- The Washington Times - Friday, August 11, 2000

Simply because you are shopping within the compact arena doesn't necessarily mean you are more concerned with basic transportation than with having some fun behind the wheel.
Honda understands this and offers the Civic Si.
Volkswagen wraps itself around the concept as well with a V-6-equipped Golf GTI and Jetta. New this year is another performance version of both Jetta and Golf. It comes via Volkswagen's 1.8-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder. Fun to drive? You bet. The Jetta GLS 1.8T was a sedan I hoped Volkswagen would forget I had. I just didn't want to give it back.
In each of its iterations (and there are several) Jetta is a driver's car. One need look only as far as the tilt/telescoping steering wheel and height adjustable driver's seat to be convinced Jetta is designed around the driver.
Even with the base, normally aspirated, 2-liter, four-cylinder power plant, Jetta possesses a sportiness found in only one or two competitors. It is tight, well-engineered and handles like the Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Of Jetta's three trim levels (GL, GLS and GLX) only the GLS can be fitted with all four available engines and GLS alone offers the 1.8T. Yes, Jetta sits atop the subcompact price spectrum, but it's loaded with standard features and don't forget there's that fun-to-drive thing, too.
For 2000 all Jettas receive a small boost in standard equipment with the addition of an anti-theft, engine-immobilizer function and a break-wear warning light on the dashboard. Otherwise, Jetta is basically unchanged this year.
A terrific power plant, versions of the 1.8T engine are available in the New Beetle, the Passat, the Audi TT and the Audi A4. In the Jetta it develops 150 horsepower, 155 foot-pounds of peak torque and runs on premium unleaded fuel. From stop to 60 mph takes just over seven seconds. Turbo lag is virtually nonexistent. While a four-speed automatic transmission is standard, the manual five-speed is such a pleasure to drive, I can't imagine spending an extra $900 on the automatic.
Thanks to its tidy size, the Jetta zips around crowded streets with ease and has no problem fitting into nearly any size parking space. The ride tends to be firm, but far from stiff. The steering is light, quick and responsive. Relentlessly cornering, it holds the road with enthusiastic determination.
Four-wheel disc brakes bring an abrupt halt to the Jetta's forward motion. Anti-lock brakes and traction control are standard.
A remarkable amount of room is found inside this compact sedan. Particularly up front, there is space to spare. Healthy side bolsters highlight seats designed for long, cross-country hauls. The control knobs have an expensive feel.
Although much of the interior trim is plastic, the surfaces are richly textured and all the pieces fit neatly together. The gauges are of the large and easy to read variety. As already noted, the driver's seat has a height adjustment. This combined with the tilt/telescoping (a rarity in this segment) steering wheel encourages the driver to find the ideal driving position. Rear-seat passengers don't have it as good as those up front. Legroom is tight.
The trunk, though, is fair sized and cargo space can be increased by folding down the 60/40 split seat back.
Despite its healthy $19,200 base price, the Jetta GLS 1.8T is a value thanks to its long list of standard features, meticulous engineering and spirited driving experience.
This is a sedan you won't want to leave sitting in the driveway. Included among the GLS standard features and not already mentioned: daytime running lamps, dual heated power outboard mirrors, full-size spare tire, air conditioning, anti-theft alarm system, cruise control, electric rear window/outboard mirror defrosters, carpeted floor mats, power windows/door locks, keyless remote entry, auxiliary power point, eight-speaker AM/FM stereo/cassette, height-adjustable front shoulder belts, dual front air bags and dual front side-impact air bags.
My test GLS 1.8T also had the Luxury Package ($1,175) with power sunroof/16-inch alloy wheels, the Leather Package ($850) with leather seating/heated front seats/leather-wrapped steering wheel, and the Monsoon Sound System ($295). Adding the $525 destination charge brought the price as tested to $22,045.

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