Volkswagen Jetta (1997)
Our introduction to the 1997 Jetta III was pretty exciting. Tommy droveit to the office--one of those days that he actually WENT to the office.It was a beautiful sunshiny day, so Tommy opens the sunroof. When hegot home, the sunroof wouldn't close--the fuse was blown. As is hiswont, Tommy says, "I'll worry about this tomorrow." He gets out of thecar, and all hell breaks loose: the alarm goes off, the lights areflashing and the horn is making 120 decibels of very unpleasant sounds.
"No problem," says Tommy, "I'll turn off the alarm and worry about thistomorrow. I hope it doesn't rain too hard tonight." Now, the way todisarm the alarm is to put the key in the lock and use the power locks.Of course, the locks are on the same fuse as the sunroof. There's noway to turn off the alarm. He's standing there in his driveway, and theneighbors are starting to get nasty (he's not the most popular guy onthe block since that little incident with the barbecue grill and thefire department). There's a crowd standing on the sidewalk screaming,"Shut that stupid thing off, you moron!!" Tom recognizes one of thevoices. It's Ray--on his way home from the shop. Ray--as is hiswont--dashes into the driveway and immediately starts ripping out wiresfrom under the hood. The alarm continues. Finally, success. The crowdapplauds. Ray steals a fuse from some unnecessary circuit (we think itwas the ABS) and the sunroof closes and the alarm remains quiet. What athrilling way to get home from a hard day at the office.
But, other than some not-too-well-thought-out wiring, the Jetta'sactually a pretty nice car. Its best attribute is that it's fun todrive. It's not particularly fast (at least not with the four-cylinderengine we tested), but it still manages to feel sporty. Around town, weconstantly found ourselves revving the engine up to 4,000 or 5,000 rpmin first and second gear because it sounded so good...much to theannoyance of all the other drivers on the road. What the car reallydoes best is provide a sporty ride with excellent road holding.
The Jetta has been pretty much the same for years. It's still a prettynice car--a good value and reliable. It's got a fairly good record interms of reliability. Some people get 150,000 miles or more out of thiscar. It's proven to have a long life--it'll run forever if you takecare of it.
Now, understand: The Jetta is not long on comfort. This is not a car wewould like to commute in for 50 or 100 miles a day. Under nocircumstances would we recommend this car to anyone who A) is old; B)has a bad back; or C) has a wide rear end. If you fit any of thosedescriptions, this car is just not designed with you in mind. The rideis stiff, and the seats are fairly narrow. Germans have never beenknown for their concern with plush comfort, and this car carries on thatfine tradition.
So, if you're young and don't have the money (or the self-image) for aBMW, but want a sporty car that has four doors and holds four people,the Jetta is worth looking at.
View cars.com model report on this vehicle.