Every now and then, from the performance and design-dominated world of motoring, comes a car that takes us by surprise because of its sheer simplicity and commitment to what cars were meant to do in the first place: Get us from A to B.
A reliable car with an engine that produces upwards of 100 horsepower and an automatic tranny is what I would call an ideal car, especially for the hectic city of Dubai.
In addition to sufficient power and reliability, a good fuel average and air conditioning that cools the car quickly in summer are factors you need to keep in mind when choosing an affordable family sedan.
A few days with the 2011 Jetta made me realise all of the above are second nature to this sedan from Volkswagen.
Cost is key
Affordability is the key feature of the Jetta, which has a starting price of around Dh69,400, and although it is priced slightly higher than its Japanese rivals in the same segment, it makes up for this by offering a smooth German motoring experience.
The Jetta comes with a 2.0-litre engine that produces 115 brake horsepower. Agreed, that's not a lot but the attractive part about it is that it offers premium build quality for those who don't care too much about how powerful the engine is.
I took the Jetta on a trip to Abu Dhabi from Dubai. I was curious about how it would feel on a slightly long-distance run rather than the tiresome city driving it is built for.
On the highway the Jetta was smooth and composed. The 2.0-litre engine provided sufficient power and acceleration to keep up with frequent lane changes. However, although the Jetta isn't technically underpowered, it lacks the aggression and quick acceleration needed to remain a contender in the fast lane.
Driving the car in the city was a walk in the park for the Jetta with its front-wheel-drive system helping manoeuvre the car with minimal understeer. The wheel had a good grip and felt nice and snug, and although the car feels a lot heavier than it actually is (a European car trait), the overall handling is good.
Given the fact this is a city car, it would have been great if it came loaded with a navigation system, but then again, a portable GPS unit isn't very expensive these days.
The Jetta accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in a little more than 12 seconds. While point A to point B motorists won't fret about this, its appeal would surely have been greater if it could do this in a few seconds less.
Great for going the distance
The interior is nicely finished - like any other Volkswagen sans the luxury bits. The overall feel and appeal are similar for the entire range of models.
The seats are firm and supportive and legroom is not bad at all for a car in this segment. Long-distance runs don't induce any significant travelling fatigue on the Jetta.
The sound system on the Trendline variant that I got to test drive isn't terribly impressive and the first thing I would do if I got a Jetta for myself is go for an audio upgrade.
The exterior, especially the rear end, bears a strong resemblance to its Audi cousins and it really does stand out as a well-designed car. The front grille and headlights bear the latest VW family design complete with 16" Navara alloy wheels.
One of the car's highlights is its air conditioning. The day we went to Abu Dhabi the temperature was hovering in the high 40s but the Jetta's dual zone air conditioning cooled the inside in a matter of minutes.
Parking assistance is via a voice and graphical guidance and although most cars these days have a rear camera, I really didn't miss it. The car's size is perfect for parking in tight spots.
Fuel average is one of the Jetta's strong points and what most buyers in this segment are really interested in. Especially for those who do a lot of driving, this really is perfect for the daily commute.
Service and maintenance schedules are in multiples of 10,000kms, so it really is hassle-free motoring compared to most Japanese cars that need servicing every 5,000kms or so.
So if you are looking for a comfortable vehicle for city commuting, or if you do a lot of driving around, check this one out.
Features: 2.0-litre engine; Parking assistance via a voice and graphical guidance; Dual zone air-conditioning
Philip Shane is a Dubai-based motoring freelancer