Life Motoring

Thursday 22 March 2018

Wana join the jetta set?

RATING 81/100

They were making hay with gusto all across the midlands on one of the days I had this out for a spin. Lord, the beauty of a sunny July afternoon and the salve it silently applies to creased faces trying to garner enough winter fodder.

Mind you, gusto is not a word I'd use to describe the new Jetta I was driving.

And yet I passed or met quite a few older versions. There is, I suppose, a certain reassurance in what many people still see as a Golf with a boot. I noticed quite a few in rural Westmeath, for example.

I have no doubt the Volkswagen people have put a huge amount of work into making this as technologically proficient as anything in its market area. The 1.6-litre diesel engine is a prime example of that.

And there's a good roomy cabin, not to mention a really large, deep boot.

But they could have given it the equivalent of a bit of July sunshine.

I get the feeling I'm wasting my time complaining because in a way that's the way Volkswagen have always done things -- evolution rather than revolution. And it hasn't hurt them.

By the same token, a bit of gusto hasn't hurt the likes of the new Ford Focus saloon either -- it positively sparkles inside and out.

In fairness, the Jetta is smart in a terribly diffident way; it does not catch the eye but it helped broker a few conversations along the way.

The big question -- not just about the Jetta but every new car -- is the price. Not just its price but how it compares with, in this instance, the Skoda Octavia on value, was cited a few times. People are so knowledgeable about these things. Indeed, one or two of the more case-hardened said they'd rather pay the extra few euro and buy a (larger) Passat. Yes, the Jetta's pricing does pitch it sufficiently close to the borderline, whereas several traditional rivals have effectively been involved in a price war to maintain sales.

Now, price and value are two separate things so we shouldn't get too caught up on the former because it can take us down dangerous paths.

We all know that some cars hold their value much better than others and Volkswagens tend to enjoy particularly good trade-in prices. So while it might cost more now, it will get more whenever you change.

That said, I still think starting a small-family car off at just under €22,000 is asking for a fair act of faith in those future values.

On the road, this latest incarnation was much better than I anticipated with a confident feel to it over all sorts of surfaces. It was tidy, nifty and precise in handling, ride and steering. Indeed, as they say, sure it hardly took any driving at all.

My biggest gripe was with what appeared to me to be the most annoying wind noise coming off the front flanks. Am I going mad, I asked my daughter as we sped to Moneygall to trace Obama's footsteps? No, she said, for once you are not.

Suitably reassured, we nudged on to Toomevara where, by sheer luck, whom should I meet after nearly 30 years but the legendary Seamus Darby, the man whose goal against Kerry in the 1982 All-Ireland final will never be forgotten. We travelled in comfort, no doubt about that and with decent flexibility on how we wanted our seats. As I said, the 1.6-litre engine always seemed to have an extra bit of power when called on -- another example of quiet proficiency.

I always liked the older Jettas -- believe it or not they replaced them with a car called the Bora (hello!) -- and have fond memories of driving down to Tipperary in one for a special occasion.

This new incarnation made about as much fuss as the incipient clouds that were gathering over Ballymore (Co Westmeath) the other evening but got on with the business in an admirable, if understated, fashion.

This is the sort of car people hold on to for years and years -- they keep plugging along.

I'd worry a little about the price, wouldn't be concerned at all about trade-in values and would give a lot to see a bit of chrome flashed about the exterior.

Ultimately, families will look at this and make their decision on the VW badge (I don't care what anyone says, it carries something with it), the running costs (5l/100kms or so), the room and the assurance of future value.

But I still think the Focus beats it for sheer vim - while the Japanese have three-year warranties and, despite the recall sagas, have imprinted their reliability.

No more than saving the hay, the Jetta won't find it that straightforward to win buyers but it will always attract a core number.

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