Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book
KBB.com 2003 Volkswagen Jetta Overview
The Personification of the Perfect Gen X-mobile
You don't have to be a marketing guru to know that Volkswagen has aimed their midsize Jetta sedan and wagon squarely at the 20-something generation; just look at the people in their advertisements. That the Jetta appeals to so many demographic groups outside Madison Avenue's preconceived notions is a testament to the power of the Jetta's design. Now nearing the end of its life cycle, the current Jetta is due for replacement in Europe sometime next year. What you'll find most amazing about this car is that even though the Jetta design is growing old at VW, it is still light years ahead of most new models now arriving in competitors' show rooms!
The Jetta's appeal begins with its packaging. From the outside, the handsome Jetta projects a strong, Germanic image of strength and ability. Even the most basic models are not stigmatized by that "rental car" look that befalls so many entry-level vehicles. The four door Jetta offers excellent front seat head and legroom, but does not score so well when it comes time to sit in back; though the seating is firm and upright, most adults will find the legroom to be a bit on the cramped side. The Jetta also features a roomy trunk, completely lined and insulated and expandable via the 60/40 split folding rear seat; for those that need more room, the Jetta wagon offers all the amenities of the sedan but with the added convenience of a large covered cargo hold.
If the Jetta's styling and build quality impresses you from the outside, just wait until you get a look at the interior. The materials, look and feel of the Jetta's passenger cabin is almost Audi-esque in its execution. The handsome two-tone dash divided by shades of either grey and black or taupe and dark brown. The interior fabric is a nice knit cloth that we are sure is somehow the distant cousin of velour. We loved the feel, but we did discover that the material has a tendency to build up a little static charge that finds a release every time you touch the metal door pull; maybe a can of static guard would be a good idea until the interior gets broken in. Everywhere you look inside the Jetta you'll find an obvious attention to detail that goes above and beyond this cars $17K sticker price; from the height-adjustable seats to the cool Cornflower blue LED lighting and red indicator needles on the instrument faces, the Jetta is capable of completely satisfying every one of your five senses (we're counting new car smell in the case.)
Model ranges include the GL, GLS, GLI and GLX trim levels, each offering a little more in the way of comfort and convenience as you move up the line. The entry-level GL features power windows, air conditioning, AM/FM stereo with cassette/CD player and 8 speakers, cruise control, power door locks, heated power mirrors, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, 15-inch full wheel covers, anti-theft alarm and rear defroster. On the safety front, the Jetta again soars well above what is expected, with standard front, front side-impact and full curtain airbags; also included are seatbelt pretensioners and force limiters, an adjustable head restraint at all five seating positions, ABS brakes and the LATCH child safety seat system. Depending on the model you choose, you'll find a host of impressive options such as leather seating, power seats with memory features, the Monsoon sound system, rain sensing wipers, a power glass moonroof, heated front seats and remote keyless entry with selective locking that includes the ability to open and close the windows simply by turning and holding the key in the door lock.
Driving the Jetta is a joy in motoring. Its tight suspension is controlled yet never harsh. Steering, brakes and transmission all work in harmony to move the car without fuss; true performance handling comes only when you step up to the more expensive GLI and GLX models, but VW does offer a series of dealer added suspension components including larger wheels and sport springs and shocks that you can have your dealer add to your GL or GLS.
Engine choices also vary by model, but are plentiful. The base GL comes standard with a 2.0-liter gas engine that does little to inspire sporty driving, but for day-to-day to and fro, it gets the job done; we recommend the 5-speed manual to get the most from this engine. If you'd like a bit more zip in your Jetta, then the 1.8-liter turbo is the overall best choice for this car. Rated at an amazing 180-horsepower, the 1.8T combines the power of a V6 with the fuel efficiency of a small four-cylinder engine; we can't say enough about the goodness of this motor. For true power junkies, VW offers its monster VR6 engine, but only on the top-of-the-line GLX model. Though it puts out more horsepower than the 1.8T, you'll discover that it is also thirsty for fuel; besides, if you're the type that enjoys tinkering with your car, you'll find far more aftermarket products designed to raise the horsepower of the 1.8T than the VR6.
There is one other engine worth noting, especially in these times of $2 a gallon gasoline: it's the TDI 1.9-liter diesel engine. Forget all you think you know about diesels, because this one is quiet, clean and more powerful than the base 2.0-liter engine (it has much more torque, so it can accelerate and pass with greater speed.) The TDI with the five-speed manual is rated at an eye-popping 42-mpg city/ 49-mpg highway.