Two German competitors have recently launched their new versions of their best-seller sedans, and we take a look at how they stack up.
On the looks side, Jetta has kept similar lines and one has to look carefully to make out the difference from the older model. The only differentiation factor is the LED lights in the headlights. This gives the car a modern, classy look. The lines have been smoothened and the bonnet now fits snugly onto the protruding grill and headlights. The revised bumper has chrome lines that now stretch all the way to the fog lights, which are now more angular. The standard Jetta bonnet crease that extends all the way to the boot is now more prominent, adding to the new look.
The rear light cluster has been revised and now echoes the shape of its sibling, the Audi A4. The reverse lights and indicator are incorporated into the centre of the light cluster and look a lot better than the previous version. The rear bumper has also been sculptured along with the lower part of the boot lid. This, together with the smaller rear reflectors, makes the vehicle look bigger than the previous vehicle from the back.
Opel has gone more flamboyant in the look of the new Astra. We are familiar with the front end as it has been on the Astra Hatch, and the new sedan package looks good. The front has got a sort of a teardrop on the outer ends of the headlights and a front bumper that extends three-quarters the way up these headlights. The centre bonnet crease now flows through the top section of the bumper to the grill. The bumper, in line with the new Opel look, has a small grill with the Opel badge and a larger air intake below the number plate that is surrounded by a chrome slit that almost looks like a smile. The indicators have been moved down to where the fog lights are,– this allows for the light cluster to have day-time running lights on the top section of the lights. The side of the vehicle is smooth with almost no sign of a crease except for the bottom section, which has a line running the bottom of the doors and then shooting up just before the rear wheels.
The rear lights continue the teardrop look. The boot lid has a slight lip at the end to give a touch of sportiness. The boot lid cannot be opened without the key from the outside as there is a button, which can be a bit frustrating. The concealed button behind the logo like the one fitted to the OPC would have made it a lot easier. Luckily you can open the boot with a button inside the vehicle as well.
The Jetta has a typical VW dashboard with the addition of an accent strip that runs along the dash and the top section of the doors. The test vehicle’s strip was in a high-gloss black finish. The use of quality plastics and the optional leather seats made the interior very luxurious. The steering wheel has a squared-off bottom to add to the look and feel of driving a sportier vehicle. The touchscreen infotainment system works well and is a big improvement on the previous model. The instrument cluster has a 3D look with its two big dials for the speed and tachometer. The space in-between these dials have an electronic read-out for fuel consumption, speed, temperature, etc, and can be selected for what you want to see. The automatic gearshift is well positioned and all controls are where they should be. The overall squarish angular look has not changed and I think many a VW fan would be pleased about that. There is ample space for all five passengers to travel in comfort. Although there is a centre hump in the rear, the fifth passenger still feels comfy keeping a foot on each side. The boot space is typical Jetta in that it is huge and will swallow anything you want to throw at it. If that’s not enough, you can lower the rear seats to load all the way through.
The Astra interior has a very modern look with a totally redesigned dashboard and centre console. The dashboard is deep and is lower than in the Jetta. This, together with the large windscreen, makes the interior look larger. The centre drop-down console is filled with buttons and knobs to control climate and the infotainment system. The dashboard had more angular lines than a trapezoid but worked well in the vehicle. The instrument cluster was made up of four circular displays, two large and two smaller ones as well as a large rectangular LED display for all other information that you may want to view (similar to the Jetta). The one thing I did not like was the orange colour displays. This looked dated for such a modern interior. The test vehicle did not have leather seats, but the cloth seats proved very comfy and looked good. There is ample space like in the Jetta, but there is not such a big hump in the rear. The boot on the Astra was enormous and also has the option of folding down the rear seats, but honestly unless it very long items I can’t see you dropping these seats.
ON THE ROAD
The Jetta had a two-litre diesel motor that was smooth and never skipped a beat. There was sufficient power for the family man. Thanks to the DSG gearbox the gear changes were smooth and at lower speeds you barely noticed that the gear had changed. VW is normally known for its superior road holding and I am glad to say that nothing has changed in this department. That being said, the suspension is a bit stiffer than the Astra so bumps are felt by all. In line with VW standards the steering is responsive and well balanced.
The Astra’s 1,4-litre turbo-charged motor seemed small but was truly impressive. Don’t get me wrong: this is no tar burner but rather a well-balanced family vehicle that has ample power to keep a smile on the driver’s face, yet not too much to scare the passengers. The drive is smooth and quiet. The car handles like a typical front-wheel driver understeer but does have decent levels of grip. The softish suspension set-up meant that the bumps were not that hard on the passengers. The steering wheel does feel a bit dull considering that Opel is normally a driver’s car, but it’s responsive and easy to use. The Astra comes with a City mode that allows the steering wheel to become loose during parking manoeuvres. This is done at the touch of a button, so now there is no need to have any muscle to park this vehicle.
Both these cars have their strengths and weaknesses. It’s a pity that they could not be stacked up equally, as we did have a better speced Jetta. The Astra is a perfect blend of comfort, flamboyant looks and modern interior while the Jetta has classic styling but oozes quality.
Overall this round goes to the Jetta as I believe most buyers of this segment of cars will prefer the classic lines and solid feel of the vehicle and the Jetta ticks all these boxes.
Engine: 1,4 l 4-cylinder Turbo
Power: 103 kW
Torque: 200 Nm
0–100 km/h: 10,1 s (claimed)
Fuel: Average 5,8 l /100 km
CO2: 150 g/km
Price: From R297 900
Engine: 2,0 l 4-cylinder Turbo Diesel
Power: 103 kW
Torque: 320 Nm
0–100 km/h: 9,5 s (claimed)
Fuel: Average 6,7 l /100 km
CO2: 138 g/km
Price: From R366 300
Author: Torque Talk is a member of SAGMJ