Two of the most popular saloons in Singapore are the Volkswagen Jetta and Toyota Corolla Altis. The former is the German marque’s best-selling saloon, while the latter was, by far, the best-selling Japanese car here in 2014.
Both Volkswagen and Toyota have raised their stakes by introducing updated models of the Jetta and Corolla to the local market. The Jetta’s facelift is a timely one, as the pre-facelift model was introduced five years ago. The Corolla’s update, on the other hand, is ahead of time, because the current model was only launched last year.
Aiming to convert the Corolla customer, the VW Jetta sports a slightly jazzier design than before, with a more elegant grille and a redesigned front bumper that (says Volkswagen) reduces the car’s aerodynamic drag by 10 percent.
Although the exterior of the Toyota Corolla hasn’t received any tweaks, it still looks sharper than the Jetta, or for that matter, any of the previous Corollas. The current Corolla Altis is stylish, and that’s saying a lot.
Between these two saloons, it’s the Jetta whose interior looks more upmarket. The instrument panel now features individual binnacles for the speedometer and tachometer, while the infotainment system is more attractive and more user-friendly, too, thanks to its touchscreen interface.
There are two small missteps, though. Firstly, the addition of glossy black trimmings on the dashboard and the gearlever surround will only serve to attract fingerprints. Secondly, the switches on the new steering wheel are less intuitive than those on the old one.
The Corolla cockpit has no such missteps in ergonomics. In fact, one of the Corolla’s strengths for the longest time is its ease of use. Even a driver who’s never sat in a Toyota saloon won’t have any trouble figuring out the controls.
There are two minor enhancements for the 2015 model tested here: The leather upholstery is now factory-fitted and the driver’s seat is now electrically adjusted. The latter feature, however, doesn’t include a memory function, without which the electric adjustment is less useful than it should be.
As usual, the Corolla’s air-conditioning is ridiculously powerful. It makes the cabin feel like a walk-in chiller (with four doors). Too bad the car lacks an additional auto-climate zone and rear air-con vents, which are all present in the Jetta
But the Corolla is even roomier in the rear, thanks to its wider bench and flat floorboard. It can fit three adults behind, whereas the Jetta backseat is more comfortable for two occupants due to its rearward-protruding centre console. However, the Jetta offers bigger doorbins and a 12-volt socket for charging mobile gadgets.
On the go, it is the turbo 1.4-litre Jetta that will please the driver more than the naturally aspirated 1.6-litre Corolla. With 122bhp and 200Nm (from just 1500rpm), the German saloon easily outpaces the Corolla, taking less than 10 seconds (9.8) to hit 100km/h. The VW’s 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox is a real treat as well – its gearchanges are snappy and it offers a Sport function that holds onto each forward ratio for a longer, “sportier” period.
The driver who likes to take things easy will prefer the Corolla, which takes 11.1 seconds to accomplish the century sprint. The 1.6-litre Toyota motor produces 121bhp, just one horse less than the Jetta, but its 154Nm is a significant 46Nm down. The Corolla’s CVT isn’t as quick as Volkswagen’s dual-clutch gearbox, but the Japanese transmission operates in an even more seamless manner, especially when “creeping” in traffic and carparks.
The Corolla is slower than the Jetta in a straight line, but its handling is surprisingly decent and accompanied by some feedback from its steering, too. The Jetta is a better handler, however, being more planted around corners, and yet pliant in its damping.
Both cars here are good-looking, practical and fuel-efficient. The Jetta outshines the Corolla in terms of performance, while the Corolla does an even more brilliant job of accommodating passengers. And their prices are merely a few thousand dollars apart.
So, what happens when these rival stars collide in Singapore? Well, they give bedazzled buyers plenty to think/read about.
Volkswagen Jetta 1.4 (A)
ENGINE 1390cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged
MAX POWER 122bhp at 5000rpm
MAX TORQUE 200Nm at 1500-4000rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 94.8bhp per tonne
GEARBOX 7-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 9.8 seconds
TOP SPEED 202km/h
CONSUMPTION 16.7km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 138g/km
PRICE INCL. COE $117,300 (after $10k CEVS rebate)
Toyota Corolla Altis 1.6 (A)
ENGINE 1598cc, 16-valves, inline-4
MAX POWER 121bhp at 6000rpm
MAX TORQUE 154Nm at 5200rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 95.7bhp per tonne
GEARBOX CVT with 7-speed override
0-100KM/H 11.1 seconds
TOP SPEED 185km/h
CONSUMPTION 15.4km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 151g/km
PRICE INCL. COE $121,147 (after $5k CEVS rebate)