The recently departed ‘Golf with a boot’ deserves more recognition says ESM’s editor.
Last week’s news that the Jetta saloon would not longer feature on Volkswagen’s UK price list was hardly met with grief and distress. Nobody will be building statues to commemorate its passing, and no national day of mourning will be declared. Yet I think the humble Jetta deserves a better legacy than what it currently has.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the ‘other Volkswagen saloon’ has bitten the dust in the UK. Four-door versions of C-segment hatchbacks have always been a relatively niche market, with neither Ford nor Vauxhall offering saloon versions of the Focus or Astra respectively.
The constant march of the crossover SUV won’t have helped, with a sensible sedan never going to win in a battle of desirability against the Tiguan or new T-Roc.
As any A-Level economist can tell you, low demand results in lower values. For the Jetta this has meant cliff-edge depreciation, rendering it unattractive to those considering PCP Finance or lease deals. That the more expensive Passat could be cheaper per month was a nail in the coffin for the Jetta, creating a spiral of ever-increasing depreciation.
Even across Europe, the Jetta is a vehicle with limited appeal, selling less than 9,000 units in 2016. By contrast the Golf notched up more than 491,000 sales in the same year, with the UK responsible for 62,000 of those alone.
Yet not all markets are so anti-Jetta. The United States took delivery of 121,000 Jettas in 2016, whilst peak-Jetta was reached in 2011 with 177,000 sales that year. It’s perhaps no wonder that the four-door Volkswagen once had a dedicated one-make race series in the USA, and Seth MacFarlane feels the need to make it a constant feature in his TV shows and films.
The American market even has access to the GLI performance version; essentially a four-door version of the Golf GTI, but with the benefits of much more boot space.
Here in the UK, Volkswagen has avoided promoting hot Jettas since the 1980s. Back then, the Mk2 Jetta GTI was noted to offer all the performance of the revered Golf, but with the added benefits of a stiffer body. The Vento could be had with a 172hp 2.8-litre VR6, whilst the Bora offered a wealth of quick petrol and diesel engines.
Yet the attitudes of British buyers to small saloons, and the fact the Jetta isn’t a Golf is what has conspired against whatever engines Volkswagen could offer it with.
As a former Jetta owner, I bought one for the very reason that it wasn’t a Golf. Before diesels became deeply unfashionable, a 2.0 TDI Jetta Sport had all the pace and ability of a Golf GT TDI, but with cheaper insurance costs and the bonus of a gigantic boot. It would cruise motorways with ease, deliver at least 45mpg however it was driven, and appeared handsome without being ostentatious. Regular ESM contributor The Tame Geek also had a Mk5 Jetta, and he still expresses love for it, too.
Ultimately the Jetta has done nothing wrong but deliver a practical, sensible, four-door saloon offering. In our design and fashion-fixated society, those qualities are no longer desirable.
Volkswagen UK has a handful of Jettas still in dealer stock, but once they’ve gone it’s game over. I’m now just biding my time until the ravages of depreciation make them an absolute bargain on the second-hand market…