Halfway through the 2005 model year, Volkswagen launched a redesigned Jetta. For 2006, a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that generates 200 horsepower is available. Additional engine choices include a 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder and a diesel four-cylinder.
For 2006, a new Jetta GLI powered by the turbocharged engine features a sport suspension, 17-inch wheels, rocker panels and xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights as standard equipment. Jettas are manufactured in Puebla, Mexico.
Exhibiting a sleeker look than the prior-generation Jetta, the current model has a large trapezoidal grille. Wheels are available in 15- , 16- , 17- or 18-inch diameters, and the Jetta uses an electromechanical power-steering system. A sunroof is optional.
Up to five people can fit inside the Jetta, which has front bucket seats and a three-place 60/40-split, folding rear seat. Non-intruding hinges help provide sufficient luggage space in the trunk, which holds 16 cubic feet of cargo.
Standard equipment includes air conditioning, cruise control, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, a CD stereo with 10 speakers, and power windows, locks and mirrors. Leather seating surfaces and a navigation system are optional.
The base engine in the Jetta is a 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder that produces 150 hp and drives either a five-speed-manual or six-speed-automatic transmission with Tiptronic manual gear selection and a Sport mode. The direct-injection, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder generates 200 hp and 207 pounds-feet of torque and teams with a six-speed manual or a six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox automated manual transmission. 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 the Direct Shift Gearbox.
Antilock brakes, traction control, active front head restraints, side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain-type airbags are standard. Side-impact airbags for outboard rear passengers are optional. Volkswagen's Electronic Stabilization Program is standard on all models but the Value Edition, where it is optional.
In ordinary driving, the Jetta delivers vigorous throttle response, and the automatic transmission operates effortlessly. Passing response is markedly less energetic on upgrades at higher elevations. Significant hesitation before the transmission downshifts may occur when stepping on the gas.
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. With wholly predictable handling, it's simply masterful through curves. Body lean is minimal through tight mountain switchbacks.
Apart from some noticeable engine sounds while accelerating and some road noise, the Jetta is fairly quiet. It's spacious up front but a tad restricted in terms of elbowroom, and some drivers could hit their right knee on the wide console. The gauges are large and easy to read, and visibility is very good. The seats are beautifully cushioned and appropriately bolstered; they also offer good thigh and back support.