Opinion – Why the Volkswagen Jetta should be missed

The recently departed ‘Golf with a boot’ deserves more recognition says ESM’s editor.

Volkswagen Jetta Mk7

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.

Volkswagen Jetta Mk7

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.

Volkswagen Jetta Mk7

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. (more…)

Friday Photo from the Archives #7

Some car ideas work better in certain places than others. Some, such as the BMW 5-Series GT, don’t really seem to work at all – at least not in America that’s for sure.

The Volkswagen Jetta (or Bora/Vento/Golf with a boot) is one of those propositions that has never really taken the UK by storm. Consequentially, they present themselves as something of a bargain on the second-hand car market, which was how I came to find myself behind the wheel of one in March 2010. This one in particular:

At the time I was between jobs and, had just sold my wretched Audi S3, as its financial burden had finally proven to be enough. However, the prospect of being sans automobile was a thought too unholy to contemplate.  I had to find a new vehicle and fast. But any replacement car would have to be affordable to run, reliable and blessed with at least some modicum of performance and entertainment.

As a VAG fan, my natural instinct was to think of a Golf. Specifically, a Mk5 GT TDI. It was quick enough, achieved good fuel economy from its 2.0 TDI engine and should be relatively solid. But, alas, the GT TDI was expensive. Volkswagen’s chosen son was the one everybody wanted, which meant used values remained high. That GT TDI moniker also meant insurance prices had a suitably enhanced value too. So I used my automotive knowledge and thought laterally; when is a Golf not a Golf? When it’s badged as something else and has a humongous rear end.

When I first went to view NJ56 XKS (a great number plate for a Jaguar) the trader described it to me as “having a boot you could easily get two dead bodies in.” He also had a Caterham Seven Superlight in his own garage, so I decided he was probably (for once) a genuine person to buy a car from, and ignored the fear of my car once carrying corpses in a previous life. The Jetta’s history was slightly more mundane, as you would expect, having been a former company-car for the Benfield motoring group. As a result it had been serviced religiously by a VW dealership, meaning mechanically it was sound, but the black paintwork betrayed a working life. Either way, it was a deal too good to miss, and I found myself behind the wheel of a diesel saloon at the age of only 25.

In the eighteen months I owned it, the Jetta proved to be a tireless workhouse, schlepping up and down the A1(M) with ease. It’s cavernous boot was never filled, and I often felt like I was a photocopiers salesperson on the way to a very important business meeting whilst in it. On the road it was entertaining to drive, the 140 bhp and 236 lb.ft of torque gave effortless shove and the GT TDI suspension meant it attacked corners with verve belying it’s size.  Parking was a pain in the backside, literally, given its hefty rump as was constantly having to explain to people what it was.

But more fool them; in the UK the Jetta remains the thinking man’s Golf. ESM’s good friend The Tame Geek drives one very similar to the one I owned, and every time I see one I have a wry smile, liking to think the owner made a clever choice to avoid going with the herd.

I do miss my Jetta, as does ESM’s OH; mainly because she found it comfortable enough to fall asleep in whilst I drove. In the end it was traded for that of which we do not speak, which was probably the worst car-buying choice I’ve made! Oh well, can’t win them all, just ask BMW.

Hot Rods @ The MetroCentre 08/08/2012

The MetroCentre is known for lots of things; being the biggest shopping centre in the UK, having a huge 3D IMAX screen in its Odeon cinema and for not actually being connected to the Tyne & Wear Metro. But as a meeting place for some of the North East’s finest American and classic cars? This was news to my ears.

Hot Rods, as it is known, has been running for a number of years despite various attempts to stop it happening. The second Wednesday of every month during the summer sees a range of American muscle, classic British and anything and everything in between descend on the retail park. Following a tip-off from a petrolhead colleague, I decided to head down and take a look what all the commotion was about.

Naturally, I left the Polo a fair distance away and walked over. Wandering through the car park leading towards Toys-R-Us and McDonald’s (those two American icons) it was obvious something car-related was going down. The revving of engine, the smell of exhaust fumes and the random performance and modified cars dotted around signalled we had hit the right place. With such an array of motoring delights on offer, it’s perhaps easiest to let the pictures do the talking.

What I liked most about the meet was that various types, genres and ages of car mixed in together without prejudice or discrimination. As a casual observer, it was inspiring to see muscle car, Mini Cooper, Mazda MX-5 and others lined up together. It seemed more a celebration of enthusiasts, rather than a clique built around one marque or model. If you happen to be in the area next time it’s on, I would wholeheartedly recommend stopping by.

The Random Volkswagen Collective

Writing about the Polo earlier this week got me thinking about my appreciation for VAG products in general. The result being a list forming, photos being researched and this post about some of the more obscure models to emerge from Germany that I have a fondness for. These are not in any particular order, just the way in which my brain spat them out onto paper.

1999 – 2005 Volkswagen Bora V5

For (almost) as long as the Golf has existed, VW has produced a version with a huge boot grafted onto the back-end to meet the demand of the American market. Those on the other side of the pond have, generally, shown a far greater demand for models with a trunk, resulting in the Jetta, Vento and Bora models. In Europe, these models have never garnered the same appreciation; leaving them to be the unloved middle child, wedged awkwardly between the smaller Golf, but larger Passat.

I, however, have a relative fondness for these ugly ducklings, and the Bora V5 is a particular favourite of mine. Packing 170bhp in later models, the narrow-angle five cylinder was as punchy as it was aurally satisfying. It’s also completely unassuming looking, making it an excellent Q-Car and thus why I love it. (more…)