When we bought our Volvo C30, we decided to trade my Mazda 3 instead of Maggie’s PT Cruiser, knowing it would net us a lot more. That would leave me driving the PT and after about 6 months the novelty had worn off, so I started to think about a replacement.
A co-worker was driving a 2011 VW CC, not a car that I had paid much attention to until one day when I needed a ride somewhere and he offered. I loved the interior of that car, those ribbed seats especially, how was I not aware of this car? As often seems to happen with me and cars, I started obsessing over the idea of owning a CC. I read everything I could about them before heading out for a test drive. I found a low mileage, one year old program car being offered at a deep discount. The test drive went fine and I was already imagining one of these in my driveway when I opened the rear door to check out the backseat. I noticed the unframed, sharp corner of the rear glass and how close that was to what might be my kids’ eye level. I could just picture one of them running into that while climbing into the back. Thinking about it now, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been a problem, but maybe that was my subconscious telling me not to buy another 2 + 2 when we had just bought the C30. Yes, technically the CC was a 5 seater, but not really.
While I was there at the VW dealer, I decided I might as well take a look at their other used car offerings. There was a low mileage 2011 Jetta GLI with the 2.0 L turbo, but at the time I wasn’t totally sold on turbocharging. Again, we had the C30 turbo, did we really want to put all of our eggs in the turbo basket? But feeling pretty good about VW offerings thus far, I headed into the showroom to see what was new. Focusing on 4 door sedans, I first climbed into a 2012 Jetta. I really liked how roomy and airy the cabin was, especially the back seat. Volkswagen was bucking the trend with their upright greenhouse and relatively large glass. The seats didn’t feel like vinyl seats of old, these looked and felt pretty good. Just for comparison’s sake I sat in a Passat which seemed cavernous by comparison, but otherwise very similar. Since I didn’t need all that room, I thought the Jetta would do me just fine. I really like the simple dash layout and the large infotainment screen. This seemed like a lot of car for the money and VW was discounting these substantially at the time.
I test drove a white SE with the 2.5 L 5 cylinder engine and 5 speed manual. I loved that VW had retained the same shift pattern as my old Beetle and that I had not forgotten how to put it into reverse. Engine choices for the Jetta included an anemic 1.8 L price leader, the 2.5 L and a 2.0 L turbo. As we have already established, the turbo was a non starter because the Volvo. You might ask why the 5 cylinder was okay when the C30 was similarly equipped. I don’t have an answer for you there, some things just defy logic.
VW was still selling the previous gen Jetta in wagon form and I sat in one of these as well, although I didn’t go so far as to test drive one that day.
My previous brush with Volkswagens dated all the way back to 1975 and my ’69 Beetle. Sure, I was aware that VW had long ago grafted a trunk onto the Rabbit and created an affordable 4 door sports sedan, but I had never ridden in a Jetta, much less driven one. Reviews hated the hard plastic surfaces on the new Jetta’s interior, perceived as a significant downgrade over the previous generation’s soft touch materials. Me, I thought it looked fine. I mean, who goes around touching the dash while they are driving?
There were complaints about VW dropping the adjustable height center arm rest and switching to cheap trunk hinges, but all of this seemed petty. Probably the biggest complaint was the rear suspension, which was now a solid, torsion-beam axle except in GLI trim. In the end, it seemed most reviewers actually liked the car, they just seemed shocked that VW had taken so much cost out of it. What I gleaned from most of the reviews was that the new Jetta was a decent, if somewhat boring appliance of a car, built to a price.
I brought Maggie with me back to the dealer and we gave the Jetta wagon a test drive before checking out the SE again. I really wanted to love the wagon, but after experiencing the updated Jetta sedan, the older design felt a bit claustrophobic and Maggie voted no. We ended up buying the Jetta SE that day. I remember noticing that our specific car had the mid-year rear disc brake upgrade, where as most of the cars on the lot were showing rear drums. I pointed that out to my salesman, who in typical form wasn’t aware of the change and had to ask the sales manager when that happened.
I liked the Jetta a lot. I could pretend, to myself anyway, that I was driving one of the small Audis. The Jetta even had the same underbite on the front as Audis of that period. The 5 cylinder could make a decent growl when pressed and I found the 5 speed stick perfectly serviceable. Done up in beige, the leatherette seats were quite comfortable and made for a warm interior. The kids enjoyed plugging their iPhones into the glovebox adapter and seeing their playlists come up on the decent sized infotainment screen. It’s amazing how far things have advanced in 10 years with these systems, but at the time I thought this was pretty slick.
There was one incident though, shortly after I bought the car, when I picked up my daughter and future so-in-law at the airport. He was a car guy and I thought he would be impressed with my new ride. His first comment after getting in was “You bought a chick car.” Huh? I had no idea, but according to him, these were favored by young women in those days. The implication being that a manly man such as myself would never own a car like this. I know he was mostly joking, but all humor has at its root a kernel of truth, right? I still liked my Jetta, but his comments nagged at me. Then later I learned that my wife didn’t really like the car either. It turns out she has an aversion to both trunks and white cars.
The car was a beast in the winter, wearing Firestone Winterforce tires on after market rims at each corner. I think it was mostly the tires, but this car really loved the snow. We did have one fluke of an accident during the winter that had the car laid up for a couple of weeks. Driving down a narrow St Paul street one frosty morning, a college student opened the iced over door of his Mustang just as we were abreast of his car, gouging both passenger side doors and removing the rear door handle completely before continuing onto the trunk. He had started his car to warm it up and was getting out to scrape his windows when we drove by. The body shop did a great job and repaired some door dings while they were at it so the car looked good as new.
The car made several road trips and with my commute to pick up my kids after work each day, I was putting on about 20,000 miles annually. I don’t remember having any mechanical issues despite the raft of complaints on the VW forums about quality and service. My suspicion is that the North Americanization of the Jetta, with its reduction in parts complexity, was perhaps part of this. A much more successful transformation in production and engineering than the first attempt with the Westmoreland Rabbit.
In 2016 we moved from our house to a downtown condo as the last of the kids were nearing the end of college and this meant another reconfiguration of the fleet. This might be the only car I have ever gotten rid of based strictly on other people’s opinions. The Jetta never gave me any trouble and the VW dealer service was fine. Like my Miata, I’m not sure I would buy another one at this point in my life, but the Jetta gave me some good memories. There would be at least one more VW in my life and I’ll give you a hint, I still wasn’t finished with chick cars.
That Jetta seems like a badge engineered Skoda Octavia 3rd generation.
Yeah, technically it cannot be true as this Jetta and mk3 Octavia are built on different platforms . Octavia was already moved to the new MQB, whereas Jetta was still based on modified mk5 Golf platform. But I know what you mean, it was simplified, cheaper and larger version of the Golf, just like Octavia supposed to be, at least in the past. (And only on the cheaper trims, better version get more gimmicks and technical solutions from golf).
Yes, you are right. Launch years and platforms make what I said impossible. There are however many similarities in the exterior design and the interior layout. VAG synergies I guess.
We had an identical Jetta as a rental about 4 or 5 years ago. We liked the roomy interior as well. We’d had earlier Jettas as rentals, and I always found them a little too tight for me. This generation is definitely an improvement. My wife’s niece has one (a black TDI) and she’s quite happy with it. Still, I’m not sure if I’d pull the trigger and buy one at this point in time. People I’ve talked with seem to either love or hate Volkswagens.
Put me in the ‘hate’ category. I had one of those 6th gen Jetta SEs towards the end of that model’s run as a rental for a week maybe five years ago. I hated just about everything about it. It was cheap in a similar way that GM does cheap, except it had a Teutonic feel to it.
IOW, the parts were designed okay, it’s just that VW went with the lowest possible bidder on ‘everything’. German austerity isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it has to be done correctly. You’d have thought getting a new VW as a rental would have been a pleasant surprise, but I couldn’t wait to give it back.
Looking at the VW Canada website, a 2021 Jetta lists at $21,595, plus freight and PDI. It is a cheap car built to a price. All in, its $26,286.40. The average car in Canada is now selling for $43,000.
I’ve always liked the looks of these, but everyone I know who bought one regretted it for reliability problems. I ended up with a 2013 Passat with the same 2.5 engine in it and it’s been the most reliable car I’ve ever owned.
Those who would comment on your choice of a “chick car” would seem to have a weak sense of self. They would put more significance on others’ opinions of themselves than on their own. Pay them no mind.
Nice COAL and thank you for writing.
One must take car groups with a bit of a grain of salt. My Golf has been flawless after three years and for that reason, I am not going to a web board to complain about it.
From what I understand, lower spec Jettas still have the torsion beam suspension. My 2015 Kia Rio was also so equipped and on a rough road, there was some rear end hop but it never compromised where the car was going. There are big packaging advantages to a torsion beam rear suspension as well as being much cheaper. I highly doubt 90% of customers would even know what a “torsion beam” is.
That said, the multi-ling setup on the MQB platform is a slick set up.
Interesting CC effect with this one.
My daughter and future son-in-law were discussing cars recently.
He had been driving a hand me down new Beetle that has far exceeded its economic life that until a couple of months ago was still titled to his father. They had given it to him to drive to college and he has kept driving it. It has over 200k on it, has been wrecked multiple times, the front suspension/steering is shot and the barely legal tires are ancient and hard as a rock.
When they got out of college my daughter put her foot down and said that she is living near us, and near where she did get a job, not near his parents and the job he had waiting for him working for the same company as his dad. That wasn’t a problem in the early days of the pandemic, but once he had to start going into work 2 days a week that meant a 150mi round trip commute 2 days per week.
So I gave them my wife’s C-max as I couldn’t let him continue to drive the death trap Beetle. So he drives it on the days he has to go into the office while she takes her old Crown Vic those days and the C-Max when he works from home.
Meanwhile after his parents seeing him driving the car we gave them, finally gave him the title to the Beetle, told him it was an unsafe POS, in not so many words and that he should buy a newer car since he has money now. My daughter also started missing the Mod Cons of the newer car and the fact that it used 1/2 the fuel on those days he takes it.
So she decided they needed another more modern and economical car and asked him what his dream car was. His answer, a Jetta. My daughter’s response was “that is lame” and of course had to share that with the wife and I.
I have no qualms about driving a “chick car”, whatever that may be. I guess I’m secure enough not to need to prove my masculinity with the car I drive, or pretty much anything else. I think women as a group have good taste in cars, veering toward the fun but practical. Last time I read any stats about it, the Toyota RAV4 had the highest percentage of female ownership, about 75%, although it’s not a stereotypical chick car. The Lexus RX is high up there too, and I could easily see myself driving one.
The Jetta could be for anyone. I drive a Rabbit (aka Golf Mk5) with the same 2.5L five/5 speed manual driveline and mostly love it. I would have liked a 6th gear to increase fuel economy and reduce noise in highway driving, but it’s not bad as it is. Auto journalists complained about the 2.5 getting rough at high revs, but that’s a non-issue since prodigious low-rev torque means you rarely have to wind it up, and at low revs it’s smooth and quiet. The 2.5 isn’t very fuel efficient, but has proven durable and reliable. It was later replaced by a 1.8T four, and more recently a 1.4T four now mated to either a 6sp manual or 8sp automatic. Power for the latter is now down to that of the early, pre-2009 2.5L five like mine, which is adequate power but now with a whopping 11mpg improvement in highway fuel economy, a tradeoff I’d gladly take.
Maybe it’s because I compare it to my ’07 Rabbit, but I do think the VW went overboard with the cost-cutting. Car and Driver’s Jeff Sabatini nailed it: the Mk6 Jetta “feels like a Chinese knockoff of the Golf”. The lack of cost cutting though is what sold me on my Rabbit. It drives and feels like a luxury car, specifically an Audi. Yes, I like the center armrest that’s not only height-adjustable but also pulls forward so it supports your whole arm, not just your elbow. It’s also heavily padded. Older Mk5s had a cooling vent in there too that could be opened or closed lest you have a beverage or chocolate bar in there. Then there’s the glovebox door which is damped so it opens slowly rather than crashing down, and the inside of the glovebox has a fuzzy lining so nothing rattles. My car has a draft-free A/C vent that moves a large volume of air slowly, and can be selected instead of the usual dash vents. The Golf is full of these niceties. Oh, and it has IRS, disk brakes at every wheel, a hood that stays open without a prop rod, and other things that you don’t see right away but appreciate with time. That said, there’s much that’s good about being able to get a livable car at a low price, and the Jetta really is a great value costing several thousands less than the smaller Golf. I also like the larger rear seat, the cargo space, and the upright passenger compartment, all improvements over the previous Mk5 Jetta and current Golf. I tried out the Audi A3 sedan when it was new. It had just moved to the new MQB platform shared with the Golf Mk7, but I couldn’t get past how small and cramped it felt inside. I tried out a Mk6 Jetta later that same day, still on the older PQ35 platform from the Golf Mk5/6 (which is excellent even if not quite as good as the newer MQB) and filled with cheaper plastics and downgraded materials, but it was much roomier, easier to get into and out of, and easier to see out of than the Audi. And much less expensive. I can see why the Jetta is popular.
The decontenting of that Jetta seems petty until you’ve owned the prior generation and understood just how thorough the were gutting it. They took everything out of the interior that made the 2006-2010 sedans and 2009-2014 wagons feel special, dumbed-down the steering and suspension, yet kept the price the same or higher.
I special-ordered a 2010 wagon with that 2.5 + 5spd because it was worth waiting for. The only time I considered the Jetta of this generation was when they were advertised for 30% off MSRP.
I test drove a 2015 Jetta S with the 2.0 slow auto trans, mostly out of curiosity to see if it was really that badly underpowered, and to get a feel of the car itself. Was roomy, interior seemed decent quality, hard plastics abound in the ’86, not an issue for me. With 3 of us in the car it was no speed demon for sure, 115 HP isn’t much these days. The funny part was a scooter pulled up next to us, I floored it and didn’t start to pull away from the scooter until about 35 MPH! The not so funny part was it still felt more powerful than my 90 HP ’86 Jetta 5 speed manual, its lost a bit of power over 300k miles. Quite a bit.
I was planning to start driving my ’04 Titan full time and retire the Jetta, clutch, front wheel bearing, rear brakes, control arm bushings and tires are all needing replacement, for as little as I drive now poor gas mileage is not a big issue, 13-14 MPG around town but only drive about 100 miles a month. Titan bought new only has 17k on it, average 1000 miles a year.
Then a deal I couldn’t say no to on a 2013 Mazda3 was offered to me, good condition, 100k miles, $1000. Its a base SV sedan, 5 speed auto, 148 HP 2.0 16V VVT. Gets the same MPG as the Jetta, has modern brakes and safety equipment, plenty of power, was going to flip it but it just drives too nice. I’m hoping its looks will grow on me, and silver paint with black interior is boring, back seat room is tight compared to Jetta, but I don’t carry passengers often and the fold down backrest is a nice feature the Jetta lacks. So looks like I will remain a 2 vehicle owner and the Titan will remain a low mileage road trip cruiser and useful machine when a truck bed is needed.
Interesting…like you I’m a longtime VW owner, and now I’m considering buying a Mazda 3 (hatch) as my next car…I’m a hatchback fan, on my 3rd in 40 years (only owned VW hatches since 1981 as my only car). Currently have a ’00 Golf. Like a lot of manufacturers, VW seems to be shooing me away; I don’t really want to buy an SUV nor crossover, but cars seem to be going extinct, though they do still sell the GTi, not really interested in a sporty car anymore (I had an ’86 GTi back in the day…it was a fine car for 35 year younger me, but I’m no longer in the market for that type of car). In my old age, mostly want a smoother ride, no longer interested in kidney buster suspension despite the handling improvements. Also don’t care for the vinyl upholstery they are putting on all but the base model (fine with base model, but it isn’t sold any longer new); I thought I left vinyl behind 40 years ago, don’t like living with it in the sunbelt. I like the pre-2014 Mazda 3 hatches better, the new ones look like they’d be hard to see out of in the back (guess this is true for most cars…I’d trade some collision ratings for being able to see out of my car but guess that’s not offered these days.
My VWs have been durable, but not exactly reliable, my current car has left me stranded, mostly because I didn’t have the tools to take apart my steering column to bypass the ignition switch when it went. Have also had transmission cables fail (didn’t leave me stranded, though, I put selector shaft into 2nd and nursed it home slipping the clutch at stops to get it back) and failed power steering rack. Also the power locks have gone in 2/4 doors, and of course I’ve had the power window regulator failure where the window has dropped into the door. So yes, there have been problems, but my car is 21 years old now (bought it new). Haven’t owned a Japanese car since my ’74 Datsun, but considering Mazda hatch, or maybe the Toyota IM or Civic hatch. I would have also considered the Hyundai Elantra GT hatch or Kia Forte 5, or even the Chevy Cruze hatch or Focus hatch, but they aren’t sold new any longer either. A mid-sized hatch (or even wagon) like the Honda Crosstour, Toyota Venza, or Chevy Malibu Maxx would be great, but of course as cars are disappearing, so have these.
Does anyone else think it is a bit ironic that the VW Golf originally spawned the Jetta, but the Golf is no longer sold (except as GTi) in US? Likewise the Accord hatch, which I considered when I bought my ’86 GTi but didn’t buy (because they only offered fuel injection in highest trim model, and back then I didn’t want power windows/locks, which of course have since become virtually standard in all cars) is only a Sedan for 32 years now. Well I guess I have to get used to only having crossovers/SUVs and eventually only electric ones. Maybe will be down to only public transportation (don’t use it now, but did before COVID 19 arrived…but I like to have a car for groceries and hardware store trips when I get heavy or bulky stuff).