THE Volkswagen Jetta saloon has been largely overshadowed by its stable-mate Golf hatchback but with a totally restyled body it can now be considered a very different car.
Indeed, the new Jetta launched to customers in the summer is a much bigger medium-sized car than the previous generation which went on sale in early 2006.
With a longer body sitting on a stretched wheelbase, the new sixth generation Jetta offers much more room inside the completely overhauled cabin and outside the panels are unique to this model and not shared with the Golf, which further differentiates it from the popular hatchback.
Under the skin there is also a very sophisticated chassis with electro-mechanical steering, multi-link rear suspension and cutting edge powertrain choices with five and six-speed manual gearboxes or six and seven speed DSG transmission, 122 and 160ps 1.4 petrol or 105 1.6 and 140 2.0 diesels. These are shared with the Golf.
The new Jetta series runs to 16 models spanning approximately £17,000 to £22,530.
This car was the best selling SE BlueMotion 1.6 TDI with the 105ps engine incorporating a stop/start ignition system and recuperative braking, hill hold parking brake as well as advanced multi device interface for personal sound equipment among its extensive list of standard items.
The SE spec includes cloth seats with leather detailing of controls, 6½Jx16 alloys and low rolling resistance tyres.
It is a good package when you remember that VWs were once famous for being basic and charging buyers a premium to have anything "extra". How the world and markets change, and how the Jetta has come on.
It is the medium-sized saloon in the Volkswagen range but some may think it is big enough because the longer wheelbase has really transformed the cabin and given space for the designers to make a much more sophisticated car.
The extended distance between the front and back wheels also markedly improves the ride over bad roads.
This helps offset the typically firm VW seats, but they are now better shaped and supporting than before and adjustment infront is very good for short or tall users.
The back seats' offset split and fold arrangement means you can usually extend the length of the loadspace from the boot area although the rear bulkhead below the back window restricts the size of items which can be carried. That said, the boot opening is reasonable and its capacity is useful.
Access for driver and passengers is good, the visibility is very good and in bad conditions a bright pair of headlights and big wipers clear the windscreen.
The 1.6-litre diesel goes well with the five-speed manual gearbox in hand, but I was not too happy with the very long travel clutch pedal and its contrast with the short shifting and precise lever.
Start up was quick, it pulled strongly and was flexible about town, quiet and long legged on a motorway and it consumed fuel at a very modest rate.
The brakes and steering gave good feedback and worked well, the secondary controls were sensibly laid out and the instruments were clear, with good heating and ventilation backed up by the SE's powered windows.
Oddments space was reasonable too, even if individual compartments were on the restrictive size.
The refinement of the design, chassis and power-train was underlined by the Jetta SE's quietness and it is a car which did peform without complaint despite its modestly sized and tuned engine.
At this price, the VW Jetta can be considered a serious rival to brands which some may have thought more upmarket or premium but which, by comparison, are beginning to look distinctly over-priced and lacking in the refinement of the latest Jetta.