An ideal fam­ily car

BRIAN BASSETT drives the new VW Jetta 7 1.4TSI Com­fort­line DSG Blue Mo­tion

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

THE Jetta has been with us since 1979 and it is one of the best-sell­ing mod­els in the VW line-up, with some 275 000 units hav­ing been sold into the South African mar­ket over the past 35 years.

The sev­enth-gen­er­a­tion Jetta has ar­rived re­cently in South Africa and now sits be­side the Golf 7, by which it al­ways ap­pears to be eclipsed, pos­si­bly be­cause of the Golf’s more youth­ful and sporty im­age.

The Jetta is, how­ever, the more prac­ti­cal of the two ve­hi­cles and over the years has grown up to the point where it barely fits into the C seg­ment.

We of­fer our thanks to Keith Abra­hams, dealer prin­ci­pal at Barons Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, for al­low­ing us ac­cess to the car.

Styling

The Jetta is a hand­some car and its looks have been im­proved in the sev­enth gen­er­a­tion. Its styling is still not over­whelm­ing, but in a world over­done with curves, crests and er­satz chrome, the Jetta’s un­der­stated dis­tinc­tion com­mands re­spect.

The car’s real ap­peal lies in its vis­ual dura­bil­ity. Its de­sign will still look rel­e­vant in a decade and, con­sid­er­ing the num­ber of 10year-old plus Jet­tas one still sees on the road, this is an im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion.

Up­dates to the Jetta 7 have kept it fresh with­out al­ter­ing the ba­sic de­sign. The re­designed front end has a restyled ra­di­a­tor grille with three cross fins. Bi-xenon head­lights are now op­tional and are fit­ted with a cor­ner­ing turn sig­nal.

The car also has LED day­time driv­ing lights and a new bumper. At the rear there is a re­vised bumper and tail-light clus­ter and the boot lid has an aero­dy­namic trail­ing edge. In fact, the car is about 10% more slip­pery than be­fore. In all, the im­pres­sion made by the Jetta 7 is one of dura­bil­ity and last­ing qual­ity.

In­te­rior

The cabin of the Jetta 7 is su­perbly fin­ished in tex­tured plas­tics and there is con­sid­er­able at­ten­tion to de­tail.

Clean lines and well-or­gan­ised con­trols present both driver and pas­sen­gers with a calm, spa­cious oa­sis for their journey.

The car is not at all con­strain­ing. I loaded four friends into the car for a pre-Xmas shop­ping trip to Hill­crest, fol­lowed by a visit to the new Hill­crest mar­ket.

None of those who joined in the journey could be de­scribed as small and de­spite this the shoul­der-and leg-room pro­vided al­lowed a very com­fort­able com­mute. The Jetta, in fact, has more space at the back than some mid­size sedans I have driven.

The dash is dom­i­nated by the 6,5-inch touch screen, which op­er­ates the eight-speaker ra­dio, CD, Aux and MP3 au­dio sys­tem, which also fea­tures an SD card reader. The main di­als are typ­i­cally Volk­swa­gen with the ana­logue speedome­ter and rev counter linked by a dig­i­tal in­for­ma­tion panel, which pro­vides the driver with in­for­ma­tion with­out hav­ing to look away from the road. There is also an up-to-date tech­ni­cal in­ter­face with smart­phone in­te­gra­tion.

The driver’s seat, as well as the mul­ti­func­tion steering wheel ac­cen­tu­ated in pi­ano black, are fully ad­justable and the gear lever for the auto box is within easy reach.

The seats are cov­ered in ro­bust cloth and are com­fort­able to the point where the Jetta can be re­garded as a long-dis­tance ve­hi­cle.

Like all Jet­tas, the boot is large and will take lug­gage for five peo­ple with­out a prob­lem. The rear seats can be folded down in 60/40 fash­ion and the car pro­vides one of the largest stor­age spa­ces in its class. Rear-seat move­ment is con­trolled from the boot and the mech­a­nism is easy to op­er­ate. Use­ful stor­age spa­ces in the doors and be­tween the seats pro­vide a space for all the modern-day clut­ter we carry on our per­sons.

Safety and se­cu­rity

The Jetta has a top Euro NCAP five-star rat­ing and a long list of safety fea­tures too nu­mer­ous to men­tion here.

The most im­por­tant, how­ever, in­clude ABS with EBD, Hill Hold As­sist, Multi-Link In­de­pen­dent Rear Sus­pen­sion and six driver, pas­sen­ger, front, side and cur­tain air bags, with front pas­sen­ger air bag de-ac­ti­va­tion. There is an elec­tronic sta­bil­ity pro­gramme and Isofix child seat an­chors.

If you want to sur­vive the hol­i­day rush, the Jetta will pro­vide you with an ex­cel­lent plat­form for do­ing so. Just in case any­one tries to steal the car while you are at the coast, there is the usual fac­tory-fit­ted alarm and cen­tral lock­ing func­tions.

Per­for­mance and handling

De­spite its fam­ily sedan im­age the Jetta’s 1,4-litre, four-cylin­der, turbo-petrol en­gine puts out 97 kW and 200 Nm.

The en­gine is sweet, so­phis­ti­cated, peppy and com­pelling. Zero to 100 km/h comes up in about 5,7 sec­onds, with an aca­dem­i­cally in­ter­est­ing top speed of around 200 km/h. The six-speed auto box does a bril­liant job and on the N3 there is eas­ily enough power to han­dle the cra­zies and truck driv­ers with bald tyres.

Fuel con­sump­tion is around 6,2l per 100 km and the Blue Mo­tion badge tells you that VW has in­stalled a range of en­ergy-sav­ing fea­tures.

The car is re­fined and the in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion on all four wheels makes it one of the best han­dlers in its class, with elec­tric power steering of­fer­ing precision and im­me­di­ate feed­back what­ever the road sur­face.

Our Hill­crest ex­cur­sion in the car was a de­light, back-road pot­holes and all, and in town it was easy to ma­noeu­vre and park. It is a car I would con­sider buy­ing with my own money, if I had any, that is!

Costs and the com­pe­ti­tion

Nine mod­els are avail­able. Ours costs around R360 000.

There is a fac­tory guar­an­tee and five-year, 90 000 km ser­vice plan. Also check out the Ford Fo­cus, Mazda 3, Toy­ota Corolla and Kia Cer­ato.

PHOTOS: VW

The sev­en­th­gen­er­a­tion VW Jetta is sleeker and longer than the 1989 model, but it still pro­vides class-lead­ing space for pas­sen­gers and lug­gage.

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