If you can't beat'em, join'em
For years, and years, and years, the Jetta was marketed and considered as an upscale compact sedan. For quite a while, it has been sought after as a halfway step between the mainstream compact offerings and entry-level, premium-brand sedans.
That means a sub-$20,000 Jetta hasn’t been available for about 15 years, unlike the Honda Civic, the Mazda3 and the Toyota Corolla, to name a few. That is, besides the City Jetta that was exclusively sold in Canada from 2007 to 2009.
VW is on a mission: they want to boost sales in North America with a product offensive spearheaded by the Jetta and the New Mid-Size Sedan (the North American Passat replacement whose name will probably be announced at the L.A. Auto Show), and the only way to do it is to beat the most popular rivals at their own game. The 2011 Jetta is now on sale for as low as $15,795.
Wait a minute—how on earth can VW reduce the Jetta’s price by over $6,000 and make a better car? Several measures were taken, including some that drew a fair amount of criticism. Let’s analyse this more closely.
The Jetta is a very important car for VW Canada, since the compact market segment is a strong-selling one. They are expecting to sell about 24,000 of them in the next year (double the current sales pace), and to achieve this, they had to make some concessions in order to offer a couple of trim levels that are priced competitively with rivals Civic, Mazda3 and Corolla.
The biggest concession, the one that’s been the most debated by the automotive press, is the return of the 2.0-litre, 8-valve 4-cylinder engine that develops 115 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. Us Canadians haven’t forgotten it, because the City models are equipped with it, but south of the border, base versions of the Jetta seem underpowered on paper.
Truthfully, it’s not the case. Yes, the modest output is noticeable when you’re trying to merge onto the highway and impolite drivers won’t let you in, but otherwise, the 2.0-litre mill does an honest, if not exciting, job.
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