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The Ultimate Volkswagen Jetta Page

Since its inception, the Volkswagen Jetta has been one of the most popular and best-selling cars in North America. In fact, the Volkswagen Jetta is ranked among the top 20 compact cars by U.S. News and World Report. The Jetta was first manufactured in 1979, appearing at the Frankfurt Auto Show in Germany that same year; it debuted on the market in 1980. Specifically designed with North American buyers in mind (research showed that a sedan style was preferred to a hatchback), the Jetta was created by modifying the Golf hatchback (aka the Rabbit) to add more interior space.

With a name inspired by the climate phenomenon known as the Atlantic jet stream, the first Jetta was inspired by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the legendary Italian car designer. The VW Jetta incorporated square-shaped features and offered more trunk space. The interior was upgraded, and the Jetta became known for its box-like appearance. What also contributed to its popularity was its quality and practicality; though it was smaller and more compact, its braking system was top-notch, its steering easy to handle, and its fuel economy above average. Overall, it fit the model for the "people's car," which is what "volkswagen" means in German.

  • Giorgetto Giugiaro has been responsible for many famous car designs, including the iconic cult classic the DeLorean.
  • The Volkswagen Group is a great place to learn all about the Volkswagen company and models.
  • CarGurus has an in-depth history of the Jetta and its models.
  • NADA Guides provides access to different research tools, car comparisons and prices, and histories.

1980 to 1984 (A1 Series)

When the first-generation Jetta was introduced to the North American market in 1980, it was available as a two-door coupe or a four-door sedan. Both came in base and GL trim levels. All trims were powered by a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine with a manual five-speed or automatic three-speed transmission that provided 76 horsepower and 83 pound-feet of torque. MacPherson struts were placed in the front for suspension, and the interior was given cloth seats and carpet. The engine was upgraded to 1.7 liters in 1981, and 1984, it was upgraded again to 1.8 liters, a GLI high-performance engine.

1984/1985 to 1992 (A2 Series)

The second-generation Jetta appeared in Europe in 1984 but didn't come to North America until 1985. This version featured an angled hood, and the rear deck was squared off a bit higher to create more trunk space. It was a total of 171.1 inches long (3 inches longer than the A1) with an expanded wheelbase of 97.2 inches, and the extra space made room for five seats. Though the Jetta was again offered as a coupe or a sedan, the sedan proved more popular, and so the coupe was not offered in North America after 1991.

In 1985 and 1986, the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine for base and GL Jettas increased in power from 85 horsepower to 100 and eventually to 105. In 1987, it was raised to 123 horsepower due to the introduction of a 16-valve 1.8-liter, Volkswagen's first DOHC engine. Yet another upgrade was made in 1989; the GL and new luxury Carat trim level bumped their horsepower to 100, and GL and GLI Jettas were offered with a new Wolfsburg package, which included larger wheels and an upgraded, sportier interior. Even better performance came for the Jetta GLI in 1990, when a 2-liter DOHC engine was introduced that boosted the GLI's power to 134 horsepower, aided by the CIS Motronic engine management system.

1991/1993 to 1998 (A3 Series)

In 1991, the A3 series debuted in Europe under the name Vento. Due to some production issues in Volkswagen's Mexico plant, the release of the A3 series in North America was delayed until 1993. Only the four-door sedan was available in North America, and the few changes made to the body were subtle but contemporary upgrades, such as a slanted grille, new wheel covers, and a different suspension. The length of the third-generation Jetta grew to 173.2 inches, though the wheelbase stayed the same. Eco-friendly materials were used in the interior, and under the hood, there was a new 2-liter, four-cylinder engine that provided 115 horsepower.

In 1994, the Jetta gained a new trim level, the GLX, which came with a 172-horsepower, 2.8-liter V6 engine. With this jump in power, the Jetta GLX became the fastest Jetta to date, going 0 to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds. Among the other new features added were air conditioning, cruise control, options for a sunroof and leather seats, and standard power brakes, steering, locks, and windows. This new Jetta also included a rear spoiler, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, alloy wheels, and an important safety feature: anti-lock brakes.

Over time, the Jetta lineup in the third generation expanded to cater to everyone from biking and sports enthusiasts to music-lovers. Limited-edition trim levels were added for a dose of exclusivity, such as 1995's City and Celebration trims. In 1997, the limited-edition Jazz and Trek models appeared. The Jetta Jazz came with a new sound system and six-disc CD changer for the musically inclined, while the Trek came with a bike rack on the roof and fog lights. The sporty Jetta GT also came on board in 1997, and it was followed in 1998 by the limited-edition Jetta K2, which even came with either skis or a snowboard.

1999 to 2005 (A4 Series)

Making its debut in 1998 for the 1999 model year, the fourth-generation Jetta came in four different trim levels: GL, GLS, GLX, and GLI. This was a landmark year for the Jetta design-wise, as it dropped its boxy appearance for a more rounded, aerodynamic look. Under the hood, while the 2-liter four-cylinder was still the base engine offered, buyers now had the option of going diesel. With the addition of a new turbocharged 1.8T engine, the Jetta had four engine options: the 115-horsepower 2-liter, the 150-horsepower 1.8T, a 1.9-liter TDI turbodiesel that offered 90 horsepower, and a 2.8-liter, 174-horsepower V6.

In 2001, a new look came for the GLS and GLX, as both trims now came as station wagons. The wagons boasted 52 cubic feet of cargo space as well as side airbags, new cup-holders, a cloth interior, and the option of a sports suspension.

2005 to 2010 (A5 Series)

The Los Angeles Auto Show had the privilege of debuting the A5 Series Jetta in early 2005, which was available alongside the A4 at dealerships in this year. The fifth-generation Jetta was bigger in both length (179.1 inches) and wheelbase (101.6 inches), with a new 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine. Cosmetic changes were made to the exterior, and consumers could now add more safety features to their Jetta, such as electronic stability control and brake assist. There was also an additional trim level, the premium Jetta 20T, which came with a turbocharged 2-liter, four-cylinder engine that boasted 200 horsepower. At the other end of the scale, Volkswagen also added the Jetta Value Edition for more cost-conscious drivers.

In 2008, the Jetta saw changes to its trim levels, where were now called the S, SE, and SEL sedans. Volkswagen also introduced a new low-emission five-cylinder engine. Two more trim levels were added in 2009, the GLI and TDI, as was the Wolfsburg Edition package.

2011 to Present (A6 Series)

In the 2011 model year, the sixth-generation Jetta debuted, bringing 3 more inches in length that allowed Volkswagen to give it the roomiest backseat in its class. Exterior changes included a sporty front spoiler, angular headlights, sleeker lines on the sides and hood, and a black grille. Buyers could now enjoy redesigned, easier-to-use controls on the dashboard and the peace of mind of having six airbags for added safety. The base model, the Jetta S, comes with a 2-liter four-cylinder engine that gets 115 horsepower, but the SE and SEL comes with a more powerful 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter five-cylinder. The Jetta TDI offers 140 horsepower with its 2-liter, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine.

Be sure to check out these links for more information about the Volkswagen Jetta and pictures of the Jetta throughout the years, including upcoming models:

  • Volkswagen's website is a great place to explore the Jetta's options, prices, accessories, and more.
  • U.S. News ranks the Jetta highly on its list of best compact cars.
  • Carfolio outlines the specifications of different Jetta models.
  • GT Car Lot has information, pictures, and specifications for Jetta models past and present.
  • Edmunds has a trove of information about the Jetta, including reviews and specifications.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy compares the Jetta's fuel economy, safety, energy, and environmental specifications with that of other models and cars.
  • Motor Trend provides reviews for those looking to buy.
  • Car and Driver provides reviews of modern Volkswagen models.
  • The Car Connection has photos of various Jetta models.
  • Auto Bytel also has a collection of Jetta photos.
  • VW Vortex has several Volkswagen galleries.
  • Left Lane News has all of the specs on the 2017 model.

Because Volkswagen has an extensive history, there are many museums and forums where enthusiasts can learn more about Jettas and discuss their passion:

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