CC Capsule: 1986 Volkswagen Jetta (A2) – Booty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

CC is a funny place. Some cars were featured in dozens of posts, others are yet to grace these pages. As far as the 2nd generation Jetta is concerned though, CC has been pretty stingy with the love. Considering how many of these were made and how long their production life stretched to, colour me surprised. These were all over the Americas, Europe and many parts of Asia, yet we’ve only had three COAL posts about them, until now. But don’t rejoice too soon – this is not going to be a rose-tinted piece.

The second gen Golf is still a regular sighting in Tokyo, but its big-booted brother Jetta is less common. This one lives in my neighbourhood, but I usually saw it parked deep inside its own garage, virtually impossible to capture. Luckily, it and I were out and about at the same moment recently, so I was able to snap a few pics.

Now, let me be crystal clear: I grew up around these cars, both in Golf and Jetta guise, and I remember them fondly. Along with the Peugeot 205, these were the best European compacts of the ‘80s, no question. But there are a couple bullet points in the “con” column, too. Prior to the 1988 facelift, the A2s kept that odd ‘70s-looking front vent window, coupled with mirrors that were too close to be useful (or rather, to be both useful at the same time). And that dash is about as exciting as a rainy weekend in February. Those are shortcomings that Jettas shared with the Golf, of course. But I do have one major gripe about the A2 Jetta specifically: the rear end.

VW took a page from the Alfa Romeo 33 / Maserati Biturbo Big Book of Boxy Butts and tacked it on to the Golf. Now, you’re going to say: “Well DUH! That’s the whole point of the Jetta.” Sure, but do you have to be such a prick about it? And did VW have to make that rear end so bulky and poorly integrated with the rest? Answer the second question first.

By contrast, and for what it’s worth, the square-eyed front end is just fine by me. The Golf’s round headlights look better, but the Mark 1 Jetta ushered in the breed’s rectangular gaze, so this may not be pretty, but at least it makes a modicum of sense.

The Graftenbutt group, 1974-1982


That rear end looks awful, no two ways about it. But then grafting a notchback boot to a hatchback design is not exactly straightforward. Prior to the A2 Jetta (launched in 1984), this exercise was undertaken by the Lancia Trevi and Prisma (top left and right, respectively launched in 1980 and 1982), the Renault Siete (bottom left, dating back to 1974) and, crucially, the 1979-84 Mark 1 Jetta (bottom right).

They all did it better than the A2 Jetta, in my opinion. Not by much sometimes, but still. Apologies for this fixation on the one detail that bugs me, because in the end, the A2 Jetta’s technical brilliance is legendary – in Europe, anyway. I suggest perusing Perry Shoar’s comprehensive post on the Golf version (linked below), if you need a refresher about how great these cars are. Just make sure you get the hatchback.


Related posts:


COAL: 1988 VW Jetta GL – Oh Mk2 How I Miss You., by Adam Simpson

COAL: 1990 VW Jetta 1.3, Or How I Learned The Truth About Cars, by Bewo

COAL: 1986 VW Jetta – Fahrvergnügen Gone Bad, by Len Peters

Curbside Classic: Volkswagen Golf (A2) – Ready, Steady, Golf, by Perry Shoar