First Drive: 2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4TSI Highline, best bang for your buck


When the Jetta was first introduced to our market back in 2011 as a fully imported unit, it instantly became the most advanced vehicle in its class and thanks to German technology and build quality, it didn’t have to worry about its then RM150k asking price. Then came the locally assembled Jetta in 2014 that knocked off a good RM19k off the CBU’s price tag. Naturally, demand for the Jetta surged.

Fast forward to 2016, the Jetta’s reserved styling aged well for a five-year old car but pales in comparison to the soulful Mazda3 or the futuristic Honda Civic. Those halogen reflector headlamps just had to go for the Jetta to stay relevant.

Fortunately, Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia (VPCM) has just released the Jetta facelift that comes with a fresh face, upgraded equipment and most importantly a lower price tag. But is it enough to take on the C-segment powerhouses? We join VPCM for a media test drive in the Jetta 1.4 TSI Highline to find out.2016 Volkswagen Jetta Media Drive

QUICK FACTS

NameVolkswagen Jetta 1.4 TSI Highline
Engine1,395cc; inline-4 turbo BlueMotion
Transmission7-speed DSG
Max Power148 hp @ 5,000 – 6,000 rpm
Max Torque250 Nm @ 1,500 – 3,500 rpm
0 – 100km/h; Top Speed8.6 seconds; 220 km/h
Price (OTR without insurance)RM128,990

While we were waiting for the flag off, I must say that the Jetta has one of the most ergonomically sound interior in the segment. Allow me to explain. Every controls are so thoughtfully laid out that you never have to second guess where the buttons are and what do they do. The Multi-Function Display (MFD) operable via the multifunctional steering wheel provides all the necessary driving information you need. There is also plenty of room for five adult passengers to sit comfortably with pockets and cup holders to stow away loose items.2016 Volkswagen Jetta Media Drive

We started our journey at the heart of PJ which means, traffic was not on our side. Not the best way to start our day in dry dual-clutch transmission equipped vehicles as they’re notoriously known for the jerking motion at low speeds. To my surprise, with the new transmission components coupled with revised transmission mapping, getting on the move from stationary felt like a smooth torque converter. The clutch engages much quicker and more intelligently too. With the jerking motion rectified, driving the Jetta in slow moving traffic is no longer an annoyance.

As we cruise along the highway, cabin refinement is just as expected from a VW badge – impressive. Wind and tyre noise were not intrusive even at high speeds. In addition to that, the larger 17-inch and lower profile tyres (225/45) keeps the Jetta well planted to the tarmac gives you plenty of confidence behind the wheel. Although this setup does make for a stiffer overall ride but it’s a trade-off I am willing to live with for the added handling performance.2016 Volkswagen Jetta Media Drive

With BlueMotion technology equipped, the Jetta now comes with coasting function which disengages the gearbox from the flywheel to allow the car to essentially coast in Neutral when you lift off the throttle at cruising speeds above 80km/h. However, to get the power back on when, the clutch does take a second or two to reengage. This is not something that I am comfortable with while travelling along the fast lane, hence leaving the system deactivated for the most part of the drive.

The same 1.4-litre TSI single turbocharged mill and seven-speed DSG combination found in the Mk7 Golf is no slouch. Pedal to the floor, the class leading 250 Nm of torque gives a kick to your back and eagerly sets off to achieve the acclaimed 220km/h top speed. The light quick shifts of the DSG certainly adds to the Jetta’s eagerness. It’s hands down my favourite gearbox there is in the market right now. Even with just 148 hp, the 1.4-litre mill still has plenty of grunt to continue accelerating beyond the 110km/h mark.

To cast away the concerns of DSG skeptics, VPCM has addressed that they have updated the DQ200 seven-speed dry clutch DSG with more robust mechatronic, new cutch lining material, use of mineral oil as well as new transmission software to rectify the notorious DSG failures. In addition to that, the Jetta also comes with a 5-Year manufacturer warranty for a peace of mind ownership.

The convoy took the longer route with plenty of twisty bits down to Malacca and again, the Jetta delivers. Underneath the Passat B7-esque skin of the Jetta facelift is essentially a Mk6 Golf (the two share the same platform). The Jetta points to the direction you want it to go instantaneously and with great accuracy. Thankfully, VPCM has reintroduced paddle shifters to the Jetta Highline which added that extra control and sporty appeal to the car. Compared to its main rivals, the Jetta fares well but you will have a tough time keeping up with the Ford Focus and Mazda3 around the bends.

However, if you get over enthusiastic with your entry speed, body roll is apparent although not enough to unsettle the car. Of course, the Jetta facelift comes with an array of safety features in case the car is pushed over the limit. All Jettas come with six airbags, ABS with brake assist, ESC, hill-hold control, brake pad wear monitor, ISOFIX mounting points and Volkswagen Intelligent Crash Response System (ICRS) as standard.2016 Volkswagen Jetta Media Drive

In a segment saturated with cars trying to stand out with innovative designs and outright performance, many overlook the little details that make up the vehicle’s overall packaging. Take for example the Civic. It may look good as a whole but it is nowhere near as polished as the German maker. Sure, the Focus and Mazda3 may drive better than the Jetta but at a cost of interior space which defeats the purpose of having a C-segment sedan.

If I had to pick one of the aforementioned cars as a daily driver, my choice will no doubt be the Jetta. It has a well thought out interior, decent levels of performance and an attractive price tag of RM129k. To give you an idea of what it’s worth, the top of the range Civic, Toyota Altis and Mazda3 is priced at RM136k, RM139k and RM121k respectively. The Jetta 1.4TSI Highline to me is no doubt the best value for money C-segment sedan in the market today.


IMAGE GALLERY


Adrian Chia

Adrian Chia

He believes that the perfect remedy to Monday blues is a mixture of 4 wheels, clear roads and a pinch of twisty tarmac. A hot hatch is the icing on the cake.
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