SEE ALSO: Volkswagen Buyer's Guide
The Volkswagen Jetta sedan has been around since 1979, when it was created from the Golf hatchback. It started life as a 4- door Golf with a trunk, and continues in that vein today. Now into its third generation, three models of Jetta are available. The GL and GLS are powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and are fine family cars. The 6-cylinder GLX is Volkswagen's entry into the compact sports sedan segment of the automotive marketplace.
Unlike some sports sedans, the Jetta GLX has enough room inside to be a practical family car. And, unlike some examples of the genre, the GLX has a smooth, compliant ride that encourages everyday use or even long-distance travel with no loss of maneuverability or fun. In fact, the Jetta GLX has a very high grin factor, helped in no small amount by its use of Volkswagen's unique VR6 "inline vee" six cylinder engine. This smooth, compact powerplant has a relatively large 2.8-liter displacement for plenty of torquey flexibility. A week spent in a Jetta GLX showed it to be a car with a wonderful combination of performance and practicality.
APPEARANCE: Styling of the 1996 Jetta is true to its origins: a Golf with a trunk. Like its sibling, the Jetta is a study in rounded boxiness, with thick door frames and a steeply-raked windshield. The Jetta rear deck is high, giving the car a rakish wedge shape when viewed from the side and plenty of trunk space. In front, the body-colored grille has been restyled this year and now has the same half-oval shape as that of the Passat. The chromed Volkswagen logo in its center is the only brightwork on the car. Bumpers are body-colored and mirrors, window gaskets, and wipers are black. The GLX can be distinguished from other Jetta models by the prominent spoiler atop the rear deck, black lower side cladding, and 6-spoke BBS alloy wheels.
COMFORT: The Jetta's exterior boxiness pays dividends inside. Few cars have such efficient space utilization. This is a small sedan that will hold four large adults quite comfortably. It has plenty of convenience features, even optional leather upholstery. The fully- reclining front sports seats are supportive, comfortable, and adjustable for height, unusual in this price class. The steering wheel is adjustable for tilt. The rear seat has a 60/40 fold-down capability and its cushions fold up for even more cargo ability. The trunk is huge. The instrument panel layout is good, although the passenger air bag takes the place of the glove box. There are large door pockets and other storage spaces around the cabin to compensate. Power windows all go down with one touch of the switch. Power door locks, power mirrors, courtesy delayed interior lighting, a good AM/FM/cassette sound system, and a fast-acting climate control system are standard features that add to convenience.
SAFETY: Standard safety equipment on the 1996 Volkswagen Jetta GLX includes safety-cage chassis construction with side-impact protection that meets 1997 Federal standards, dual air bags, adjustable-height front shoulder straps, antilock brakes, low-speed traction control, and daytime running lights.
ROADABILITY: It is quite possible to combine a smooth, comfortable ride with good handling characteristics. Case in point: the Jetta GLX. A relatively softly-sprung, long-travel suspension soaks up bumps and minor potholes very well and gives nearly a luxury car level of ride comfort. The GLX has more body roll than some stiffer-sprung sports sedans, but the tires stay in contact with the pavement even when the road gets rough. This means very good cornering abilities even on poorly-surfaced roads. Because of the good suspension and huge trunk, the Jetta GLX is a good car for long trips as well as everyday driving. It covers distance well and quickly.
PERFORMANCE: The Jetta GLX features Volkswagen's innovative VR6 narrow-angle V6 engine. This compact 2.8-liter overhead cam unit is little larger than the 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder powerplant used in other Jetta models and produces 172 horsepower. It makes 85% of its peak torque at the most commonly used engine speeds, making the Jetta GLX easy to drive in any manner from commuting to sports. The standard 5-speed manual transmission shifts easily, and allows the GLX's sporting character full expression. Quick acceleration and good braking add to enjoyment and safety.
CONCLUSIONS: The 1996 Volkswagen Jetta GLX is an enjoyable sports sedan with plenty of room, a host of standard comfort features, and a very competitive price.
SPECIFICATIONS 1996 Volkswagen Jetta GLX Base Price $ 20,610 Price As Tested $ 22,035 Engine Type V6, single overhead cam per bank, 12 valves Engine Size 2.8 liters / 170 cu. in. Horsepower 172 @ 5800 Torque (lb-ft) 173 @ 4200 Transmission 5-speed manual Wheelbase / Length 97.4 in. / 173.4 in. Curb Weight 2954 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 17.2 Fuel Capacity 14.5 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded premium or regular Tires 205/50 R15 Goodyear Eagle GA Brakes, front/rear Vented disc / solid disc, antilock standard Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / torsion beam axle with coil springs Drivetrain front engine, front wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 18/24/22 0 to 60 mph 7.5 sec 1/4 mile (E.T.) 16.1 sec Coefficient of Drag (cd) 0.34