With all those test mules of the Jetta running through the length and breadth of the country in 2011 – flaunting the ‘TSI’ badge without any hesitation – we always knew that the Jetta petrol was coming. But while everyone expected it to use the same 1.8 TSI stonker that you get in the Laura / vRS, Volkswagen decided to introduce the Jetta petrol with a 1.4 TSI. Now that move sounds justified in the era of ridiculously rising petrol costs – but on paper that engine seems too tiny for a car as big as the Jetta. So how good is the package? The answer had to be found out on the road but this time we did not put the Jetta through a 10,000 km road test like we did with the diesel counterpart last year. But we did take it for a rainy ride through the city, on the highway and through the twisties. But before we move on to how the engine performs, let’s talk about the design.
Now visually, the Volkswagen Jetta isn’t too different from its diesel counterpart. You still have the same, Vento-esque front end that is now the trademark look for all current Volkswagen vehicles. The day-time running lights (though not LEDs), looks particularly good when you glance at the car in the foggy or misty conditions of a monsoon morning at a hill station.
The side profile of the Jetta TSI is where you will notice the slight difference. The alloy wheels that you get on this Comfortline variant are different that the ones we saw on the diesel Highline last year. The TSI’s wheels look chunkier and much similar to a typical Skoda alloy-wheel design. I prefer the ones on the Highline though as they not only look sportier, they also lend the Jetta a slick, low-rider stance.
The tailgate again has the tiny change – the TSI badge instead of the ‘2.0 TDI’ monogram. Prefixing the TSI badge with a ‘1.4’ could have made quite a few customers shy away – especially when petrolheads like to flaunt a ‘bigger is better’ impression.
Like I said in the beginning though, those different alloy wheels are a small change but instantly make the Jetta petrol look sober as compared to its top-of-the-line diesel counterpart!
User Experience Review
So far, we had seen a trend that manufacturers were offering the petrol engined variants of their cars in all the possible trim levels, however, their diesel counterparts would only be available in the base or mid-level trims as the top of the line versions would make them too expensive. But with the market rapidly tilting towards diesel cars, Volkswagen aims to reverse the trend. The Jetta TSI, therefore, will only be available in the base Trendline and the mid-level Comfortline variants for now.
Therefore, even if you wish for it, you can’t have a touchscreen infotainment system with the six-CD changer, climate control or powered seats. What you do get though is automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers and steering mounted audio controls – but these are even available on a Fiat Linea these days! The audio system that you get inside the Comfortline version is quite basic, but sounds decent. The plastics around the head-unit though feel low-rent as compared to the rest of the dash and its gloss black finish is a fingerprint magnet!
Volkswagen has retained the perforated leather upholstery in the Comfortline trim and the light beige shade makes the cabin look plush and upmarket. The cushioning is a tad hard though like most European cars – especially the ones belonging to the Volkswagen family – but tends to get softer with time and in turn feels more comfortable once it ages. However, we did not like the angle of the backrest on the rear seats when we took the Jetta for our road-trip in 2011 and the petrol version too is no different. It is comfortable for a few tens of kilometers, but for long distance journeys it is not as comfortable as say, a Corolla.
You also get parking sensors on the Comfortline version and these came in handy while parking the car in the congested spots in Mumbai – especially with the rain pouring down the way is does in this city. However, you do not get a graphic or camera system attached to this – instead it’s the conventional audible warning system.
Overall, the Jetta feels up-market, plush and a comfortable car. However, the backseat comfort isn’t on par with the likes of the Corolla or the Fluence. The driver’s seat though is one of the best in this category and the creature comforts are on par with the competition. The lack of a Highline variant though, could disappoint a few.
This is the most important part of this review as the highlight of the Jetta TSI is the 1.4-litre mill. Now unlike the fiery 1.4 TSI motor that you get in the Polo Cup racecar, this engine isn’t supercharged AND turbocharged. You only get a turbo on this one, which helps the engine put out over 120 PS of power and 200 Nm of torque. While the displacement, power and torque is significantly lesser than what you get in the Jetta’s sibling, the Skoda Laura, the VW sedan doesn’t feel sluggish or underpowered.
The torque is spread out nicely through the rev range, however, it does suffer from a slightly unoptimistic mid-range as compared to the meaty low end and top end that you get to play with. Like a typical fixed-geometry-turbocharged engine, the build-up to 1,500 RPM takes a while, so while moving off the line the Jetta doesn’t feel eager. But once the turbo spools up, you have a good low-end grunt between 1,500 to 3,000 RPM and that is where you’ll spend most of your time while trotting in the city. But the 3,000 to 4,500 RPM range is where the Jetta TSI doesn’t give you the pull – therefore needing you to go a gear down in order to swiftly overtake a vehicle. Again, above 4,500 RPM, the TSI engine feels strong so when on the highway, you get enough firepower for quick overtakes.
Though this engine is turbocharged it doesn’t feel like one – apart from the initial turbo-lag that is. You don’t get the sudden turbo-kick or you won’t even hear the turbo-whistle. In fact the engine is quite silent and at idling RPM, it’s hard to notice that the engine is running. The beauty of this tuning however, lies in the fuel economy it offers. While we are told that the company claimed fuel economy is close to 14 kmpl for the Jetta TSI, we managed to extract close to 11 kmpl in the city and up to 14 kmpl on the highway – and this includes some hard driving around the twisties and the acceleration runs.
Speaking of driving around twisties, the Jetta is a wonderful handler and you have to experience it to believe it. On our roadtrip last year in the Jetta diesel, we were mighty impressed with the way it went around the long sweeping curves in Rajasthan without making its long dimensions evident. This time around, the petrol version impressed us further with its ability to tackle the tights of the Lonavala hill station. Those alloys may look sober, but the rubber that they are shod with, offers a nice and sticky grip through the corners.
While you do get ESP, ABS and EBD to make sure that things remain under control to an extent, adding further security are the six airbags, should things go out of control. Overall, the Jetta is a safe, comfortable and able performer and even with the new petrol engine, it is fuel-efficient and ensures a low running cost.
As we have always mentioned, the new Jetta is one of the best driver’s cars in its segment and now with a petrol engine under the hood, it also starts at an economical price tag. The petrol engine is also more fuel-efficient than most other cars in this segment and justifies why Volkswagen chose to plonk in the 1.4-litre motor instead of the 1.8-litre one. So if you are looking for good driving dynamics, then the new Jetta should be on your list of considerations. However, if you are looking for a chauffeur-driven car, especially for long-distance travel – then you’ll have to look elsewhere.