SEE ALSO: Volkswagen Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS MODEL: Volkswagen Jetta GLS 1.8T ENGINE: 1.8-liter turbocharged four HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 150 hp @ 5,700 rpm/155 lb-ft @ 1,750-4,200 rpm TRANSMISSION: Five-speed manual WHEELBASE: 98.9 in. LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 172.3 x 68.3 x 56.9 in. STICKER PRICE: $22,145
The Volkswagen Jetta has to be one of the more popular vehicles on the road today. Sure, the New Beetle is far more recognizable, but if you look carefully, you'll see a lot of Jettas driving around.
There are several good reasons for this popularity. First, the Jetta is a good size. Unlike the Golf, which VW still sells, much to my surprise, the Jetta is a true for-passenger vehicle with room for a fifth passenger if the need arises. Legroom front and rear is excellent, and the trunk has enough volume to accommodate a small family's luggage for a reasonable trip.
Second, the Jetta appears to be well made. I have to qualify that last statement because of some mail we've received about cars whose quality fails them after a few thousand miles. Please realize that we only get to drive these cars for a week or so, and many quality issues never surface in that period of time. But I'll still go out on a limb and say the Jetta is well-built.
Third, there is an assortment of powerplants to appeal to any driver. The base engine in the Jetta is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder mill rated at 115 horsepower. Next up the line is the 90 horsepower 1.9-liter turbocharged engine. Diesels are practical, but they also come with inherent problems. At the top of the line is the GLS, powered by a 2.8-liter narrow V-6 with 181 horsepower. Like most V-6 engines, this engine provides good solid power and torque.
New for 2000 is the 1.8-liter turbocharged four in our tester that is rated at 150 horsepower. Having had the opportunity to drive all three engines in an assortment of Jettas, I have to say the 1.8T is my favorite.
I'll be the first to admit that I have a heavy foot, but the performance aspects of the 1.8T go far beyond pure power. The engine has great flexibility than the six-cylinder. With "light" turbocharging (Saab offers a similar option) the power surge isn't even noticed and the four acts more like a six. At 150 horsepower, it has enough power for the Jetta, yet it's not overpowering. My guess is that the engine's great appeal lies in the torque curve, which is essentially flat from 1,750 to 4,200 rpm at 155 lbs-ft. With a flat torque curve, you can fully enjoy the full rang eof engine revs.
Volkswagen has introduced the 1.8T in several cars in its range. You can get it in a Golf or Jetta, and it may appear in other cars as 2001 moves along.
Coupled to a great five-speed manual transmission, the Jetta 1.8T is a sweet car. Shifting up and down through the gears is a pleasure, and you always seem to be able to find the right gear ratio for whatever you want to do. We had a couple of other cars in the driveway the week we had the Jetta and the VW was always the car of choice.
But the Jetta is more than just a great engine and gearbox. The suspension is comprised of an independent strut front suspension and a track-correcting independent torsion beam rear suspension with VW's skid control, called Anti-Slip Regulation, or ASR. It has rack-and-pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS.
Our tester also had height-adjustable front seats, cruise control, a 60/40 split folding rear seat back, power windows, leather-faced seating, a Monsoon sound system, and front and side impact air bags for safety.
Trunk volume is a decent 13 cubic feet, more than many American sedans.
All this comes with a factory sticker price of $22,145. This is slightly below the going average selling price for new cars these days. While Volkswagens, in my estimation , have never been inexpensive cars thanks to the inequities of the Deutschmark and the dollar, this is a great price for what I perceive to be a solid automobile with a lot of features to recommend it.