Volkswagen Jetta

The Essentials

  • Price from £17,540
  • What Car? says: 4 star rating
  • Fuel economy: up to 67.3mpg
  • What is it? The Jetta tops the small selection of compact saloons available in the UK, thanks to its good driving manners, spacious interior and attractive price.

Great

  • Lots of space for a compact saloon
  • Good driving manners
  • Attractive pricing

Gripes

  • Weak residual values
  • Volkswagen's reliability record is starting to wobble
  • Dashboard design isn't very exciting, and materials lack the Golf's lustre
  • Drive

    A pleasure to drive, thanks to strong engines, smooth responsive handling and a quiet cabin

  • Inside

    No prizes for funky design, but it's smart, comfortable, sensibly arranged and offers a good view out

  • Safety

    All present and correct

  • Reliability

    We don't anticipate any problems - the previous model scored very well in customer satisfaction surveys

  • Space

    A surprising amount of space for passengers and luggage

  • Standard and extras

    Upgrade to SE trim if you want to add alloy wheels and an iPod connection

  • What's it like to drive?

    There are four engines on offer. The two 1.4-litre petrol engines (with 120bhp or 158bhp) are smooth and strong. The 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel is pretty potent but the 103bhp 1.6 diesel has the benefit of better fuel efficiency while still providing decent pace and plenty of punch for overtaking. Both diesels are a bit noisy under hard acceleration, but it's nothing that'll spoil the calm. The petrol cars are even smoother and quieter, with just a hint of road- and wind noise on the motorway.
    The suspension takes the sting out of most ruts and bumps, yet manages to keep the car's body composed. The car grips well and the steering provides plenty of feel.

  • What's it like inside?

    The dashboard and door controls look much like the Golf's, which means they're clearly laid out and easy to use. The wide range of adjustment for both the seat and steering wheel mean anyone should be able to get comfortable, and visibility is good all round.
    There's plenty of room inside for four adults, and at 510 litres, the well-shaped boot is generous and easy to access. For more space, the rear seat backs can be folded down.
    The cabin materials aren't quite as lustrous as the Golf's, but the Jetta is well equipped. S trim comes with air-con, four electric windows, remote central locking and plenty of safety features. SE trim brings alloy wheels, cruise control an iPod connector and split-folding rear seats, while top-spec Sport models have lowered suspension, sports seats and automatic headlights.

  • How reliable is it?

    The cabin feels generally solid and well built, and the engines are well proven in other VWs. However, Volkswagen came only 20th out of 36 manufacturers in What Car?'s latest reliability survey, so it could do better.
    The Jetta has all the safety equipment you'd expect of a 21st-century family car, including stability control and front, side and curtain airbags (side airbags can also be fitted in the rear as a cost option), and the car achieved the maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests.
    Deadlocks and marked parts help prevent and deter thieves.

  • Should I buy one?

    The Jetta is elegant, surprisingly spacious and outstanding value for money compared to the likes of a BMW 3 Series, but as small saloon cars aren't very popular in the UK, it won't hold onto its value nearly so well. Running costs are good, however, especially if you go for the 1.6 Bluemotion Tech model, which is capable of more than 67mpg. With CO2 emissions of just 109g/km, it's cheap to tax, too.