We spend 10 days with the unofficial underdog. The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta. Introduction - Automobile manufacturers usually send their best variant across, when requested for by an Automotive publication for review. We thought (and this is what we got), why not do the exact opposite and review the absolute base model of the same. At least, that is where you get to know, how much are you getting for your money. (And the fact that we could rent a Base model only ) Styling and Design - The Volkswagen Jetta, does come across as an understated, bigger sized variant of the Volkswagen Polo/Vento. However it does hold its own with albeit conservative, but executive class styling, presence and stance. The front looks classy, following the Polo/Vento style of headlights, with integrated DRLs. The view from the side is again balanced, and is pleasing to the eye. I was not too impressed with the styling at the rear. In the effort of being conservative, the rear is a tad boring compared to the front. I did like the fact that the base model came with Dual exhaust for that hint of sporty character. This is not a car that you would fit a spoiler or body skirts on. This isn't a car that you would do stickering or put any racing imagery on. This is a car that you'd have to match with an expensive formal suit, and all the bells and whistles. And then you would be one with it. In many ways I like it for being that. I would compare it with the likes of the Hyundai Elantra and the Chevrolet Cruze, which actually come at the same price point, segment, and dimension. The Hyundai is over the top stylish with its Fluidic styling and frankly beautiful lines. The Chevrolet has an aggressive stance highlighted by the aggressive headlights, hood and short rear section. This is way dull compared to them, but in a good way. And we'll go further on that in a bit. Interior Space, Design and Comfort - The inside is where a driver spends all his time, and this is the place that matters most, when you need a vehicle to get you to your destination in the smoothest possible manner. The styling on the inside, mirrors the outside. Everything is functional and ergonomic, with some thoughtful and some not so thoughtful details. The fit, finish, quality of switchgear feels excellent and robust. Daresay, I feel that it's better than the Ford Fusion that I own, which is a much higher segment vehicle as well. The steering offers both tilt and telescopic adjustment. The seat has height adjustment as well. What I liked was the unique shopping bag handle to unlock the seat and do the adjustment for travel. Very easy to reach and operate. Some details that were not spot on, were items like the arm-rest; no matter what position I tried, I could barely rest my arm/elbow on it. The Hazard light button is in the middle of the central air vents so it takes some reaching to activate in the event of an emergency. The boot release is a thoughtful touch on the door pocket, rather than at some weird location under the dashboard. The space is more than sufficient for a small family or for 2 people, however taller people (Greater than 5"11' ) might find their heads dangerously close to the ceiling in the rear. Seat support is good, with a nice and firm cushion that gives no sign of letting up anytime soon. To add to the comfort part, this is one of the few cars that offers rear A/C vents as standard. One quirk that was highlighted by two friends who sat in the driver's seat was that the Rear view mirror adjustment was not up to the mark. The control was confusing and not the easiest bit to handle. Drive, Performance and Stability - The Jetta packs a 2.0L, naturally aspirated, In-line 4 cylinder engine. Though on paper the engine is the weakest of the lot (The competition is at a healthy 140+ BHP, while this makes a modest 115), I was curious to find out why they would fit such an engine that is so low on power vs the competition. The power figures are 115 Bhp at a lowly 5,200 rpm and 170 Nm of torque at a higher 4,000 rpm. The engine is mated to a 6-speed auto box, with 2 options - 1) Sequential shift, where you can pick your gears manually and 2) Sport mode, which holds on to a gear longer, and uses the first 5 gears only. Starting up, the vehicle feels smooth, silent and has a dull hum that you can barely notice. It's hard to tell if the engine is running, though some minor vibes do filter in. The accelerator pedal is a organ type pedal, which allows you to rest your heel on the car floor and rest your foot on the pedal. It does allow for some precise throttle control and input, but with a bad driver, can make for some heavy footed driving (read inefficient driving). Gunning the engine does give it a nice growl, and it revs in a very sedate manner, but still going to peak revs around 6000 rpm. Driving off, I was impressed by the grunt of the engine. It felt like a eager mongrel, insistent on getting things done. There is a nice engine note when accelerating, probably compounded by the dual tipped, single exhaust. The gear change is smooth and well defined. The ECU ensures that you have the best gear available depending on your speed and load requirement. For a single person driving around, it was more than sufficient and at times felt sportier than it actually is. I have driven the Chevrolet Cruze, the new Toyota Corolla and the Hyundai Elantra (all 2014 models) over the past few months, and I must say that this does not feel any lesser than any of them, for anyone looking at a sedate daily driver. It's not the fastest by any margin, but it gets the job done in a matter of fact manner. You appreciate the feel and refinement and allow them to make up for the lack of excitement. The steering is precise and to be honest, heavy at low speeds. Some might find that an annoyance, but I like the feel. Although my gripe is that it is a tad too big in diameter compared to the other cars here. Not a comfortable feeling. However it more than makes up for that, by precise steering response and feedback. The Elantra, Cruze and Fusion feel vague in comparison. Only the Corolla offered similar responsive steering (and I loved the smaller steering wheel as well). Under steer is pretty evident during hard cornering, and the rear does make it's bulk felt. The dash is a compact design, so driving around, you feel closer to the front than somewhere in the middle of the vehicle. Braking is progressive, and responsive. Some people might find that the brakes are not strong enough, but when you pile on the pressure to brake suddenly, the system does a great job of controlling the amount of force applied, and ensure that it remains smooth and progressive. I have noticed a lot of sudden jerks, or front dive even while braking hard on the Elantra, Corolla or Fusion even. The Jetta was confidence inspiring and much smoother in comparison. Definitely a high point. The only flip side that I noticed was that highway overtaking or in-gear acceleration, actually had me switching to Sport mode, that would make the system, down-shift a gear, or hold onto a gear longer. Not something I would want with high speed traffic here, but in slower traffic, you won't really feel the need. I tested the vehicle with a full load of people and some shopping as well in the boot. So with 5 people on board, the vehicle still performed efficiently in traffic, though braking, turning and overtaking had to be planned in advance to keep a safe margin. Going up a bridge I did have to down shift or select Sport Mode, but then again, the scrappy engine gave it its best to ensure that we had a smooth drive. At speeds, the vehicle was stable and more refined than a lot of its peers. The Elantra and Corolla feel flitty and tipsy at speed. This was composed, smooth and stable with the steering holding true and the car not requiring much inputs even at 120-140 kmph. Get's a vote from me for that. Fuel Consumption, cost of ownership etc - The VW Jetta does score on a few points here. The service interval for this vehicle is at after every 15,000 kms, which is much ahead of the competition which have service intervals ranging from 5000 kms for the Corolla (not so cost effective after all then) to 10,000 kms for the Elantra. If you are the kind of person who does a lot of daily driving, and does not like the downtime or added cost of servicing frequently, this car does warrant a look. A daily drive of 100 kms, equates into this vehicle going for service every 5-6 months, instead of 3 months or even 2 months of others. Much peace. With all my driving, full Air conditioning blast, full load of passengers and what not, The vehicle still managed more than a respectable 7 litres / 100 kms. This translates into a great FE of 14 km per litre. The highlight that I would like to point out is that cruising at 120 kmph, brings this to a FE of 16-18 kmpl even. I did not have the luxury of cruise control, else I'm pretty sure these figures would have been much higher. In this scenario, it wins a lot of points vs the competition, with only the Corolla coming close in terms of efficiency. Other tester notes - - There are some nice touches like the volume decreasing on the Radio, while switching between stations. - The sound system is impressive to say the least. Clear audio, very good bass, and loud. You don't feel the need to upgrade. The base model comes with AUX in, so you should be able to hook up pretty much anything. - Storage options are limited with a small storage below the arm-rest and a moderate sized glove-box. The boot is pretty big for the overall size. - The rear view mirrors are small and provide a limited view of the road behind. Something that can surely be improved. Not felt restricted in any other vehicle tested. - All round visibility is good, especially when reversing from a parking slot. Minimum intrusion from C pillar. - The Multi-Information display is a useful piece of kit. - Seat space and comfort could be improved a tad in the rear, but as a daily drive, no complaints. To end this review, the Jetta does make a very valid case for itself. It scores decently on some parts, and it scores really well on bits that matter a lot to some people. It is surely not a vehicle that will get second glances from anyone, but then it won't let you down too much either. If you don't like the limelight, or aggressive styling of the current crop of cars, this is the machine for you. Being my first VW drive, I had some expectations from the German design and engineering. And I must say, that though I was expecting something more, when I look at the overall package, I feel satisfied. Not excited, or happy, satisfied.