It's all about the boot with the Jetta. That's the only thing it offers over the much better looking, more flexible and frankly superior Golf. It might be the near-default car for college-age Americans, whose parents buy them over 10,000 Jettas every month, but in the UK it's cause for mild excitement at Volkswagen HQ if little more than a couple of thousand find new homes in a year.
And the all-new Jetta isn't goingto change that situation when it arrives next spring. Even though it's been completely reworked inside and out, the Jetta still doesvery little to stir the emotions.Particularly the styling. Never a car to win a beauty contest, the Jetta has moved from being a rather awkward-looking effort to an almost invisibly bland design. Maybe the brief was ‘just make it disappear'.In which case Wolfsburg's finest have done an excellent job.
Now built exclusively in Mexico instead of the previous Ger-Mex mix, the new car is a couple of inches longer, with most of that going into the wheelbase. But it feels like they've added another foot. The back seats have stacks of room, and the boot, playing to the car's one real strength, is gigantic.
The official numbers put the capacity at 510 litres with the seats up, but that doesn't mean anything to most normal people. Using much more useful Mafia metrics, it's a three-body boot with the seats up, and a four-and-a-messy-half with the seats folded forward.
No great surprises mechanically. You'll be able to buy it - if you are absolutely sure you wouldn't prefer a Golf - with a 1.2- or 1.4-litre TSI petrol or 1.6/2.0-litre diesel engine. All tried and tested units, the 1.6 oil-burner and tiny 1.2 petrol will be offered with stop/start Bluemotion tech. The US will also get a hybrid version in 2013. We won't.
Gearbox choice is the VW norm: six-speed manual or the fabulous DSG semi-auto set up. We didn't get to drive a manual on the US test route, so can't comment on that, but the DSG was its usual faultless self. If there's no Golfs left at the dealer, and you have to get a Jetta, make sure you spec it with this.
What might come as a surprise is just how neatly the new Jetta rides and handles. With an appearance and spec designed to induce instant deep, restful sleep, you probably wouldn't expect it to light any fires on the road. But it's actually pretty handy. The chassis is well tied down, the electro-mechanical steering is crisp, and there is enough grip to have fun in relative safety.
But I still couldn't and wouldn't recommend it over a Golf. Unless you need a boot.
Performance: 0-62mph in 9.5secs, max speed 131mph, n/a mpg
Tech: 1968cc, 4cyl, FWD, 140bhp, 236lb ft, n/a kg, 126g/km CO2