By Bob McHugh
The third-generation Volkswagen Jetta had a difficult birth. Volkswagen had moved production of the new Jetta to a new assembly plant in Mexico, to improve its price competitiveness on the North American market. However, the transition did not go as smoothly as originally expected and initial production quality problems slowed availability, following it’s ’93 launch. The Jetta did not begin arriving in Canada in substantial numbers until ’94.
The styling of this compact German sedan sometimes described as a Golf with a trunk (a big one!), is very European. Its tall body design makes entry and exit easier, allows the driver to sit a little higher and contributes to its very roomy interior and a driving position that suits taller than average drivers.
The ’94 came in three engine versions and two trim levels. The Jetta buyer could choose a CL with a 1.8 litre gasoline engine, a GL with the new 2.0 litre gasoline engine or a GL with a 1.9 litre diesel motor. Although Volkswagen offered the more efficient diesel engine version at the same price as its gasoline equivalent, most buyers opted for the gasoline engine. A 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic was the transmission choice.
Wider than the previous generation Jetta, the new car also had larger front disc brakes, a re-tuned four-wheel independent suspension, better side impact protection and – cupholders! An alarm system and a lockable folding rear seat were included in the standard equipment package, and it came with a six-year corrosion warranty on the body.
The base CL version got the chop in ’95 and a new GLX VR6 joined the Jetta line. The VR6 is a unique 2.8 litre six-cylinder engine that can be described as either an in-line six or a narrow angle 15-degree V6, depending on how you view it. There’s no disputing its smooth power delivery and impressive 171 horsepower output.
A mild face-lift in ’96 included a new grille, body coloured side mouldings and a new top-of-the-line full-load GLS trim. In addition to special editions Trek and Jazz, a new GT trim level, with alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and fog-lamps, were all added to the growing Jetta product line in ’97. No significant changes were made in ’98.
Two problems with the radiator fan on diesel engines made from ’93 to 95 may cause overheating. An incorrectly routed right rear brake line can rub against the fuel tank, leak brake fluid and cause partial loss of braking. Loose hood latches on the 1993 through ’96 Jetta can also be hazardous, especially if the hood opens while you’re driving.
Tie rod end wear and leaky rear brake wheel cylinders are common repair items. Jetta’s can also suffer from a unique transaxle oil can leak problem. A seal that separates the differential oil from the transmission oil can leak and they don’t mix well.
A Euro-style practical design that’s economical to operate and fun to drive, the Volkswagen Jetta offers much, without having to spend too much.
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.