There’s much to say for keeping a winning formula going. Volkswagen notably are strong proponents of this philosophy, with their strong-selling Golf hatchback having retained pretty much the same formula since its introduction nearly four decades ago now, with most of the major developments happening under the skin. And of course, the iconic Beetle kept going for over half a century with barely any changes, before it was renewed for the new millennium.
The same idea is replicated on a smaller scale with the new Jetta we have here. Well, when we say ‘new’, we mean something more of a mid-life update. Nevertheless, Volkswagen insists that the changes to the refreshed Jetta are more than just cosmetic, and that there are efficiency enhancements as well.
But let’s go for the obvious first. At first glance it can be hard to tell the difference between this and the outgoing version, but those with sharp eyes will notice the slightly different lights front and rear, and the redesigned front grille. You can specify Xenon lights as an option, as shown here on our mid-spec Highline test car, and they come with distinctive LED daytime running lights to go along as well. LED taillights are also optional items you can spec too for your Jetta.
Inside, the Jetta’s cabin has been cleaned up and updated a tad. The multi-function steering wheel will be familiar to anyone who has sat inside a new Golf lately, and so is the infotainment system, which is of the newer variety that is found in more recent Volkswagen models. Otherwise, the interior is pretty much the same, familiar layout that Volkswagen drivers will recognise.
The various bits and bops have served to not just give the Jetta a slightly more refreshed look, but also to improve efficiency a tad, up to 10 per cent in fact according to Volkswagen. The various restyled bits help to reduce air drag, for example, resulting in smoother aerodynamic qualities, and therefore aiding with efficiency and performance improvements. Fuel economy, for one, is now quoted at 6.0 litres per 100km, dropping from 6.3 litres previously. And top speed is upped from 199km/h to 202km/h.
It’s all minor changes really, and to be honest one would be hard pressed to tell the difference. But that’s probably down to the fact that the Jetta was already a rather competent product to begin with, and any improvements will have to be pretty major to be felt. In everyday driving, the Jetta is mostly agreeable, offering adequate power from its 1.4-litre TSI turbocharged engine with 122bhp. Paired to Volkswagen’s 7-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox, the Jetta is a smooth operator that hardly kicks up any fuss.
It does feel its age though when you indulge in a bit of spirited driving, and while it handles mostly decently, there’s no hiding the fact that underneath, this car is basically a Golf from two generations ago. That said, the Jetta was never an enthusiast’s car anyway, and the majority drivers will definitely commend it on its key strengths, namely its comfortable ride quality, smooth drive and energetic and efficient drivetrain.
There’s a reason why the Jetta has proven to be such a best-seller, and Volkswagen has done well to hold on to the qualities that has made it so popular. Having said that, we’ve seen what the brand can do to a mainstream car like the Golf, and if they continue in that vein, the next Jetta will be quite an exciting model to look forward to indeed. But we guess the more things change, the more they stay the same as well.
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 1,390cc, 16V, turbocharged in-line 4
Power 122bhp at 5000rpm
Torque 200Nm at 1500-4000rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Top Speed 202km/h
0-100kmh 9.8 seconds
Fuel efficiency 6.0L/100km
Price $122,300 with COE
Also Consider: Mazda 3 Sedan, Toyota Corolla Altis