Volkswagen Jetta 1.4 TSI – first drive impressions

Showing all your cards at one go is a bit of a double-edged sword. It’s undoubtedly great for effect, where the blanket covers significant acreage in one swipe, and it also allows one to understand the philosophy and underlying values at work in much more complete fashion.

It can also prove to be a distraction, not so much for the person sampling the wares, but rather in how each is perceived – there’s a distinct difference in taking each on an individual basis, as opposed to when they’re all lumped together. The danger, of course, is that it ends up showing each other up in some areas, even if the products in question don’t ply their wares in the same category and class.

Volkswagen Jetta 1.4 TSI – first drive impressions

Such was the case with the three vehicle spread that Volkswagen Group Malaysia launched a couple of weeks ago. The Passat 1.8 TSI, Jetta 1.4 TSI and Cross Touran 1.4 TSI are markedly dissimilar in tone, even if they do share common family traits in behaviour and characteristics. By the end of a two-day drive, however, there was much to be gleaned subjectively as there was objectively.

To improve clarity, we’ve decided to separate the first impressions of the trio into three individual pieces. Granted, there’ll still be observations on each vis-a-vis, especially with regards to the Jetta and Passat, but let’s see if we can dissect and take each on their own strengths and make it easier reading than together as a collective whole.

Full report after the jump.

The drive, which took us to Penang and back, began with the Jetta sedan. Equipped with a 1.4 TSI twin-charged mill offering 160 PS at 5,800 rpm and 240 Nm from 1,500 to 4,500 rpm, mated to a seven-speed DSG tranny, the sixth-generation Jetta – which is made in Mexico – is tagged by VGM as the most powerful sedan in its category.

Volkswagen Jetta 1.4 TSI – first drive impressions

For RM149,888 (on the road, without insurance), the A6, Typ 1K is equipped fairly well enough, though a bit on the sedate side. There are no Xenons and corresponding LED DRLs, but the on-board kit is more than serviceable.

Not much where the exterior is concerned. The headlamps are of the halogen variety, you get front foglamps, twin exhaust tailpipes and Navarra 16-inch five-spoke alloys shod with 205/55 series tyres, and that just about sums it up with this one, which is 90 mm longer than the previous generation model.

You do get a number of exterior shades to pick from, eight in this case, made up of two solid (Candy White and Tornado Red, the last as seen on the Golf GTI), five metallic (Platinum Grey, Silver Leaf, Reflex Silver, Toffee Brown and Tempest Blue) and a single pearl effect colour (Deep Black).

Volkswagen Jetta 1.4 TSI – first drive impressions

It’s all in keeping with the presentation – the exterior shape, which VW is proud to say doesn’t share any common panels with the Golf Mk VI (and thus, should not be viewed as a Golf with a boot, so it goes!), has an austerity about it, much of it to do with the strong shoulder line, which is supposed to make the car look lower and to lend it better athleticism.

I wouldn’t go as far as to call the Jetta sporty; the simplest way to describe it would be that it’s all business-like with this one. I quite like the rear though – there’s a fair bit of Audi A4 in there, especially with the rear lamp arrangement.

Interior items include a Climatronic air-conditioning system with two-zone temperature control, a RCD310 audio system, a three-spoke leather steering wheel with paddle shifters, Park Distance Control (PDC) for the front and rear, rain sensing wipers, cruise control and seats covered in ‘Sienna’ fabric. There’s less sense of occasion compared to the Passat, but that’s pretty much to be expected.

Volkswagen Jetta 1.4 TSI – first drive impressions

In the safety department, there’s the usual mix of ABS, EBD and BA, as well as TCS and ESP, and six airbags (front, front side and front/rear curtain), Isofix points on the rear seats and Hill-hold control. Elsewhere, other numbers for the car include 510 litres of boot space, an 8.3 seconds 0-100 km/h sprint time, a top speed of 221 km/h and a combined fuel consumption of 6.0 litres per 100 km.

Despite its 1,417 kg kerb mass, the Jetta never felt sluggish – it’s no rocket, but what it serves up should be pacy enough for most in this segment. The 1.4 TSI mill was its eager and willing self, as is the case with the mill, and that willingness to run offers the car good midband energy. During the drive up to Ipoh, getting back to higher running speeds from the more sedentary moments at 120-130 km/h, to accommodate slower overtaking traffic, was never an issue.

Some thoughts about the car’s suspension. In terms of ride and handling, I thought it was the best balanced of the trio, sitting midway in how it presents things in terms of compliancy and performance, hinting on the side of firm. At the higher end of the speed spectrum, all three vehicles have a sterling composure about them, as expected of the breed, but across a wider speed range and conditions, it is the Jetta’s that remains the most uniform and appealing.

Volkswagen Jetta 1.4 TSI – first drive impressions

This lends the car the best drivability of the lot, with the overall tone being brisk, dynamic and even cheerful in character, something you wouldn’t expect as you give the exterior the twice over when you walk up to the car.

You can even push it into corners and come out feeling very respectable, the steering is quite precise and the car fairly grippy, though the caveat is measured sensibility and commitment once in – the suspension, in what is just about its only less than desirable moment, comes undone if you carry too much speed in and attempt to correct midway. All lovely if you think those big pitch and wobble moments are great giggly fun, less so if you happen to have folks strapped on at the back. I had fun, but can’t say it wasn’t hairy.

Of course, like as with all good, no-nonsense family sedans, this isn’t what most Jetta owners are likely to do, be a bit scatter-brained about it all. Away from those hijinks moments, which should theoretically be few and far in between, the car accomplishes its intended brief very respectably – the thing is, you come up to it expecting less than what you eventually get, from a driving point of view at least, and that surely can’t be a bad thing.