German automaker Volkswagen knows how to market to a broad audience, and do it in a cost-effective way. Take the VW Jetta, the company's popular front-wheel-drive sedan. Aimed at a slightly older clientele, the four-door Jetta is a companion to the two-door Golf hatchback and the retro-style New Beetle, which appeal to totally different audiences. Jetta's siblings include the high-performance GTI and the sporty Cabriolet. Jetta's Teutonic roots also imbue the car with a strong personality that's lacking in some of the under-$20,000 competition. A big question for some families considering the Jetta: Will it turn off teen-agers? She: I'm not too crazy about airing our family problems in public, but we have had an automotive crisis here this summer since Phil got home from college. You know, he's embarrassed to be seen in my bright yellow VW Beetle with the daisies in the bud vase - so much so that he sold a couple of his precious guitars and actually got a job so he could save up for his own wheels. I saw him eyeing the Jetta GLS that we test-drove. He liked it. Hey, Mikey! I mean, hey, Phil! He hates everything. Anyway, Mr. Critical pointed out that the Beetle is for teenage girls, but the Jetta - well, that's a man's ride. He: The Beetle is for teen-age girls? I think you might have a deeper problem than Phil. She: This isn't about me - it's about Phil. And I have to applaud him. Even the mid-line GLS we drove is a good value. It's near perfect for college graduates or small families just starting out. Our vehicle had a $17,650 base price. There was a long list of standard features, including air conditioning, an alarm system and even power heated side mirrors. We had only two options, a $150 cold weather package that included heated seats, and a $295 Monsoon sound system. The grand total was still under 19 grand. Just terrific. Plus you'll never be embarrassed driving the conservatively styled, yet attractive Jetta. He: I'm embarrassed because I thought the Jetta GLS that we were driving felt so peppy, it had the optional V6 engine in it. Come to find out our test car had the standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which makes 115 horsepower, but felt amazingly lively. I like the way Volkswagen tunes the suspension. It is very compliant, thanks in part to gas-pressurized shocks which really smooth out road surface imperfections. And front and rear stabilizers keep the Jetta on an even keel. She: The Jetta does pass the mom test when it comes to safety and roadside assistance. VW gives you a two-year, 24-month roadside assistance plan, which is pretty unusual in an under-$20,000 car. In addition, there are excellent standard safety features, including daytime runnings lights, front and side airbags, and an anti-lock braking system. He: I wish our mid-range GLS 2.0 model would have come with traction control, which helps reduce wheel spin on slippery pavement. But you have to order the Jetta TDI or o ne of the six-cylinder models to get traction control. I still love Volkswagen's five-speed manual transmission. In the Jetta, it's geared to take maximum advantage of the four-cylinder engine's low-end torque. But the car still returns an impressive 31 miles per gallon in highway driving, according to the EPA. She: The Jetta is butting heads with some pretty tough competition, like the new Ford Focus, the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla. If those four top your shopping list, the Jetta stands apart in a couple of respects. It's the only one with a German heritage, even though it's built in Mexico. Arguably, it has more personality than Civic or Corolla. Choosing between the Jetta and the impressive Focus is pretty much a toss-up. He: You also forget that the Focus has strong European roots. Plus, a fully loaded Focus sedan is $2,000 less expensive and far roomier than the Jetta. 2000 Volkswagen Jetta GLS 2.0 Anita's rating: above average Pa s rating: above average Likes: Sensitive 19-year-olds won't be embarrassed to be seen in the conservative, yet attractive Jetta. Two-year, unlimited-mileage roadside assistance. Loads of standard features. Affordable price tag. Near perfect for small families or new college graduates. Excellent safety features. Good gas mileage. Optional V-6 engine. Dislikes: No standard traction control. Several thousand dollars more expensive than Ford Focus. May be too conservative for some tastes. Small cabin. Type: Front-engine, front-wheel drive, four-passenger compact sedan Price: Base, $17,650; as tested, $18,620 (including a $525 destination charge) Engine: 2.0-liter I-4; 115-hp; 122 lb-ft torque EPA fuel economy: 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway 12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan: $1,222 estimate. Rates may be higher or lower, depending on coverage and driving record. Where built: Puebla, Mexico
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Rick Popely||Cars.com National||December 1, 1999|
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit News||June 21, 2000|
|Alan Vonderhaar||Cincinnati.com||April 8, 2000|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||March 5, 2000|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||December 1, 1999|
|Bill Griffith||Boston.com||November 14, 1999|
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