2008 Volkswagen Jetta

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2005 Volkswagen Jetta

This 2005 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2010.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Considerably improved and more satisfying to drive, with better quality but generic styling.
Pros:
  • Satisfying to drive
  • Nicely equipped
  • Utilitarian design
Cons:
  • Nondescript styling
  • Low reliability and dealer service scores
  • High trunk opening

Volkswagen fans and dealers long have been waiting for the automaker's redesigned Jetta, which is larger and roomier, with different styling and a more potent engine.

The new fifth-generation Jetta is a late 2005 model and is sorely needed to help Volkswagen revive its sales momentum in this country.

The Jetta long has been Volkswagen's top-selling car here and for years was essentially a Volkswagen Golf hatchback with a large, conventional trunk. (Europeans long have favored the Golf because of its more utilitarian design.)

The Jetta arrived here in 1980, and more than 2.2 million have been bought in North America. However, U.S. sales fell to 91,790 cars last year from 117,867 in 2003, mainly because the Jetta long has been overdue for major changes.

Largest Ever
The new Jetta is the largest ever. Compared to its predecessor, the compact car is 7 inches longer at 179.3 inches, 1 inch wider, nearly an inch taller and has a 2.6-inch-longer (101.5-inch) wheelbase for a roomier interior and better ride.

However, the sedan is 335 pounds heavier at 3,230 pounds, and that doesn't help acceleration, handling or fuel economy. (The Jetta station wagon has been temporarily dropped.)

Generic Styling but Nice Interior
The new, rounded styling is OK, but the car has a generic appearance—it could be mistaken for a Japanese model.

The interior is another story: Upscale materials are used, and the front seats are very supportive. The nicely designed dashboard has easily read gauges, large climate controls and highly placed sound system controls, although bright sunlight washes out some of that system's readings.

Reasonably Roomy
Easily grabbed handles on wide doors make it easy to slide in or out. Four 6-footers comfortably fit, although three-across rear seating is a squeeze for adults. Rear power windows lower almost all the way.

Following Jetta tradition, the trunk is especially big, and the cargo area can be considerably enlarged by flipping the rear seatbacks forward. The trunk has a rather high opening, but it's wide and has a protective bright strip on its sill to prevent cargo scuffing.

More Potent Engine
There are the $17,900-$18,975 Value Edition Jetta and the $20,390-$21,465 2.5 version. Powering both is a 2.5-liter 150-horsepower 5-cylinder engine tuned for U.S. driving and designed by the person who did the (Volkswagen-owned) Lamborghini sports car's V10 engine.

The Jetta's inline (not V-shaped) engine has dual overhead camshaft and 20 valves. It's built for average American driving and thus provides good merging, passing and off-the-line acceleration. The previous Jetta had a 2.0-liter 115-horsepower base engine.

The engine works with a 5-speed manual gearbox or a responsive new 6-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift feature.

Estimated fuel economy is 22 mpg in the city and 30 on highways, and only regular-grade gasoline is required.

Other Engines Coming
Scheduled for later this year is the $21,385-$22,460 TDI Jetta, with a 1.9-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder fuel-stingy diesel engine with 100 horsepower and more torque than the gas engine. It'll work with a 5-speed manual transmission or Audi-sourced Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG)—basically an "automated manual" 6-speed transmission with no clutch pedal.

Many folks have become horsepower-crazy, so a 200-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine comes still later in 2005.

Responsive New Steering
The new electro-mechanical power steering is responsive, although a little heavy. A revised front suspension and new independent rear suspension provide better ride and handling.

However, the front-wheel-drive Jetta remains nose-heavy and thus wants to understeer—or continue in a straight line—when driven hard through tight curves, but not excessively so for a "front-driver." Generally, it's nimble and fun to drive.

Nicely Equipped
The Value Edition is nicely equipped, with standard features such as a climate control system, cruise control, an AM/FM/CD sound system, a tilt-telescoping wheel, a split-folding rear seat, a full-size spare tire and power windows and heated outside mirrors.

Safety features include anti-lock brakes, traction control, front-seat side airbags and head-protecting side-curtain airbags.

The 2.5 adds dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, leatherette seating, in-dash 6-disc CD player, rear center armrest, chrome window trim and a stability control system.

Options for the 2.5 include a $280 anti-skid system, $1,960 option package with a power tilt-sliding sunroof, an upgraded sound system and 16-inch alloy wheels with 55-series tires. There's also a $4,660 package with leather upholstery, wood trim, satellite radio and power driver and front passenger seats.

The Jetta's youthful, sporty reputation has attracted young, college-educated single people and couples. Also, the Jetta is the most affordable European-badged sedan and is the least costly ticket to the German-designed sedan owner's club. Not everyone can afford an Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz.

German Design Stressed
It thus isn't surprising that Volkswagen says its new Jetta is "German-engineered" and "distinctly German," with a "solid Teutonic feel and ambience." It also says the Jetta has a "distinctive German character" and was engineered to "master the left (fastest) lane of Germany's high-speed autobahn highway system."

Ironically, German cars, including top-line BMWs and Mercedes models, have lost some of their reputation for high quality and exceptional engineering partly because they've become overcomplicated. As for Volkswagen, it's gotten below-average customer satisfaction ratings for vehicle reliability and dealer service.

Quality Still Questionable
Time will tell if the assembled-in-Mexico Jetta will help Volkswagen regain its old high-quality reputation established by the dirt-simple Volkswagen Beetle of the 1950s and 1960s. My test Jetta was built better than the last-generation model, with such things as nice body panel fits, but it wasn't encouraging when part of its rear armrest assembly fell out of place.

The Jetta has been worth the wait, but it should have arrived at least a year or two ago. Automakers must move quickly in today's especially competitive market.

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BB05 - 8/22/2014 10:57:34 PM