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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Jim Flammang
November 5, 2003
Vehicle Overview Volkswagens Jetta sedan is built from the same design, and features similar front styling, than the automakers Golf hatchback. But the Jetta is equipped with a trunk at the rear. The Jetta is Volkswagens most popular model in the United States.
A revised standard-equipment list was the big news in 2003 for Volkswagens four-door Jetta sedan and wagon. The GL version gained heated power mirrors and a premium cassette/CD stereo system. All models offer Volkswagens Electronic Stability Program, which is either standard or optional depending on the trim level.
The GLX version exits the Jetta lineup, leaving only the GL, GLS and GLI for the 2004 model year. A new 1.9-liter TDI (turbo-diesel) engine is rated at 100 horsepower. The taillights have been restyled, the front end features a fresh chrome grille and bumpers, and a Monsoon sound system goes into the GLS.
The Jetta is a four-door sedan with a trunk, and it uses the same sheet metal as the Golf hatchback for the front half. At 172.3 inches long overall, the Jetta is more than 7 inches longer than the Golf but is several inches shorter than the Honda Civic. The Jetta rides the same 98.9-inch wheelbase as the Golf. Optional 17-inch alloy wheels may be substituted for the standard 16-inchers.
A taller stance translates to more headroom and a comfortable upright seating position. The Jetta seats five people. 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.
Most of the Jettas controls are high enough to be seen and reached easily. The gauges have red needles and blue backlighting. Air conditioning, remote keyless entry, cruise control and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel are standard.
Climatronic is standard on the GLX, and a Monsoon sound system is optional in the GL. An optional Cold Weather Package includes heated front seats and heated windshield-washer nozzles.
Under the Hood
The GL and GLS are equipped with either a 115-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine or a 100-hp, turbocharged 1.9-liter direct-injection four-cylinder diesel. A 180-hp, turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder propels the GLS 1.8T models, and a 200-hp, 2.8-liter V-6 powers the GLI VR6 models. The 115-hp gas engine comes standard with a five-speed-manual transmission, and a four-speed automatic is optional. The 100-hp diesel and 180-hp gas engine come standard with a five-speed manual, while a five-speed automatic with a Tiptronic manual-shifting provision is available. The 200-hp gas engine comes only with a six-speed-manual transmission.
Antilock brakes, side-impact airbags and side curtain-type airbags that deploy from the ceiling are standard. All-speed traction control is standard on models with the 1.8-liter turbo.
Other than the wagon body style, the technical details and driving experience of the Jetta Wagon are virtually identical to the Jetta sedan.
Exuberant throttle response is immediately evident in the turbocharged 1.8T sedan with the Tiptronic gearbox. Excellent transmission reactions and a lack of awkward gear changes add to the pleasure. The Jetta is pleasantly quiet at all times, and it yields a satisfying ride through harsh pavement. Even on wet surfaces, the sedan reacts with total control that is aided by quick, precise steering.
Volkswagens vehicles are known for their European character and responsive handling skills, and the Jetta is no exception. Buyers get an impressive array of standard safety features and can count on far more than basic transportation especially with the latest turbocharged engine on tap.