Volkswagen Jetta GLX (1999)

Loved it!

Four door sedan automatic air bags side bags, V6 engine, loaded withleather seats

VOLKSWAGEN JETTAIn years past, the Volkswagen Jetta was sort of an oddball car without much in the way of styling or features. Well, the Jetta has changed. The 1999 VW Jetta is a dramatic, newly restyled vehicle. Based on the same chassis as the Golf and the new Beetle, the Jetta is essentially the sedan version of the Golf. And it's a very nice little car.

Driving Experience

The Jetta feels like an expensive car. The driving experience is extremely nice--very sporty and comfortable, in our humble opinion. It handles and steers well, with good cornering. On rough pavement, the front wheels did bounce around a bit, but overall it drove very nicely. Stopping is very good and, based on our experience with VWs, we would expect the Jetta to handle well in snow and rain.

The Jetta we tested came with the optional V6 engine, which is simply way too much engine for this car--at least in the stick-shift configuration. Its got so much power, in fact, that it was a pain in the tuchus to drive. Unless you use the accelerator with great sensitivity, your head (and, more importantly, the heads of your passengers) will snap back into the headrest. It's annoying. Stick to the base-model, four-cylinder engine and you'll be better off. Besides, if you go with the four-cylinder engine, your bank account and your cervical spine will thank you. And you wont feel that your car is underpowered--we guarantee it.

Interior

The Jetta has that classic, German-style, firm comfortits comfy...in a stern kind of way. It is certainly more nicely appointed than in the past. Our particular test car, for example, was gussied up with very nice leather seats. The adjustment for the seat backs, however, was difficult to find and inconvenient to use once you did locate it. (It turns out, it's actually a round knob that sits behind the driver's left tuchus cheek.) The seats have adjustments which move only up and forward or down and back, which we found to be just a little bit limiting. This years Jetta includes seat warmers, which appeared to work very slowly in our car. (No doubt, VW doesnt want Germans getting too used to such amenities!)

Ergonomics

Ergonomics are all very good in the Jetta, with everything located exactly where you would expect it to be (other than the seat-back adjustment mentioned above). The only complaint we had was with the radio, which was not quite as intuitive as one would like.

The interior is very nice. Like the new Beetle, the Jetta has that cool blue lighting on the dashboard. There's a cup holder for your stein of Starbucks, a nice little armrest, a lockable trunk release, automatic-up windows and an electric sunroof. Legroom is adequate in the front, though we'll fess up and tell you that none of us tried the seating in the back. Storage is fair at best, with a small glove box, a couple of bins in the seat and a tiny bit of room in the armrests.

Maintenance

Volkswagen EngineIn terms of servicing, the V6 engine will be very tough to work on, both for regular servicing and, especially, for major repairs. Unless you really need the extra power (and why would you?), wed suggest you stick with the four-cylinder engine...or youll regret it when the warranty runs out.

Styling

Granted, we're hardly arbiters of good taste, but we all thought that this car looks just great. It has some of the styling of the Passat, which is a fine-looking car. In fact, we had it parked near Car Talk Plaza recently, and a big, burly construction guy was admiring it. "Hey, dis da new Jetta? Shahhp-lookin' cah--and all dat leathuh!" It's got a distinctive style, which is a refreshing change for a car in this price class and size. Add to that its excellent driving characteristics, and youve got a winner.

VW is marketing this car toward the high end of Generation X. The Jetta is for someone who might not quite have the dineros for the Passat. Other cars in this class include the four-cylinder versions of the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Dodge Stratus and Nissan Altima.

Overall comments

Overall, we really liked the styling and driving of the new Jetta. It's afun car to drive, and, with a cars.com target price of $17,270 for the base model, it's not too terribly expensive. The Jetta is unique in its class, and if we were looking for a small car to get around in, we would very definitely consider this car. Good work, VW!

View cars.com model report on this vehicle.


[Test Drive Notes Index]