Vehicle Overview
Like the GTI hatchback, Volkswagen’s Jetta sedan gets some engine improvements for 2002. The 1.8-liter turbo now is rated at 180 horsepower — 30 hp more than before — and can work with a five-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. During the 2002 model year, a new VR6 4V engine rated at 201 hp is scheduled for production, replacing the 2V VR6. A six-speed-manual transmission will be offered with the new engine.

A premium CD/cassette stereo goes into the GLS and GLX, and all sedans gain a trunk escape handle. Curtain-type airbags are standard in what is Volkswagen’s most popular U.S. model by far. Built from the same design as the Golf, the Jetta sedan has similar front styling but a trunk instead of a hatchback. A wagon joined the front-drive Jetta sedan during the 2001 model year.

Volkswagen also revised its warranty. Instead of the prior two-year/24,000-mile basic coverage and limited 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, VW now 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 — previously limited to two years — is now for four years or 50,000 miles. According to Automotive News, Volkswagen sold 144,853 Jettas in the United States during 2000, up from 130,054 for the previous calendar year.

The Jetta is a four-door sedan with a trunk, but 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 Ford Focus or Honda Civic. The Jetta stands 59 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.

A taller stance translates to more headroom and a comfortable upright seating position for five occupants. 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 controls are high enough to be seen and reached easily. Gauges have red needles, illuminated by attractive blue backlighting. Air conditioning, power door locks and a cassette player are standard. Steering-wheel controls for stereo and cruise functions are optional.

Under the Hood
The GL and GLS sedans 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. The 150-hp engine from 2001 was replaced with a standard turbocharged, 180-hp four-cylinder gasoline engine on the Jetta GLS 1.8T model. The 172-hp, 2.8-liter V-6 used previously in the VR6 edition will stretch to 201 hp for the 2002 model year.

A standard five-speed-manual and optional four-speed-automatic transmission are available, but the Jetta GLS 1.8T gets a new five-speed-automatic with a Tiptronic shifting provision. Volkswagen claims the GLS 1.8T will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds.

Antilock brakes, side-impact airbags and curtain-type airbags that deploy from the ceiling are standard. All-speed traction control is standard on models with the V-6 or 1.8-liter turbo.

Driving Impressions
Exuberant throttle response is immediately evident in the Jetta 1.8T sedan with the Tiptronic transmission. 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 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.

Reported by Jim Flammang  for
From the 2002 Buying Guide