Whenever we hear the name Volkswagen (people’s car in German) more often than not, the iconic Beetle is what comes to mind. For decades, the VW Bug captivated car enthusiasts around the world mainly because of its minimalist features yet having ultimate reliability and excellent fuel economy.
Filipino car enthusiasts also fell in love with the German brand as can proven by the sales it generated during in its two-decade stint in the country. From 1958 to1981 over 50,000 Volkswagen vehicles were sold in the Philippines through its exclusive distributor then, DMG Philippines. However, DMG was forced to close shop as the entry of much cheaper Japanese brands made it no longer feasible to do business here.
Despite their absence in the country, VW made nonstop improvements to their cars not only making them more dependable and fuel efficient, but more attractive and safer as well. In fact, VW consistently ranked as the top automaker that spends most on ‘research development’ to make the best performing cars in the market. In the 90’s VW worked on an upmarket shift that made the brand at the same level of BMW and Mercedes Benz. In 1996 the VW brand was revived in the country by Proton Pilipinas Corporation-selling the Polo Classic, Caravelle and new Beetle models. However, the venture was short-lived.
Last year, the German brand made its comeback with the Ayala Group now at the helm. The brand is slowly gaining prominence in the local automotive market offering remarkable models including the Beetle, the Jetta, the Polo, the Touran, the Tiguan and the Touareg.
We recently got behind the wheel of a diesel-powered Jetta TDI that was loaned to us by Automobile Central Enterprise, Inc. The four-door sedan had a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, in-line, common rail turbo direct injection power plant that is mated to a five-speed manual transmission. The TDI powering the Jetta packs a power of 110 Ps and 206 lb.-ft. of torque. Full torque is available at just 1,750 rpm—very impressive numbers, indeed, and so is its fuel consumption of 14.9 kilometers per liter in city driving and 21 kilometers per liter in the highway.
I drove the Jetta through the entire stretch of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and the Southern Tagalog Expressway (STAR) to get a good consumption rating for the highway driving conditions. Driving just below the 100 kph limit, the Jetta’s onboard computer displayed an average consumption of 21 kilometers per liter. Hesitant to believe the figures, I once again drove south of Manila towards Nasugbu in Batangas using the new Nasugbu-Ternate tunnel via the Cavite Expressway—this time with the family in tow. With combined city and highway conditions, including the steep and twisting roads that were carved along the Cavite-Batangas boonies, the Jetta still posted an amazing fuel consumption of 20 km/l. City driving proved was also praiseworthy as I was able to post a 14 km/l consumption during my 42 km trip between home and work. Even more laudable is the Jetta TDI’s performance in extremely heavy traffic. In the hour and a half trip that took me to travel 21 kilometers in really bad traffic, the Jetta TDI only consumed 2.21 liters for leg or equivalent to 9.5 km/l.—truly amazing.
Aside from the Jetta’s excellent fuel economy, I really liked the feel of the Jetta’s cabin. Even though it is a compact car, the cabin feel’s very spacious and bright. Even the seats—wrapped in Cardeol fabric are very pleasing as they have been contoured just right to hold the driver in place even specially when making sharp turns. The three-spoke leather wrapped steering wheel has been fitted with switches to control the multi-function display and audio system. Other features available in the Jetta include push-button start, proximity key and front and rear parking sensors. The rear seats also provide very spacious legroom for three passengers. At the back is a large trunk that is capable of carrying 439 liters of cargo. Even with our long and winding drive, my kids still enjoyed the comfort and smooth ride of the Jetta.
The Jetta also has a wide front windshield that provided me with an excellent visibility of the road ahead. Even the passengers in the rear cabin got to enjoy the clear view up front that the Jetta had to offer.
For safety, the Jetta TDI driver and passenger airbags, side and head curtain airbags, ISOFIX mounting points for child seats, anti-lock braking system, brake pad wear indicator and anti-theft with immobilizer.
On the road, the Jetta TDI is extremely quiet. Road and wind noise are hardly evident. Even with its substantial power plant, only a subtle groan can be heard from the TDI even as it propels the car ahead of slower traffic and while pulling the car it up to speed in merging with the fast highway traffic.
Complementing the TDI is its sprightly handling characteristics. The steering feedback is excellent and precise thanks to its electromechanical speed-sensitive power steering. Body pitch and roll is also minimal during sudden braking and quick turns.
All in all, the Jetta TDI is one heck of a machine. With its power and performance, combined with excellent fuel economy, owners will surely be gratified with the purchase and will be rewarded as well by less money being spent at the gas stations. And with a price tag of only P1.295 million, the Jetta TDi truly deserves to be called ‘Das Auto,’ which is VW’s slogan meaning “The Car.”