The market for compact-medium sized passenger vehicles in Brazil is defined by strong competition amongst the SUV contenders as well as conventional cars, has lost a little momentum but still attracts loyal and perhaps less mainstream buyers.
At least 17 brands have offered saloon (sedan) cars in the segment, now it's 14, but only eight currently show some sales weight. Toyota's Corolla rules the segment followed by Honda's Civic, GM's Chevrolet Cruze, Ford's floundering Focus (to be axed in 2019) and Volkswagen 's Jetta.
This latest VW saloon is the seventh generation and justifies the words 'all-new'. The sixth generation's life cycle (the first untied from the Golf) was eight years. The 7G's profile follows the current trend towards a shorter front overhang and a longer rear. The design of the rear pillar is elegant.
The 1.45in wheelbase increase provides additional rear seat leg room. The widened (by 0.82in) body boosts shoulder room. The (always huge over the generations) boot/trunk remains a useful 18cu ft.
The interior is welcoming and there is ambient lighting in 10 colours. The top R-Line version's eight-inch multimedia screen forms a continuous visual line with the instrument cluster.
Nonetheless, the new Jetta lacks certain features seen in other recent VW models (automatic Polo hatchback and Virtus saloon) such as air conditioning vents for the rear seat passengers and paddle shifters (even the old Gol and Voyage compacts offer those). Yet the parking brake is the up to date electro-mechanical type.
In compensation the new car packs in important safety items: automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic city braking including reversing, traffic separation, six airbags and daylight running lamps.
There are two (unlighted) USB ports and the option of mobile phone induction charging. The owner's manual is integrated into a mobile device app capable of responding to 11,000 questions about the car's characteristics and operation.
Multimedia includes Android Auto and Apple Car Play. A panoramic sunroof is the only option.
When driving the Jetta, the interior quietness is remarkable and rivals the Passat and other upscale models. The (currently) only available powertrain, the flex-fuel, 148bhp/250Nm 1.4-litre turbo, makes the car nimble both in city traffic and for highway overtaking, but is far from exciting.
Power assisted brakes and electro-mechanical steering are on par with VW brand standards.
VW Brazil's new policy is a simplified range so initially there are just two versions: Comfortline (BRL109,990/US$29,300) and R-Line (BRL119,990/$32,000). The price effectively is lower because the first three maintenance inspections are included and they are worth roughly BRL1,400/$370.
VW has yet to confirm this but just-auto expects VW to add an entry level version and one with a more powerful engine later.
The Jetta's price positioning is competitive, especially against the Corolla, when its standard equipment advantages are taken into account.
The Jetta, imported fully assembled from Mexico under a quota-limited free trade agreement, reaches Brazilian showrooms this month.