Review and photos by Bob McHugh

2006 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5L
Click image to enlarge

Volkswagen has moved the new the fifth-generation Jetta up another grade. In the past I’ve always viewed it as a small premium sedan: essentially a VW Golf with a trunk. The new Jetta is a noticeably bigger and a better vehicle, yet still affordable.

A longer wheelbase, more interior room (particularly for rear passengers) and an even bigger trunk are highlights of the new Jetta’s structural transformation. The all-new body also comes with a sophisticated array of new drive-train combinations, improved safety features and a higher level of standard equipment. Yet, the base 2006 Jetta is only $225 more than the list price for a base 2005 Jetta.

2006 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5L
Click image to enlarge

This year Volkswagen celebrates the Jetta’s 25th year in Canada and sales of more than 2.2 million units in North America during that period. The European character of the Jetta has tended to attract buyers who love how it drives, appreciate the engineering and see good value for the money.

A new multi-link system in the rear gives the new Jetta a fully independent suspension system for the first time. The new base engine has five cylinders and a larger 2.5-litre displacement. The new six-speed automatic transmission option is a (Porsche) Tiptronic and the fabulous (Audi) DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) automatic is another option.

It also comes with a great warranty, four-years bumper-to-bumper, five on the mechanical stuff and, get this, a twelve-year corrosion warranty (unlimited km) on the body.

The looks

My test Jetta was a base 2.5-litre with a Tiptronic automatic transmission ($1,400) and a luxury package ($3,300). This option package includes a power sunroof, leather upholstery some exterior chrome trim and 16-inch alloy wheels.

2006 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5L
Click image to enlarge

Viewed from the rear and to a lesser extent from the side it has an uncanny resemblance to the new Mazda3. The Jetta appears to be narrower and taller from the rear but the measurements are actually almost identical, I think the Jetta’s longer and more tapered trunk creates the illusion.

The ’06 is a sleeker more rounded Jetta with sloping hood lines and a steeply raked windshield. A deep vee-crease in the hood draws your attention to a happy-face grille with a large VW emblem.

Jetta has also gained a little weight, but in the right places. It has a stronger body with improved dynamic and torsional rigidity, achieved through the use of more high-strength body panels and a new automated laser-welding system. The body panel fit and paint finish is particularly impressive.

The inside

2006 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5L

2006 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5L
Click image to enlarge

VW has finally listened to critics of its small buttoned, hard to figure out audio system controls. In addition to big easy to read controls, the standard audio system in the test Jetta had a surprisingly good sound quality too. Otherwise I’ve always been impressed by the style and quality of the Jetta’s interior, and this is no exception.

The driver’s seat came with a mix of manual (height/fore and aft) and power (seatback) controls. I particularly liked the front seatback head restraint: it has a large release button on the side that makes it very easy to adjust. Other manufacturers should follow suit.

Standard interior features that elevate the new Jetta to premium status, in my eyes, are its standard tilt and telescopic steering column, a Climatic (climate controlled) air conditioning system, door foot lights and a large, lockable, air conditioned glove-box. Nice additional touches include a lockable remote trunk release, an overhead sunglasses holder and an adjustable centre armrest.

2006 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5L
Click image to enlarge

Rear seat roof height and legroom is much improved although more than two adults sharing the back seat would be a tight fit. The trunk is huge (even bigger than a Honda Accord or a Chrysler 300), completely carpeted and it also houses a full-sized spare wheel.

Safety equipment

The Jetta has an outstanding safety record and the new Jetta comes with front side thorax airbags, side curtain air bags in front and rear, active front head restraints and crash-optimized foot pedals.

The side mirrors are heated, have a fold feature and include turn-signal lights. New Jettas come with a security system, anti-lock brakes and traction control. An electronic stability system, which includes brake assist, is a $450 option.

The drive

The Jetta’s good combination of seat and steering wheel adjustments made finding an acceptable driving position easy. All-round vision is good from a tall-ish seating position (for a sedan). A raised border on the dashboard at the base of the windshield, which hides the parked wiper blades from the driver, is an interesting idea.

The five-cylinder engine idle was a little rougher than I expected and sounds growly when started cold. Acceleration response is smooth but a little slow, considering the stated torque numbers (170 lb-ft @ 3,750 rpm), yet it does pull well in most situations.

The long geared (for best fuel economy) six-speed automatic probably doesn’t help off-the-line acceleration. When cruising down the highway at 110 km/hour in sixth gear, however, the engine is very quiet and the tachometer needle had only reached the 2000 rpm mark. And to be fair, acceleration is much better when you switch to the ‘Sport’ mode or use its manual mode feature. And down the road, there’s the turbo-engine option if you really thirst for power.

The ’06 Jetta is at its best when the road has a few curves. The body is as tight as a drum and it has a well-balanced, light, agile feel that’s unusual for a front-drive car. An electro-mechanical steering system provides surprisingly good feedback through the steering wheel, adjusts the amount of assist needed and even compensates for side forces on the vehicle.

The competition

Although the Jetta sells in a highly competitive price sector of the car market, it’s still a hard car to compare, as it doesn’t match-up squarely against any of its competitors. If you’re looking for an under $30,000 German sports-sedan, the Jetta is the only one. Possible competitors for the Jetta 2.5L include:

  • Acura EL: $23,000 – $25,800

  • Chevrolet Cobalt: $15,495 – $24,995
  • Chevrolet Epica: $24,710 – $27,400
  • Dodge SX: $15,550 – $27,380
  • Ford Focus: $16,795 – $22,995
  • Honda Civic: $16,200 – $28,500
  • Pontiac G6: $24,700 – $27,715
  • Subaru Impreza: $22,995 – $47,995
  • Toyota Corolla: $15,615 – $24,315

The score

Bigger and more refined yes, but Volkswagen’s new Jetta hasn’t lost any of its youthful verve or its foreign accent.

Technical Data: 2006 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5L

Base price $24,995
Options $4,700 (Tiptronic automatic transmission $1,400; Luxury package: power sunroof, leather upholstery, 16-inch alloy wheels $3,300)
Freight $595
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $30,390 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
Type 4-door, 5-passenger compact sedan
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel drive
Engine .5-litre inline five cylinder, DOHC, 20 valves
Horsepower 150 @ 5000 rpm
Torque 170 ft-lb @ 3750 rpm
Transmission 5-speed man. (opt. 6-speed automatic Tiptronic)
Tires 205/55R-16
Curb weight 1490 kg (3285 lb.)
Wheelbase 2578 mm (101.5 in.)
Length 4554 mm (179.3 in.)
Width 1760 mm (69.3 in.)
Height 1461 mm (57.5 in.)
Cargo capacity 453 litres (16.0 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 10.8 L/100 km (26 mpg) (Imperial)
  7.2 L/100 km (39 mpg) (Imperial)
Warranty 4 years / 80,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 5 years / 100,000 km

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