First drive: Volkswagen Jetta 2011 in Dubai

First drive: Volkswagen Jetta 2011 in Dubai

Our long-time readers might know that our VW coverage bordered on farcical since 2006. However, things change over time, and we were pleasantly surprised to receive an invite to the GCC launch of the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta in Dubai. The new Jetta is the car VW expects to crack the compact segment with in the GCC.

The VW Jetta has always been a conservatively-designed car, and the new one takes that to the extreme. A non-descript grill, basic three-box profile and a common tail, it seems to be a car that looked good on the drawing board but didn’t translate well in real life. There are flashes of style though, such as the pointy chin on the lower front bumper, the smoked headlights and the general clean look, and while we weren’t wowed by its looks, we met journalists at the event who seemed genuinely fond of the car.

Moving on to the interior, it looks like a mild variation of the dashboard design template that’s been in use among Golf and Bora models for generations, much to the delight of their buyers. VW had admitted earlier that they were cutting costs to bring down the price of this new Jetta, but it isn’t as extensive as one would think. The Jetta still retains the soft-touch dashboard materials, the padded armrests, the three rear headrests, the six standard airbags and even the cloth on the front A-pillars. However, the upper door sills are now hard plastic, while the cloth door inserts aren’t padded.

The real revelation is the abundant interior space, with good all-round headroom and sizeable rear legroom, almost as much as some midsize cars. With a huge boot as well, the Jetta might be the new class leader in space. The a/c was pretty good too, and comes with rear vents, although don’t expect much from the stereo.

During the themed event, which involved a concocted story of three “thieves” stealing three Jettas for various reasons and them then getting “caught” at various checkpoints around Dubai, we got a tour of the engine compartment. It has a dated 115 hp 2.0-litre 4-cylinder, mated to a modern 6-speed automatic and front-wheel-drive. VW highlighted design elements such as a cover for the battery and the padding under the bonnet, things not generally found in entry-level compact cars.

The trip involved breakfast at the Pavilion restaurant opposite Burj Khalifa, then a drive to a coffee break at Bab Al Shams, then a drive to the edge of the Palm Jumeirah from where we went on a catamaran boat-ride from to the Royal Mirage hotel on Jumeirah beach for lunch, after which we had the cars ready outside for a trip back to the Pavilion for, and then on to the Palace-Old Town hotel for dinner. VW sure knows how to throw a party for the media.

We were three in one car, ours being a mid-range “Comfortline” model, and I riding with the crew from Arab Motors TV. There were GPS units stuck to the windshield so we wouldn’t get lost on the way to Bab Al Shams. When we drove off, it was expectedly noticeable that the car is slow, especially with three riders and a TV camera. However, despite what the specs may suggest, it didn’t feel too slow, likely due to the 170 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm and six speeds to shift though, or maybe just the illusion of power from the refined growl of the engine.

And that pretty much defines the Jetta. It seems to be built for cruising long distances, because we were doing 140 kph with only moderate wind noise and a not-too-stressed engine, as the suspension smoothened out bumps like a larger car. Around corners, body roll wasn’t excessive, grip was seemingly good from the 205/55 tyres on 16-inch alloys, and the mildly-firm steering provides just enough feedback to safely direct the car quickly.

The Mexican-built Jetta may not be spectacular by any means, but it seems to do some things pretty well for a car competing against Civics, Cruzes, Focuses, Lancers and Corollas. If the staid looks, door plastics and sleepy power doesn’t bother you, the Jetta appears to lead the class in almost every other area. The base model is priced at Dhs 69.400 in the UAE, for which you get most of the features found in our mid-range tester. VW believes it is priced competitively, although we feel the competition is fierce at this price-point. But if the VW badge is important to you, you should be happy with this near-midsize sedan with a near-midsize price.

What do you think?



  1. doesnt look half bad, but for a near 70,000dhs… theres a better range of cars for that kind of money

  2. sum1 @ VW middle east must b slightly hallucinating, bringing in a 115 hp 2.0L engine and expecting to put up a fight in an otherwise tightly packed sector. Their very own 1.6L engine produces about 105hp and 1.4L TSI engine churns out a remarkable 158hp…and these are available on the Golf, Sirocco, etc. I don’t understand, what happens to these companies when they hit the GCC markets.

    70,000 and you could easily pick up alot more powerful and bigger cars..wonder if they need to again rethink their pricing or maybe some additional models.

    75,000 with the 1.4 TSI engine and you might see alot more on the roads.

  3. Spare parts are so expesive… dont buy it

    • VW Abu Dhabi is the slowest agency in the UAE. I am now servicing my Jetta outside (even though i still get two free service runs) They lack the basics of proffessionalism.. So sad to see such a great brand ruined by the dealership.

  4. are they bringing any other engines for this car?

  5. dull look but quality and finishing wise i am sure who won’t find anything better in that pricing range.

    looks like a decent car for the daily commuters AD-DXB that have their porsche parked in the garage for the weekends..

    • Do you think that this car will be reliable enough to go on that road daily? I am driving AD-DXB daily and i already crossed 70,000KM in less than a year! I am driving a Yaris. I want really to upgrade to a bigger and better car but can’t find other car than any japenese will not breakdown before 200k like i expect this car will.

    • pretty sure this is a good choice. when back in germany, i owned two golfs as student. both were my daily commuter running 150,000km w/o any trouble. sure, japanese know how to build cars too, but you wouldnt go wrong with this one for sure.

    • ^^^ thats because you never looked at any other brand other than Japanese 😀 😀 …

    • no dear in my home country we had at home mercedes E Class99 and We had a VW golf2 and that was really amazing for excellent reliability for long years..then my bro bought a golf 4 and honestly too much electrical problem..old german cars are the best in reliability but honestly the new ones are doubtful…look how Audi owners suffer her..thanks

    • ^^ i had not included the upper class Audi and VW here…for sure they all suffer from failure of their latest technologies..though not to the extent of VW’s and Audi’s, even the latest Japanese cars with so many wannabe electronic gimmicks ultimately fail and Toyota is a very good example with their leaning Prados and failing ABS brakes..wht I meant is about the middle-level fairly reliable Renaults, Fords, American Chevys / GMCs and Peugeots which do not give frequent problems and has proven track record for being pretty much reliable brands after Honda and Nissan.

    • ^^and yes..what about the Koreans? pretty darn good too! 🙂

    • 🙂 Well surprisingly the koreans now are the japanese 35 years ago.but they are accelerating faster in getting trust in their products..americans specially ford is coming back…due to my AD-DXB travel daily i just want a car that can serve 500k without very major issues if kept maintained at the agency.i mean no gear/motor replacement.if it was proven to me i would go for small eurpian SUV mayb tiguan or upcoming Q3..otherwise i would go for a nextgen rav4, qashqai, escape all expected to arrive this fale 🙂

    • i feel with timely and prompt maintenance done through agency, any of the cars from brands we spoke of would stay that long..

  6. I would choose a mid-range Ford Fusion or a base Chevy Malibu for the same price with lots more features, lot more good looks and a lot more reliability!

  7. Look wise hope the corolla is better… Looking similar to the polo and golf model…

  8. Looks like someone pushed the Jetta out into the water in the second last pic 😀

  9. Is VW vehicles reliable…????

    • Some people are happy with it others complain about it… I believe the car is reliable if you take good care of it..

      & parts being expensive, is a myth that every part supplier here in the UAE plays on to make a living out of.. The parts are actually pointlessly expensive and if you order them online they cost Japanese car money…

    • Oh….. As I just saw a VW caddy second hand in good condition for my company purpose….. so I am doubting about buying or not…… Japanese vehicles are bit over my budget……

    • I’ve heard horror stories about older Touregs actually. I’m told the newer ones are a different breed though…

  10. So far i love the car’s design.. Its too conservative yet it maintains its character..

  11. No body speaks about his home country please, owning any german car in Europe is different from here, In my home coujntry as you say, I owned a BMW 740 for a while, during the 6 months of winter, the car works like a swiss watch, during summer, the car works for 2 days and spends 3 days in the workshop

  12. the previous jetta has plenty of reliability issues….. not sure how much this new generation will have improved

  13. The build quality of new VWs is super solid.. Never in history i’ve seen VWs this genuine…

    I hope this applies reliability wise…

  14. vw is very good reliable cars but the dealers in UAE is beyond the limit for maintenance and spare parts i paid 1000 Dhs for an fan for the A/C without workmanship

  15. too much electrical and mechanical problems i faced owning polo 2002 and after i said good bye to VW. Parts are v.expensive like hell and most worst problem is over heating and A/C cooling problems with the age of car. Buying @ 70000 and year later you wont be able to sell @ dhs35000..

  16. Got to tell you,

    went to shop around for reliable and fun 2.5 midsize sedans:

    Type / Price trims / service contract)
    Altima: 85000 (one price) / 9000 for 3 years
    Sonata: 67900, 75000, 91000 / 1000 AED P/A
    Optima: 67900, 75000, 91000 / 1000 AED P/A
    Fusion: 68000, 73000, 82500 / Free for 100K kms

    You will notice no toyota, sold mine, parts and al futtaim servicing seems to be originating from Stuttgart these days. (car sold in 1hr 30mins – cant beat the Toyota Re-sale)

    Is moving in for the Kill, Sonata is hot gorgeous, outside and inside, but the Fusion seems to have won value/fun/safety for the money.

    less re-sale but cars only depreciate so got to live with it… Was checking for VW jetta on the web and landed here! Keep it up Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury !

  17. After reading MANY reviews on various sites, went to test drive VW Jetta yesterday. I had got fixated on it, after compromising my dream of BMW because of budget. The car (Jetta) looks ugly at first especially from front, then i think one could get used to. The engine noise inside is non-existent, so good. Start is slow as is reported but hey i am not an underwater diver or helicopter pilot.
    What struck was the dealer – seems he concentrated on finding out more about where I work and our turnover in million dollars and all that. I asked for a discount and was offered AED 500 on the mid level Comfortline.
    Also the basic model Trendline has all similar features except the parking sensor, cruise control and sunroof. I don’t want the sunroof at all but would love the other two. So i thought of writing to VW with my opinions – with the weather here there is really no need for a sunroof except for showing off. The dealer was literally like – take it or leave it. I asked about trade-in and understood they would offer AED 45000 for the mid-level Comfortline after 3 years. Forgot to ask about spares, and after sales service and whether they give a replacement during repairs or service. So, still thinking and maybe i will go and test drive the Fusion. Do they bargain? VW is offering 3 years or 45K free service, first year free regn and 5 years unlimited mileage warranty. Looks good. But Cruze was offering lifetime warranty.

  18. I really confused after reading all these reviews.. I am about to buy a Jetta.. Can somebody pls logically explain to me (especially one owns a Jetta) why I should not buy this or why should I buy this ?

  19. Regardless of what everybody says and mentioned about experiences with VWs of the past.. I think I have faith in the new ones.. And would consider a VW in the future..

  20. I own Jetta baseline model for last 2months and I feel its far better than any Japanese car in drive & safety, you dont need to visit for servicing before 15000Kms and there is no 1st service after 1000Km, Its expensive only on major service and regular services if u calculate is cheaper than any Japanese cars cuz they need service every 5000Km. Above all its German Technology and none reaches German in Technology & Quality.

  21. A pity you can’t get the 2.5L 5-cylinder (which is the most popular engine sold in the new-generation Jetta in the US and works just fine in the larger Passat) or the 2.0T which is available in the Jetta GLI, again not sold in the UAE.

    However, they have fitted a solid axle in the US to the rear suspension while the model here has the more expensive European rear suspension. BIG difference and a major plus. Now if you put the 2.0T in this Jetta….you have something to consider.

    • If you put those engines in the JETTA the price would sky rocket. Do you think people will still buy it here in Dubai?

      The 2.0T is the same engine with the GTi, for sure JETTA price will never be the same.

      The dealer always bring the cheapest car here to compete with the koreans at the moment.

      Sad story but if they could bring those engines with the JETTA and the price will stay the same then for sure, JETTA will be the best car in its segment.

  22. Dear Mash.
    Need your help for my friend. My friend has a Jetta (2013 model) and is now due for its 90K major service.
    He has been doing all his service at the Abu Dhabi dealer (Ali & Sons). They have quoted him AED 5,000/- for the 90K major service. He cannot afford this and he is not worried about the warranty clause/condition. Do you know any good workshop or garages based in Abu Dhabi where he can get the work done for less? As a second option, you may give any good Volkswagen garages in Dubai too. For example: Al Maraghy workshop in Abu Dhabi is an example of exemplary customer service for Mercedez vehicles.
    Look forward to your usual support.

    • Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury Author

      Wait, your friend did 90k in 1 year? Unfortunately I don’t know any VW garages in Abu Dhabi. There is one called Autohaus (see for location) in Dubai near the border, so it should be nearer to you. Never used them, but give them a try and say you heard about them on DriveArabia. They might treat you nicer, haha.

  23. Sorry. He just corrected me. It is a 2012 model. Bought in Jan 2012. :-). Will ask him to give them a call. As usual you have been more reliable and helpful than even a Toyota.

  24. Dear Mr. Mashfique,

    Need your help, I am driving a corolla and wants to switch, can you advise one car in between cruze,elantra,sentra except corolla,in this range and one in range of altima,safrane,mazda 6, sonata any one within this line. I would really appreciate your reply. since an year i am going through your website and cannot decide please advise on my mail i would really appreciate, considering the maintenance and resale value.i am from saudi

    • Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury Author

      I think, for maintenance and resale value, Toyota is still the top choice. All the others you mention are below Toyota.

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