For the first few months of the 2005 model year, Volkswagen dealers had carryover Jettas on sale. Then, midway through the 2005 season, the automaker launched a redesigned Jetta as a midyear model.
The redesigned Jetta sedan exhibits "cool European styling," said Len Hunt, executive vice president of Volkswagen of America, at the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The new model also marks the 25th anniversary of the Jetta, which debuted in 1980.
Initially, the Jetta is available only with a 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder that develops 150 horsepower. A diesel-powered TDI edition will follow, and a turbocharged 2.0T model and a GLT version will come a bit later.
Volkswagen made a big investment in robotics and laser welding at the Jetta plant in Puebla, Mexico. "This is a big car for us," Hunt said during the Jetta's media preview. "It's our principal seller."
Redesigned Jettas come in a Value Edition and as a 2.5 model. Two option groups are available, and sales began in March 2005. Only a sedan is offered, but because the previous Jetta series included a wagon, that body style could emerge later.
In its new form, product strategist Paul Spaveltz said the Jetta sedan is significantly larger. The midseason model is 7 inches longer than its predecessor and rides on a wheelbase that's 2.6 inches longer. Its width has grown by an inch. Static rigidity is 60 percent greater, according to Volkswagen.
Spaveltz said the new Jetta has a strengthened wedge face that helps give it an "intense and predatory look." This new face was hinted at by Volkswagen's recent Concept R roadster. The large trapezoidal grille is still a basic V shape. New electromechanical power steering uses no hydraulic fluid. A sunroof is optional.
Up to five occupants fit inside the Jetta and can enjoy more backseat room than before on the 60/40-split, folding rear seat. Non-intruding trunk hinges help provide sufficient space for luggage. The Value Edition has heated power mirrors and manual air conditioning. The 2.5 adds automatic dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, leatherette seat upholstery, a six-CD changer, rain-sensing wipers and a power driver's seat. A navigation system is optional.
Operating with four valves per cylinder, the Jetta's 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder produces 150 hp at 5,000 rpm and 170 pounds-feet of torque at 3,750 rpm. Either a five-speed-manual gearbox or a six-speed-automatic transmission with Tiptronic manual gear selection and a Sport mode can be installed. Volkswagen's 1.9-liter TDI (diesel) four-cylinder develops 100 hp and 177 pounds-feet of torque and works with a five-speed manual or a six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox, which is essentially an automated manual transmission. When the direct-injection turbocharged engine goes on sale, it will make 200 hp and 207 pounds-feet of torque and will team with a six-speed-manual transmission or a six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox.
Antilock brakes, traction control and six airbags � including front side-impact and side curtain-type devices � are standard. Active front head restraints are installed. Volkswagen's Electronic Stabilization Program is standard on upper-level Jettas and optional on others.
In ordinary driving, the Jetta delivers vigorous throttle response and the automatic transmission operates effortlessly. On upgrades at higher elevations, however, passing response is markedly less energetic. Also, there may be significant hesitation before a downshift occurs when stepping on the gas, and response time isn't the best.
The Jetta feels particularly substantial, if a little on the heavy side. The suspension is definitely firm, but it doesn't impair the ride on smooth highways. Steering feel is excellent, and the Jetta stays neatly on course on straightaways. With wholly predictable handling, it's simply masterful through curves. Body lean is minimal through tight mountain switchbacks.
The Jetta is fairly quiet apart from some noticeable engine sounds while accelerating and some road noise. It's spacious up front but a tad restricted in terms of elbowroom; some drivers' knees could hit the wide console. The gauges are large and easy to read, and visibility ranks as very good. The seats are beautifully cushioned and appropriately bolstered; they also offer good thigh and back support.