2003 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T Wagon
2003 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T Wagon. Click image to enlarge
Final Drive: 1997 Subaru SVX

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Volkswagen Canada

Article and photos by Mike Schlee

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2003 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T wagon

Yes, I am back at it again, ready to take a 100-km journey in a vehicle that is past its prime and may have developed a few interesting personality traits along the way. Today, I am in a 2003 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T Wagon. But wait, you say: “That car is only 10 years old? What gives?” Despite its relative young age, it is ready to eclipse the 200,000 km mark and has lived a hard life; it is Jonathan Yarkony’s personal vehicle, after all. I know you may be shocked by the fact that Jonathan owns a Volkswagen and that a German car is still running at 200,000 km, but both are true. So please read on while I prepare for the inevitable fallout from MkIV Jetta every Volkswagen owners ever.

1 km – I get in the car, fire it up and am amazed that all the gauges, power windows, power mirrors and power locks work. This is unheard of at this age! Bonus: A/C works too!

2003 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T Wagon
2003 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T Wagon
2003 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T Wagon
2003 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T Wagon. Click image to enlarge

2 km – Check engine light is on. (This is less shocking.) Now that’s a good little German car.

5 km – The rubber on the top of the steering wheel is flaking off like a bad case of plastic dandruff. Maybe Jonathan should get one of those aftermarket steering wheel covers with Hello Kitty on it. Hmmm, I think I just thought of his Christmas present; score! [I like that idea! –Ed.]

11 km – The five-speed automatic transmission in this car must have been created by a rodeo clown. It is the epitome of herky-jerky randomness; a bucking bronco in a metal box. It feels like some invisible giant is making a field goal kick into the rear bumper of the car every time a gear change occurs.

15 km – Once the car has finished giving you whiplash through the gear range, the power from the 1.8L turbocharged four-cylinder is good. Actually, I would go as far as to say it is great. Torque is everywhere throughout the rev range and always on tap.

21 km – I’m now getting used to the driving issues nuances of this Jetta. I reach out and touch the sun-drenched dashboard and find out is has rotted into a hard material formerly known as a soft-touch plastic.

25 km – There seems to be road noise at any speed exceeding 10 km/h. Must just be a strange harmonic imbalance point or something. I am sure it will go away, right? Right?

36 km – I pull onto the highway and merged behind a slow-moving truck. Noticing a sizable gap in the lane to my left, I merge over once more to pass the big rig. I hammer the gas and… nothing. A large dump truck is now gaining on me, and I begin to pray for the transmission to wake up and engage when WHAM, down a gear we go. Alright, that was close, now I’m starting to gai… WHAM! What, down another gear? Cool, now we are flyi… WHAM! Oh, dear god! Second gear engaged, 6,500 rpm achieved, car about to self-destruct.

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