Seven weeks :: 1800 miles review

VW Golf Estate 1.6 TDi vs VW Jetta 1.9 TDi

I’m not a car journalist.  I’m not even remotely a ‘petrol head’ or lover of loud engines.  I need a car that’ll get me to my jobs, and cost as little as possible to get there, without breaking down or having bits fall off it. And I really need it to be able to carry a lot of kit – including a 9 foot long roll of backing paper:

That's a lot of light...

I also, really, really, really don’t want to think about it very much.  Three and a bit years ago, I spent a long time just worrying about the best option – I looked at leasing and buying, what I could get for how much, which cars were most efficient, and which just kept going without much maintenance.  And, frankly, it was dull.  Very.  It filled far too much of my brain, and left me stressed.  I finally decided to lease a VW Jetta diesel – it’s basically a Golf with a big saloon boot (huge actually – the salesman at a local dealer assured me I could ‘fit two bodies in there’ which I found a rather chilling thought, and left me wondering how he knew… Anyways). Used to be called a Bora. Can’t think why they changed that name…

I leased from Lings cars up in God’s own kingdom of Geordiness.  She’s totally off the wall, but apart from that, remarkably straightforward to deal with, and I would recommend them to anyone (well, anyone interested in leasing a car – don’t buy her food…).  The website, by the way, is best viewed from a distance, due to a psychedelic design sensibility, but is remarkably straightforward once you’ve recovered from the colour radiation…  I went there initially as it seemed to be the only place that offered me a price there and then, and they seemed human.

It all went remarkably well – for around the cost of £9k car loan, I got a brand new car which just worked for the whole three years – very good mileage (up to high 50’s mpg on long drives, low 40’s around shorter distances), and I covered 55k miles in just over three years.  Nothing broke or fell off, and the only additional costs were a couple of services twice, and a couple of tires.  And the 9 foot roll fitted in. Overall, the cost was probably slightly higher than buying (if the car I’d bought hadn’t gone wrong at all, which isn’t my recent experience), and I didn’t have a car to sell at the end. But it did keep working, and I didn’t have to think about it.

Top: Jetta 2007 :: Bottom: Golf Estate 2010 :: you can see the shared genes just peeking through...

Three years is it for a lease, so in February I went for a new car – and to avoid having my brain hurt again, I just went for a straight replacement, but with the Golf Estate rather than the Jetta – initially just for camping, but in fact it’s been excellent for many things already, including getting the Scars exhibition to its exhibition space, and presumably, getting it back too.  VW were a bit of a pain – ordered at the end of Feb, the car didn’t arrive until the end of August – that’s quite a wait… But I kept the Jetta, and that was fine, and despite a few hiccups on the finance tracking, it’s all underway now, and going just fine.

Nice things: I just pressed ‘order’ on this one, very little research, but it turned out to be a model up from the previous one (something like an SE not an S…), so it’s got an MP3 plug-in (yay! audio books) and removable carpets in the foot wells – how sophisticated. And cruise control – splendid.

And it’s big – huge amounts of space, but still handles like a Golf, so that’s very good.

Odd things: well, it’s a smaller (1.6 vs 1.9) diesel engine – that’s led to some slightly weird gearing to be honest, with stalls in first from time to time, and even in second.  But it’s got real clout in second too, and can pull away very nicely if you need it too.  I’m not sure that cruise control gives good mileage – on some longer journeys, I’m getting slightly lower mpg than before, but on rural backroads, much better, up to high 40’s. Which is great.  It is slightly odd, quite un-diesel-y if that makes sense, but I’m getting used to it (though I don’t think I ever stalled the Jetta, at all).

I’m nearly 2000 miles in – so far, all good, a very enjoyable business and family car (in that I don’t have to think about it, it works, and I can fit everything in).

If you’re into cars, apologies – this probably isn’t the review for you.  But if you’re looking to find out if either of these cars are good to own, I hope this has helped – I’m happy to spend another three years behind the wheel of effectively the same car again, so it can’t be too bad.  In fact, it’s pretty ace.

I don’t do cars, I do pictures, so here’s some (mainly from an extraordinary couple of days when I had two cars in my care…).

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Review of VW Golf Estate and VW Jetta