Good: big boot, looks good in this spec, good value
Not so good: not as refined as a Golf, not as economical as it should be
We do like a booted hatchback (or 'shatchback') here in Ireland. I'm not entirely sure why. A hatchback rear end is usually more versatile, but Irish buyers still buy the likes of the Toyota Corolla, Renault Fluence, Ford Focus Saloon and of course, the Volkswagen Jetta by the dozen. It's probably the least sexy car in the Volkswagen line-up, though you wouldn't think it to look at the test car we're reviewing here, as it wears a set of tasty 18-inch alloy wheels.
They improve the visual appeal and stance of the Jetta no end, but be wary of the temptation, as the low profile tyres make for a less comfortable and noisier driving experience. We've tested the Jetta on more sensible tyres in the past and it's lovely and comfy and relaxed regardless of the surface underneath. The larger wheels and shallower side wall result in more jiggling about and more transmission of road noise to the cabin.
That cabin is the very definition of 'sensible'. It's well-made, logically laid out and fairly spacious front and rear. The plastics are a little monotone and grey but they're clearly of high quality. Out back is a useful 510-litre boot. The Volkswagen Golf, by way of comparison, holds just 380 litres, which indicates perhaps why we Irish like compact saloons so much.
Despite that, saloons such as this are somehow not expected to engage drivers like their hatchback equivalents, but there's really not a huge difference between the Golf and Jetta on that count. They're both comfortable and refined first and foremost and really more accomplished in the corners than you might expect, but the Jetta isn't quite as fun when you're in a rush.
So how does the Jetta compare to the Golf in terms of pricing? While the Jetta's is a more restricted line-up, it keeps the core Trendline, Comfortline and Highline specifications. Pricing starts at €21,845 on-the-road, which gets you a 1.2 TSI 105 petrol model in Trendline trim. The equivalent five-door Golf (with 5hp more) is €23,240, which is interesting. Our Jetta 2.0 TDI 110 Highline, from €27,435, has no direct comparator in the Golf line-up, though there is a 1.6 TDI 110 Golf in the same specification for some €2,000 more. Seems the Jetta is a bit of a bargain in comparison then.
Perhaps that's why they're still so popular.