corners like pros, but the stiff suspension leaves you a sore back. Others err on the side of the ride quality, but handling is inconsistent. Both the Jetta variants are spot-on both — the diminutive 1.4-litre petrol and the superlative 2.0 litre diesel. No compromise to attract the mileage fans. The surge of power puts a smile on your face, and the well-weighted steering and suspension are good for cornering the whole day without tiring you out.
This is an awfully nice car, but... It seems VW has either lost its focus or its interest in India. Late entrants, they did come with a lot of ideas, but results don't seem to have matched up. Coupled with a dry product pipeline, the current indifference is almost understandable. What is not, is the jostling on with its own sister firm Skoda. The new Octavia, built on the lighter more modern MQB platform is a better performer and a more efficient vehicle. If Jetta had got the same treatment — a lighter framework and even peppier engines — it would have made sense. Without that, there may be takers for the Jetta's understated elegance, but that would not be a crowd.