German cars are renowned for their superior performance, innovation, quality and safety. And up until a few years back, the range of Germany’s finest sold officially in Malaysia commanded some seriously high prices to match. Recently, we’ve begun to notice a new trend develop, with German marques continuing to work down the ladder to make cars that can be offered to a wider audience – not just society’s elite few. Mercedes-Benz has done this, apparent in their all-new range of compact cars (A-Class, CLA-Class and GLA-Class). BMW Malaysia too, has slapped on a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine to their hit-making CKD F30 3 Series, and made it so much more accessible to buy at just RM209k. But while that’s all well and appreciated, you can’t deny another German manufacturer’s attempt at it. And in this part of the world where cars typically cost as much as they do, your best bet for a proper German vehicle is often available onVolkswagen Group Malaysia’s catalogue. Rather than take baby steps towards bridging typically-high German price tags and what we can actually afford, the ‘people’s’ carmaker has been working hard at its local-assembly projects; adding more variety of cars, spec-ing them just right, and making them more affordable in the process. As a result, and for the first time here, you will always have a comparable German option for every B, C and D segment entry Japan has to offer. And here, is their RM130,888 Volkswagen Jetta; primed for the C-segment, chiming in for just the sort of money asked of a Japanese Mazda 3.
2014 Volkswagen Jetta CKD Key Specs:
- Price: RM130,888, excluding insurance
- Engine: 1.4-litre TSI twin-charged four-cylinder petrol
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox)
- Horsepower: 158hp @5,800rpm
- Torque: 250Nm @ 1,500 – 4,500rpm
- Performance: 0-100km/h in 8.3 seconds
- Fuel consumption: 6.0-litre/100km
What’s new? On a trip with Volkswagen this time around, we set off in the CKD Jetta, which if you missed it, was only just launched in Malaysia back in April this year. Mechanically, the CKD Jetta is the same as the fully imported German CBU one, but on the equipment list, there some minor changes which include an updated infotainment system with Bluetooth and SD-card reader, updated automatic air-conditioning, and the omission of paddle shifters. Obviously, the best part of all this is that by being a locally-assembled unit, Volkswagen has been not only able to throw in more equipment, they’ve also been able to slash prices by some RM21k, against the fully-important model.
What’s it like to drive? Basically, the driving dynamics or feel of the car hasn’t changed. We didn’t get to sample the car on twisty trunk roads, but driving it on the highway and around the city for a short time, it’s safe to say that this German C-segmenter has a lot of athletic character. The suspension setup is spot on. It absorbs humps and lumps well, while being stable and composed at high speeds and long sweeping corners. The 160hp 1.4-litre twincharged TSI engine delivers power from the low end making it easier to drive compared to most of its rivals, which need to be revved hard because of their naturally-aspirated engines. The gearbox complements the overall driving experience by providing smooth shifts, which are barely noticeable. On the downside however, at high speeds, when you need to overtake someone, you will have to drop one or two gears manually, using the gear lever itself, seeing as how the paddle shifters have been removed.
What’s it like to live with? Space is not an issue with the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta CKD. It can easily seat five adults and their luggage for a weekend outing. Inside, from the design to the materials used, it all appears to have a step up in premium quality over its class rivals. The fabric seats are comfortable for long journeys, while the places your body usually comes in contact with are either padded or wrapped in soft-touch materials. That doesn’t mean hard plastics are not present, however. You’ll find them on places that you don’t normally come into contact with. The dashboard however is slightly high and obstructs your view if you are someone who like sit low. The infotainment system is easy to navigate through. Thanks to Volkswagen’s good insulation, the cabin is quiet from wind and tire noise.
Verdict: Should you buy one? The Jetta CKD is a well-assembled car and still retains the same quality as the imported ones. With a price of RM130, 888, it is a very attractive alternative to other C-segment cars like the 2014 Toyota Corolla Altis, 2014 Mazda 3 and 2014 Ford Focus. With 160hp and 240Nm, it is even more powerful than its rivals, excluding the 2014 Peugeot 408 Turbo, which has just 2hp more and same torque as the Jetta. In terms of safety equipment and creature comforts, it is clearly on par with the rest of the pack. But in the styling department, we’ve got to say the Jetta is not amongst the best looking vehicles out there. Regardless, the locally-assembled Volkswagen Jetta is still a proper contender within the C-segment crop of cars, and you shouldn’t overlook this one when making a purchase decision.