Thursday 14 December 2017

Jetta aims to put the boot into rivals

FAMILY saloon models have traditionally had a loyal following here despite the more practical design of hatchbacks. We are among the few markets in Europe where putting in the boot has scored with customers.

Toyota realised this when the Corolla arrived alongside its 'replacement', the Auris. Renault has also got the message with the stylish Fluence now selling alongside the Megane hatch and Ford, having a rethink about saloon sales of the new Focus, expect to see a significant boost for the three-box design format. Little surprise here -- the saloon beats the hatchback for overall stylish appearance.

With the arrival this month of the new VW Jetta, the battle lines for boot wars is set to intensify. Jetta in the past was dubbed the Golf with the boot and it served its purpose well. With new styling and technology concepts, it is the most successful model of any European car maker in the US and VW believes it has the potential to be hugely successful in Europe. Ireland is expected to be a battleground, although its marketing people admit that sales in this segment are 4/1 in favour of the Golf.

The new model is set to cause a stir. It is impressive looking and has definitely moved away from the booted-Golf image. It is 9cm longer and, with a longer wheelbase, it has moved closer to the Passat. The bigger stance adds 6.7 cm of legroom, the interior is all new and state of the art engines and transmissions are under the bonnet.

VW is targetting the Corolla which it describes as dated. The new Focus is also on the radar as is the Fluence. Pricing is crucial except in the case of the Renault offering, which has most importers saying novenas that their marketing people will run out of money.

The VW family face and the move towards the Passat level will please saloon lovers but there is a danger for VW that the new model may cut into the Passat market where the 1.6 litre diesel offering is about €2,200 off the price of big brother in Comfortline trim. Ford has the edge with the Focus where a diesel offering at €21,720 is €2,000 less the cheapest baseline trim version of the Jetta at €23,725.

Prices start at €21,985 for the 1.25 litre 105 bhp petrol model (Band B) and the diesel 1.6litre 105 bhp (Band A) can also be bought in the entry Trendline level of trim with the excellent DSG double clutch transmission for a pricey €25,555. The Comfortline will be the big seller here and prices range between €23,339 and €26,960. In Highline trim, a 1.4 petrol engine putting out 122 bhp is offered as well as a 2-litre 140 bhp diesel. Prices range between €25,745 and €30,055.

The entry level Trendline, which comes with 16" steel wheels, air conditioning, ESP, comfortable seating and good driving dynamics, would make an acceptable choice for the cost-conscious buyer. Move up to Trendline and alloy wheels are added with more creature comforts such as driver's armrest, cruise control and better seating fabric.

The 1.6 litre diesel with 250 Nm of torque on tap is the ideal choice and in mixed driving will return 4.5L/100km (60 mpg), according to VW.

A good performer on the road, the Jetta should have good residual values and is therefore a good investment if one is prepared to pay the rather high initial outlay.

Martin Brennan

Sunday Independent

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