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:
Mk5 Jetta TDI – Editor’s own
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.