By KBB.com Editors
A cut above the generic four-door sedan, the 2008 Volkswagen Jetta borrows mechanical components from the upscale Audi division, provides an exceptionally strong safety rating and a list of standard and optional equipment rarely found in this class. With slightly less rear-seat legroom than the more expensive Passat, the Jetta still provides the kind of "big car" feel you won't find in many of its competitors. On the downside, the Jetta does not offer a V6 engine---although the new GLI model's turbocharged four-cylinder powerplant delivers the power of a V6 with the fuel economy of a frugal four. Due to EPA Tier 2 regulations, however, the high-mileage TDI diesel will not be offered in the first part of 2008, but VW indicates it will return soon.You'll Like This Car If... You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're looking for that "old-school" VW look and feel, the fifth-generation Jetta's styling doesn't convey the same sense of youthful enthusiasm as its predecessors. Although improving, VW's reliability and repair history still lag behind its Japanese competitors.What's New for 2008
For 2008, VW simplifies the Jetta line with three trims (S, SE, SEL) all powered by a new 2.5-liter engine. The GLI trim becomes its own model, although it shares almost all of the Jetta's major components.Driving It Driving Impressions
Although a full seven inches longer and 300 pounds heavier than the previous-generation Jetta, the 2008 Volkswagen Jetta offers very crisp handling. While it isn't the fastest car in its class, it's now fast enough to nose its way past the pack when it has to. Highway ride is firm, while road, wind and engine noise are all perceptible but not unpleasant. And if your favorite leg of any journey is the twisty one, the Jetta delivers ample cornering ability complemented by quick, smooth manual Tiptronic downshifts and a satisfying exhaust note.Favorite Features
Six-Speed Tiptronic Transmission
The newest VW transmission shifts quickly and smoothly in three distinct shift modes---regular and sport automatic modes, plus a manual mode.
Rear Seat Side-Impact Airbags
When combined with the standard side-curtain airbags, this option adds another level of security for rear-seat passengers.
Rear-seat passengers will appreciate the marked improvements in space afforded by the new Jetta's increase in overall length and wheelbase. They might also enjoy the available rear-seat armrest, which allows for a useful trunk pass-through as well. Overall, the interior is attractive and refined, with materials and finish that are tough to match in the category.Exterior
Ironically, the newest version of the best-selling European car in the U.S. features several styling elements seemingly imported from Japan. This model marks the largest Jetta to date, touting seven additional inches over the previous generation. Whether you find the less-playful styling more appealing may depend on whether you think of the Jetta as a fun beach cruiser or a high-value German sedan.Notable Standard Equipment
The 2008 Volkswagen Jetta comes with an AM/FM stereo with MP3-compatible CD player, one-touch up/down power windows, power mirrors, exterior key opening and closing feature for the windows and optional sunroof, cruise control, manual climate control, outside temperature display, four-way adjustable steering column and eight-way adjustable cloth front seats with manual lumbar support and power recline. Standard safety equipment includes traction control, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS), active head restraints and front side-impact and full-length side-curtain airbags.Notable Optional Equipment
Optional equipment on the Jetta varies by trim and includes heated front seats, leather or V-Tex leatherette seating, power-adjustable driver's and passenger's seats, in-dash AM/FM stereo with MP3-compatible six-disc CD changer, iPod connector, rear-seat armrest/trunk pass-through, trip computer, electronic stability program and heated washer nozzles. Additional options include a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission (standard on SEL), power sunroof, premium sound system, navigation, alloy wheels, SIRIUS Satellite Radio and 12-way adjustable front seats with driver's memory.Under the Hood
Volkswagen offers only one engine for the Jetta: A newly-improved 2.5-liter four-cylinder. Delivering 20 additional horsepower without sacrificing much in the way of fuel economy makes this upgrade a win/win for consumers. No firm word yet whether the high-mileage TDI diesel will be offered later in the model year.
2.5-liter in-line 5
170 horsepower @ 5700 rpm
177 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/29 (manual), 21/29 (automatic)
Three trim levels comprise the Jetta lineup. The base Jetta S has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $17,500, while the SE sells for just over $20,000. A loaded SEL tops out around $30,000. Before you set out to buy a Jetta, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price. It shows what others in your area are currently paying for their cars. The Jetta's resale value is near the top of its class, on par with the Honda Civic, Nissan Altima and Toyota Corolla, better than the Mazda Mazda3 and far better than the Hyundai Elantra, Dodge Avenger and Ford Fusion.