The Volkswagen Jetta is a premium small car that drives much like high-dollar German cars costing twice its price. Officially it's a compact car, but it compares well to smaller mid-size sedans. It's offered in sedan and wagon body styles with a choice of three engines.
For 2010, the Jetta line is basically unchanged. A SportWagen joined the sedan in late summer 2008 as a 2009 model, adding flexibility without a larger footprint or any compromise in efficiency. The performance-oriented GLI model has been dropped, and replaced by the TDI Cup Street Edition, a street-legal version of VW's Jetta TDI Cup race series cars.
The 2010 Jetta lineup includes TDI versions of the sedan or wagon, featuring a turbocharged clean-diesel engine and superior mileage. (The diesel was absent from VW's lineup in 2007 and 2008, due to stricter emissions controls, but a redesigned edition reappeared in 2009, with more power and certification for all 50 states.) Electronic stability control and a cold weather package with heated front seats and steering wheel are standard on all 2010 models. The standard stability control system comes two years ahead of a federal mandate requiring all vehicles sold in the U.S. to have some sort of standard stability control feature.
The 2010 Volkswagen Jetta lineup offers three engine choices: a 170-hp 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder (the standard base powerplant); a turbocharged 2-liter, 200-hp four-cylinder (employed in a number of different VW and Audi models); and a 2-liter, 140-hp turbocharged diesel four-cylinder, dubbed the TDI (for Turbo Direct Injection). EPA figures run from 21 mpg city on the gas engines to 41 mpg highway for the thrifty TDI.
We found the Jetta responsive around town and comfortable on long trips. It carves through curves precisely, but rides comfortably.
Inside, the Jetta is roomy and nicely finished, benefitting from Volkswagen's attention to detail. The driver enjoys excellent visibility and ease of operation, with logical controls and instruments. Finish quality is good, inside and out. The trunk is larger than in many sedans costing much more. The basic warranty has been shortened by a year but now includes all scheduled maintenance; the longer roadside assistance and powertrain warranty periods remain.
The Jetta was redesigned and re-engineered from the ground up midway through 2005. It still seems fresh to us, and the wagon model adds an element of flexibility. We find its styling more pleasant than exciting. If you like the idea of a solid four-door and are ready to try some European flavor, the Jetta is the best deal in town, a combination of price and German character that's made it the bestselling European car in the U.S. market.