- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Volkswagen offers a variety of choices in its Jetta lineup, ranging in price from the low $20,000s to the mid-$30,000s and combining both sophistication and value. There are four trims in two body styles — one may choose either a sedan or wagon body style as a GL, GLS, or GLX. Models come in front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive (4MOTION) configurations.

Want four-cylinder economy with a healthy dose of horsepower (180)? No problem. Transmission choices include: a five-speed manual as standard; or an optional five-speed automatic with Tiptronic for manual shifting when the mood strikes.

Outside, the Jetta projects a strong and dynamic image with smooth outlines employing harmonious proportions, ranging from the slatted grille with its bold VW emblem, past the C pillars, to the after section that incorporates the wagon extension in place of the sedan’s heightened rear deck, which displays a more muscular wedge stance.

Inside, the impression is indeed upscale for a compact vehicle. Interior materials blend tastefully in terms of both tone and texture. Seats may be adjusted to ensure the optimum level of comfort in an ideal driving position for nearly any driver’s stature. There are also plenty of storage compartments, cupholders, and damped grab handles for a smooth return. A cargo cover provides visual security.

My test Jetta was in GLS trim, powered by the 1.8T four-cylinder, mated to a five-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission. The car featured a Reflex Silver metallic exterior finish with gray interior tones. Base MSRP was set at $21,240 with the final window sticker totaling $24,265 after adding the optional leather package, Monsoon audio system, Tiptronic transmission and destination charge.

First and foremost, the Volkswagen Jetta Wagon is a driver’s car. Obviously, the GLX version offers the ultimate Jetta experience, but the GLS with the turbocharged four-banger hooked to the Tiptronic gearbox is no slouch by any means. The GLS 1.8T is quick and surprisingly nimble for a wagon. The ride is firm yet supple, adding to its adhesion during rapid transit. While not in the all-out sport wagon class, it is sporty and fun to drive.

The car has a pleasing power curve allowing one to cruise casually or to sprint ahead in a more spirited fashion. A great deal of consideration has been given to safety issues in the new Jetta, resulting in a pronounced feeling of security and confidence whether driving in a commute situation or pushing it a step further on the challenging curves of a secret back road somewhere.

Volkswagen in general and Jetta in particular have definitely reached a new level. Volkswagen continues to move up the ladder of success here in the United States with a vehicle selection that administers to virtually every automotive need, with more on the way.

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