Volkswagen comes up with another car with solid build quality

The Germans know how to build solid cars that are not too expensive and the Volkswagen-owned Skoda has amply demonstrated that in India. Soon, Volkswagen will reinforce this approach when it launches the Jetta. It will feature build quality seen on much more expensive cars like the Passat, but its price will be on par with the Skoda Laura’s.

I’m in Frankfurt, on a pre-launch drive of the Jetta. There’s lots of Autobahn driving (which I’m looking forward to) and a lot of B-road driving too (which I’m really looking forward to), up ahead. The Jettas here don’t have India-spec engines. I have with me the keys to a 170 bhp petrol Jetta and a huge smile on my face.

The car I am in has a supercharged and turbocharged 1.4-litre, 170bhp engine. Don’t get your hopes up; this engine is not coming to India, at least not in the foreseeable future. It’s a pity, because this engine adds a solid pound of beef to Volkswagen’s bread-and-butter model (eight million Jetta’s have rolled off the production line in the twenty-six years of production).

The 1.4 TSi won’t make it to India because its high 10:1 compression ratio (for a turbocharged engine) demands a minimum of 95-octane petrol, which isn’t available freely in India. Instead, we’re getting the more efficient and cleaner engines. A 1.6-litre, 102bhp petrol and the 105bhp, 1.9-litre Pumpe-Düse diesel borrowed from the Laura. A little short of what you’d expect from a German saloon, but adequate. For now.

The TSi motor is powerful for its size. Power delivery is very linear and it encourages you to rev it to the red-line. It’s responsive too, the supercharger providing boost from low engine speeds and the turbocharger kicking in once the exhaust gases start moving fast. German autobahns demand the ability to cruise at high speeds. There’s power spread everywhere in the 6500rpm rev band, so 80kph-120kph is just a tap of the throttle away. This is the first petrol car I’m driving with the fantastic six-speed DSG box. It works fabulously with the 1.4 TSi. Clap your hand and you’ll get an idea of how fast this gearbox can shift gears. It’s useful for overtaking, or when you need a dose of acceleration to stay alert. It’s really stable too and it masks speed very well, something most German cars are good at.

We have left the autobahn, and are now on Germany’s smooth (and twisty!) back roads. It’s here that the Jetta displays its handling prowess. The chassis balance is good, not exactly BMW 3-Series-tight, but not Toyota Camry-loose either. There’s little body roll and the Jetta is more than willing to change direction. The steering is direct, if a little lifeless, and there’s massive grip from those fat 225/40 R18 optional tyres. I wouldn’t recommend you go for these tyres; the roads in India are unlike any of Germany’s almost flawless roads. Go for the softer option, the standard 16-inch rims — they look almost as good.

I’m near the end of my drive when I really notice the interiors. They’re mostly black, and dull, but everything you touch feels ‘quality’. You’ll feel snug in the front seats — they are pretty spacious and are very well bolstered. The rear seats are roomy too, but a little short on thigh support.

This Jetta may not be India-spec, but quite a few things will be part of the India car too. The solid build quality for instance. Like its bigger brother, the Passat, this car is built like a tank. You feel secure, something that’s essential when you drive in India.

The Indian Jetta will have three variants. The entry-level 1.6 petrol comes with a five-speed manual gearbox. Standard equipment consists of six airbags, ABS, a CD player, remote locking and 16-inch alloy wheels. There’ll also be the 1.9 TDi with a six-speed manual gearbox. Add climate control, eight speakers and a trip computer to the 1.6 petrol’s equipment list. The top-of the line 1.9 TDi DSG Jetta will have leather seats, a 10-speaker CD changer, steering- mounted controls, eight airbags, ESP and cruise control. It doesn’t have the Passat’s paddle-shift option though.

As always, pricing is the crucial factor. At Rs 13-16 lakh that VW is planning to ask for the Jetta, this car is a fantastic buy. Now if only they would offer the 1.4 TSi as well....

OUSEPH CHACKO

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