2005 Volkswagen Jetta
Although very stylish on the outside, the 2005 Volkswagen Jetta isn't as impressive on the inside. The stereo, in particular, looks out of place, and its LCD is very difficult to see during the day. To its credit, the Jetta has a decent sound system, and the six-disc changer will play MP3 CDs, but the information for the XM satellite-radio channels comes up slowly. Some of the controls require a hunt through the owner's manual but are easy to get used to.
The Tiptronic transmission makes life easy for the commuter but provides manual control when wanted. The Jetta's Electronic Stability Program works with the ABS brakes to provide traction control. Additional safety comes in the form of electronic parking assist, front active head restraints, and a variety of air bags. Our test car came with option package two, which includes XM Satellite Radio, a power glass sunroof, and the HomeLink system. Equipped with the six-speed Tiptronic transmission ($1,075) and option package 2 ($4,660), the Jetta lists for $26,740.The shape of the 2005 Volkswagen Jetta represents a big change from its predecessors. Gone are the boxy corners and the rectangular lights. VW has replaced them with more refined, curvaceous bodywork and lights that feature circles and ellipses. Unfortunately, the interior doesn't live up to the expectations generated by the exterior styling. Even with the seats dressed in optional leather, the cabin does not exude quality. Much of the switch gear seems to have come from the bottom of the parts bin. The worst offender is the stereo facia, which looks like it was ripped from a 1980s entry-level econobox. The old-school black-on-gray LCD is very difficult to see during the day. If you're wearing sunglasses, forget about it. Five small, cheap knobs that control the equalizer, the balance, and the fader sit immediately below the display. Although easy to use, they seem very out of place in this day and age.
Despite the visual drawbacks, the stereo is a halfway decent unit with 10 speakers, XM Satellite Radio, and an in-dash six-CD changer that supports MP3 CDs. We found navigating MP3 CDs an easy affair. A button marked Cat/Folder let us swap folders, and buttons on the steering wheel and the stereo allowed us to select tracks. We were also pleased to see the artist and song info from the ID3 tags. We found the XM radio controls a little more awkward. When we used the tuning dial, the radio took about three seconds to display the station name and song information, which made finding the station we wanted a lengthy task. However, when we used the 18 presets, the information came up nearly instantly.
We found many of the controls rather unintuitive. For example, the multifunction indicator, which displays fuel economy and miles to empty, is controlled by a rocker switch and a button on the windshield-wiper stalk. The car lacks a switch to turn off the red nighttime background lighting, which bothered us as it reflected off the gearshift surround. Even the temperature controls for the air conditioning were not obvious. Once we became accustomed to the layout, navigating the controls became easier, but we never got used to the buttons on the steering wheel. Since all the buttons had the identical size and shape, telling them apart by touch was difficult, and we were constantly pushing the wrong thing. This could make for some interesting phone conversations if the two mysterious telephone buttons ever become operational.