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.
The gray LCD looks a little outdated, and it proved difficult to read in bright sunlight.
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.
A 2.5-liter, five-cylinder (in-line) 150-horsepower engine delivers power to the 2005 Volkswagen Jetta's front wheels. Tipping the scales at 3,285 pounds when mated to the six-speed Tiptronic transmission, it reaches 60mph in just over nine seconds. Engine, wind, and road noise make it seem faster, but at least we didn't notice any significant torque steer. The Jetta has an EPA mileage rating of 22mpg in the city and 30mpg on the highway, but we got 18.4mpg in a bit more than 50 miles of city driving, albeit with a bit of a heavy foot. In normal drive mode, acceleration seemed sluggish, but when we pulled the gearshift back into sport mode, the car showed more pep. The manual gear-select mode uses the pattern that's become pretty standard: push forward to upshift and pull back to downshift. We prefer the more logical system on the BMW 330i, where pushing forward downshifts the car. The dashboard could do with a better display to show the current gear, especially since the transmission will still make some changes automatically and lock you out from others. In the end, we found the manual mode most useful for managing revs and power on the freeway, not for sporty back-roads driving.
Air-bag protection comes in the form of front, front supplemental side, and side-curtain bags. The 2005 Volkswagen Jetta also features crash-active front headrests, crash-optimized foot pedals that descend upon serious impact, side-protection door beams, and daytime running lights. The Jetta rates well in crash testing: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave it four stars for front impact and five stars for side impact, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it a Good overall rating for the front and a Best Pick for the side. The electronic stability program (ESP) adds another layer of safety with its antislip regulation and electronic differential lock. You can turn off the ESP for driving with snow chains or on loose surfaces. The car also has an electronic parking assist that uses ultrasound sensors in the rear bumper to calculate the distance to obstacles behind the car. It proved somewhat unreliable in warning us about impending collisions when we tested it with trash bins and recycling bins, but it is supposed to fare better with larger objects such as walls or other vehicles.
The Jetta includes a 4-year, 50,000-mile new-vehicle limited warranty, a 5-year, 60,000-mile power train limited warranty, a 12-year, unlimited-distance corrosion perforation warranty, and 4 years of roadside assistance.