Vehicle Overview
Volkswagen last redesigned its Jetta halfway through the 2005 model year. For 2008, the base 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder engine gets a horsepower boost, and the model's trim levels have been revised; the Jetta is now offered in S, SE and SEL forms. Competitors include the Honda Civic and Mazda3.

The Jetta GLI is a performance-oriented version of the model that features a turbocharged four-cylinder under its hood. The GLI's ride height is reduced for a sportier appearance, and launch control comes standard for models with the DSG transmission.

(Skip to details on the: GLI)

Exhibiting a sleeker look than the prior-generation Jetta, the current model has a large trapezoidal grille. The S trim level has standard 16-inch steel wheels with wheel covers, but alloy wheels of the same diameter are optional. The SEL comes with 17-inch wheels. 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, and power windows, locks and mirrors.

Under the Hood
The Jetta's 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder now produces 170 hp — 20 hp more than last year — and drives either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic manual gear selection and a Sport mode.

Antilock brakes, traction control, active front head restraints, side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags are standard. Side-impact airbags for outboard rear passengers are optional. Volkswagen's Electronic Stabilization Program is standard on all models but the S, where it is optional.

Featuring sportier styling than regular Jettas, the GLI uses a direct-injection, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 200 hp and 207 pounds-feet of torque. The four-cylinder teams with a six-speed manual or a six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox automated manual transmission.

Standard GLI features include 17-inch wheels, high-intensity-discharge headlights and a six-CD stereo. A navigation system is optional. Back to top

Driving Impressions
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.

The Jetta is 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.