VW Jetta

THE Chum Creek Road is one of Victoria’s driving delights, curling its way upward from Healesville into the Toolangi State Forest. The corners can be rough or smooth, changes of direction rapid-fire or constant.

To a road like this you bring a performance car, not Volkswagen’s medium-sized Jetta sedan. Yet the Jetta is acquitting itself well. There’s consistent feel from the firmly-weighted steering, a distinct resistance to front-end scrub or overblown lift-off oversteer. A sudden shift right-left over a brow demonstrates admirable body control.

Up front, the 103TDI 2.0-litre four-pot is huffing away with quiet determination. Set to sport mode, the six-speed DSG is finding the right gear without any need for manual manipulation.

Really, we should not be surprised. The old Jetta was pretty good, albeit blighted by an exterior design that tacked an oversized boot and undersized body onto a Golf platform.

The result? A car that could carry heaps of luggage but not four adults in comfort. This was the Jetta’s Achilles heel against fine mid-sizers like the Mazda 6, Subaru Liberty and – to a lesser extent – Honda’s Accord Euro. Sure, it won awards and sold okay, but always with the proviso that those with leggy rear-seat passengers should look elsewhere.

So a 55mm wheelbase extension, and an overall stretch of 190mm, to 4744mm, helps deal with that issue (although a 3mm reduction in width means no additional elbow room). Now you can fit the adults in the back seat and their luggage in the voluminous 510-litre boot.

But the Jetta’s exterior is still nothing special, while inside, it’s recognisably mid-spec VW, so logical and comfortable but not original.

Volkswagen has laudably found between 15kg and 69kg in weight savings across the four Jetta spec levels. That means the three carry-over engines – 118TSI twincharger and 147TSI turbo-petrol and aforementioned 103TDI diesel – have no dramas hauling the expanded Jetta along.

Also going under the knife is pricing. The 118TSI, which now comes in a base model derivative that retails for just $26,490, is $2500 less than the discontinued 77TDI. If you do opt for the base model, be prepared for equipment omissions: steel rather than alloy wheels, no ski-port or rear centre armrest, manual air rather than climate control, no parking sensors – but important safety equipment remains unchanged across the range.

All this equipment and more is added as you climb the range, depending on whether you opt for Comfortline (118 and 103) or Highline (147) specifications.

So, rationally speaking, Jetta adds up to a pretty compelling purchase. Which is handy, because its unlikely many potential buyers will go for a test drive along the Chum Creek Road to discover its hidden talents.

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