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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Jim Flammang
September 25, 2002
Vehicle Overview The Volkswagen Jetta sedan is built from the same design as the Golf, and they have similar front styling. But the Jetta is equipped with a trunk instead of a hatchback at the rear. The Jetta is Volkswagens most popular model in the United States. Jettas are available in GL and GLS trim levels and are equipped with either a four-cylinder or diesel engine; a diesel-powered model known as the GL TDI comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder. In addition, the GLI form comes with a V-6 engine and a six-speed-manual gearbox, and the GLX sports a V-6 power plant and a Tiptronic automatic transmission. Lastly, the Jetta is also available in a wagon body style.
The 1.8T 180-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine that debuted in 2002 is optional in the GL for the 2003 model year. Power windows and mirrors, cruise control and a premium CD stereo are now standard on the GL. An Electronic Stability Program is now optional for the GL and GLS and standard on the GLX and GLI sedans. New 15-inch wheel covers are standard on the GL, and the GLS gains a power sunroof. Climatronic is now standard on the GLX, and a Monsoon sound system is optional for the GL. Curtain-type airbags are standard in what is by far Volkswagens most popular U.S. model.
Later in the 2003 model year, the partial-credit Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) regulation will arrive for California cars, and the 50-state 2.0-liter Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) engine attains an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV) rating. Later in the season, windshield-wiper performance will also be enhanced, a Cold Weather Package that includes heatable front seats and heated windshield washer nozzles will become optional for the GL, and backlit buttons will go on the available premium CD stereo.
Volkswagens warranty offers bumper-to-bumper coverage for four years or 50,000 miles. Wear-and-tear items and adjustments are covered for one year or 12,000 miles. Fully transferable powertrain coverage is for five years or 60,000 miles, and roadside assistance is offered for four years or 50,000 miles.
The Jetta uses the same sheet metal as the Golf hatchback for the front half. At 172.3 inches long overall, the Jetta sedan is more than 7 inches longer than the Golf but is several inches shorter than the Honda Civic. The Jetta stands 56.7 inches tall, measures 68.3 inches wide and rides the same 98.9-inch wheelbase as the Golf. Optional 17-inch alloy wheels can be substituted for the standard 16-inch wheels and tires.
As is normally the case, the Jetta Wagon looks about the same as the Jetta sedan in front, but it displays a familiar wagon body configuration at the rear. Riding a 99-inch wheelbase, the Jetta Wagon measures 173.6 inches long overall and stands 58.5 inches tall. The tires measure 15 inches in diameter, and the GLS is equipped with alloy wheels.
A taller stance translates to more headroom and a comfortable upright seating position for five occupants on all Jetta models. The Jetta sedans cargo capacity is 13 cubic feet, but the deep trunk has more usable space than that figure suggests. A split rear seatback folds for additional storage space. Cargo space in the Jetta wagon totals 34 cubic feet with the 60/40-split, folding rear seat in its upright position.
Most controls are high enough to be seen and reached easily. The gauges have red needles, and they are illuminated by attractive blue backlighting. Air conditioning, remote keyless entry, cruise control, and a tilt and telescoping steering wheel are standard. Steering-wheel controls for stereo and cruise control functions are optional.
Under the Hood
The GL and GLS sedans and wagons come with either a 115-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine or a turbocharged, 1.9-liter, direct-injection four-cylinder diesel rated at 90 hp. A 180-hp turbocharged four-cylinder propels the GL Turbo. A standard five-speed manual and optional four-speed-automatic transmission are available, but the 180-hp turbo mates with a five-speed-automatic that incorporates a Tiptronic manual-shifting provision. A 200-hp, 2.8-liter V-6 engine goes in the GLI V6 and GLX V6, which use a six-speed-manual transmission and a Tiptronic automatic, respectively.
Antilock brakes, side-impact airbags and curtain-type airbags that deploy from the ceiling are standard on all Jetta models. All-speed traction control is standard on models with the V-6 or 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder engines.
Exuberant throttle response is immediately evident in the turbocharged 1.8T sedans and wagons with the Tiptronic transmission. Excellent transmission reactions and a lack of awkward gear changes add to the pleasure. The Jetta sedan and wagon are pleasantly quiet at all times, and yield a satisfying ride through harsh pavement. Even on wet surfaces, the vehicles react with total control that is aided by quick, precise steering.