The Jetta was a marketing strategy by Volkswagen in 1980 as the obvious general interest was veering towards sedans rather than the hatchback shape vehicle. Appearing in the North American market in 1980, the first generation Jetta was available in both two-door coupe and four-door sedan. Reaching the elite status of becoming the best-selling European vehicle in the United States, the Jetta is also more poplar than the Golf in South Africa. The Volkswagen Fox was the South African version of this model, that continued in production until 1995. In Mexico, the A1 Jetta was known as the Volkswagen Atlantic.
The Jetta shares its mechanicals with other Volkswagen A platform vehicles. Though a station wagon idea was drawn up by Mark Stehrenberger, Californian freelance magazine artic, the production never reached fruition. Giorgetto Giugiaro was the designer behind the style of the car and penned at ItalDesign.
A standard 1.6 L four-cylinder engine that was capable of producing 78 hp (57 kW) was powering both the base and GL trims in 1980. The following year, the engine was upgraded to a 1.7 L engine that produced 74 hp (54 kW). Other additional engine choices was a 1.6 L diesel engine that produced 50 hp (37 kW). The final year of the A1, 1984, a GLI high-performance version was made availble that was powered by a 1.8 L engine and a close-ratio transmission from he Rabbit/Golf GTI. This GLI made 90 hp (67 kW) and had an incredibly 105 •lb of (142 N•m) torque.
The longest running Jetta at this point, the A2 series was introduced in Europe in 1984, and the following year in North America. A sales success for Volkswagen, this second series outnumbered the Golf sales two-to-one, and earned the title of best-selling European vehicle in North America.
The A2 was also featured as either a two-door coupe or a four-door sedan. Coupes were limited to base, diesel and Woflsburg trim levels. Following 1991, the coupe model was dropped from the North American VW lineup. Very few external updates or changes were made throughout the run of the A2 series. These included the front-quarter windows being deleted in 88, larger body-colored bumpers being added, along with the addition of lower side skirts from 90 to 92. There was also various grille and side-cladding changes made.
From 1985 to 86, A2 Jetta coupeBase and GL Jettas were powered by a 1.8 L gasoline I4 that was rated at 85 hp. This was later bumped up to 100 hp, and finally 1.5 hp. A variety of three diesel engines were made available in the A2 Jetta, a 1.6 L naturally-aspirated diesel with 52 hp, a 1.6 L 68 hp turbodiesel, and a 1.6 L ECOdiesel that made 59 hp and was featured for two years; 91 and 92.
The GLI model, which was a much sportier model was originally powered by the standard 1.8 L gasoline engne with 100 hp. The first DOHC engine was introduced in 1987 by Volkswagen. A serious performance contender, a 2.0 L DOHC 16-valve engine that was rated at 134 hp was added to the GLI in 1990. A CIS Motronic engine management system was equipped on the 2.0 L 16-valve engine.
The A2 Jetta eventually dropped into the small executive saloon car class in the UK. These were among the Vauxhall Belmont, Daihatsu Charmant, Audi 80/90, Ford Orion and Rover 213/216.
By Volkswagen's second joint venture partner First Auto Works, the A2 went on to become one of the first Volkswagen models produced in China from 91 to 97. Only two facelifts were ever done since its introduction in China, the first occuring in 1997. Known as the FAW-Volkswagen Jetta Kind, production began in 1998 and involved borrowing spare grilles that were left from the Volkswagen Passat B4. 2004 brought about another facelift that was quite similar to the first one.
A newly refined evolution of the previous generation Jetta, the Vento was the new A3 version that was introced in 1991 in Europe. Following a production delay at the Volkswagen plant in Puebla, Mexico, the Jetta debuted in 1993. The plant in Mexico had been chosen to supply American and Canadian dealerships. The A3 was designed in-house under Herbert Schafer, and was unfortunately criticized as the 'Poor Man's BMW' and insulted due to its ‘boxy' design. Offered as only a four-door sedan, consequently, more trim levels than any other Jetta line were made available. A new grille, body-colored rub strips and different wheel covers were featured on this new series.
The GLS was the luxury trim that featured power locks and windows, optional subroof and leather seats. The GL was the base trim of the A3. A special series was the Trek, and it featured a bike rack, a Trek bike, spoiler, alloy wheels, rocker panel covers, and in 97, other various accessories and options for the top-of the line GLX. A similar package was the K2 was featured a K2 snowboard or a pair of K2 skis rather than a bike.
Two models were also featured in the Canadian market that never made it to the US, and those were the Golf/Jetta CL, decontented GL models that featured 90 horsepower and 1.8L Mono Motronic engine.The CL was dropped following the 97 model year. The second model offered in Canada was a Jetta GL Turbo Diesel that was introduced in 93 and only lasted for 3 years. Rated at 74 horsepower, the 1.9L AAZ Code diesel had a range over 900km. This was a bored and stroked version of the 1.6L Turbo Diesel that the A2 Jetta featured. As the engine had not aged well and many owners experienced signifiant crankshaft failuares, the Jetta GL Diesel had drooping sales.
Introduced as the Bora in Latin America and Europe, the fourth generation of the Volkswagen Jetta was introduced in late 1998 following the Passat. The A4 shared many similar styling cues of the Passat, the rounded shape and arched roofline now served as the Volkswagen styling trademark, rather than the traditional sharp creases for curved corners.
Four different trim levels were available in this fourth generation Jetta. These included GL, GLS, GLX, and GLI, as well as the option of a wagon. The station wagon variant was marketed as a Golf in various European markets and came with a Golf grille, headlights, bumper and fenders.
The base model GL was powered by an enhanced 2.0 L 8-valve four cylinder engine that was based on models of previous years. A 1.9 L TDI diesel engine was offered as optional, and following 2001 on, a turbcharged 1.8 L engine (Wolfsburg Edition) was featured.
Many of the original production issues with the original design were completely eliminated by 2002. On the secondhand market, A4 Jettas are generally consiered more desirable. The re-release of the Wolfsburg edition that featured the updated turbocharged 1.8 L engine, now available with 180 hp was showcased in 2003. This same year was the last for the 1.9L ‘ALH' TDI turbodiesel engine design. High resale prices for cars with this engine have been the result of its reputation for both reliability and versatility. Unfortunately, the earlier models had reputations for many recalls and bugs, due to elecric or lighting malfunctions.
Considered to be quite an improvement, the GLS came with optional leather seats along with a sport package that included 17' alloy wheels and a stiffer suspension. All engine choices were featured until 2003 before the VR was eliminated. The luxury model for the A4 was the GLX, and this featured leather seats, wood grain trim, automatic climate control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and much ore. The VR6 engine was transferred to a drive-by-wire 24-valve design that was rated at 200 hp in 2003. It was now available in the GLX and the new GLI model which was re-introduced in 2003. The GLI featured sport suspension, 200 hp VR6, and six-speed manual transmission. The GLX model was dropped in 2004.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the USA Jetta in 2004, a limited edition of the Jatta GLI was featured for a limited time. This elite model had an available 180 hp, 1.8 L inline-4, linked to a 6-speed manual transmisison. Available in Black Magin Pearl, Tornado Red, Blue Lagoon and Platinum gray, the interior of the Anniversary GLI was black with aluminum trim that included black upholstered Recaro bcket seats with red 'GLI' lettering embroidery. This special edition was capable of accelerating from 0-60 mph in an amazing 6.7 seconds, and had a top speed of 146 mph. The Jetta GLI with V6 and options was still widely available.
An all new ‘PD' version of the 1.9L TDI diesel engine was made available in 2005. This unit produced 74 kW (100 hp DIN) and featured 177 ft•lbf (250 N•m) of torque. All Jettas equipped with 1.8T engines, regardless of trim level, now produced 180 hp at the beginning of the 2002 model year. A jump from the previous 150 hp, the 1.8T featured a slightly larger turbocharger.
The A4 Jetta continues to be sold as a 2006 model in some countries such as Mexico, due to high pricing of the A5 for the Mexican market. Sold in various countries, a high performance variant of the A4 Bora came with 4-Motion all wheel drive and a VR6 engine. Both 2.4 L VR 5 and 1.6 L I4 engines were also featured in Europe. The A4 Bora continues to be sold in China, much like its predecessor A2 Jetta.
Volkswagen re-released the A4 Jetta in Canada in 2007 as the City Jetta. This new edition was offered at a base price of $16,700 cdn. The A5 had moved upscale, versus much of the competition, and this re-release allowed Volkswagen to become more competitive with the rest of the compact class. While no diesel or 1.8 Turbo was being offered, the 2.0 L SOHC 115hp was the featured engine. Rather than being manufactured in Germany like the standard Jetta, the City Jetta is built in Pueblo, Mexico. There is also no Jetta Wagon, and the new city Jetta features more limited trim options that the standard A4 series.
In January of 2005, the fifth generation Jetta was released at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Larger than the fourth generation, and with m ore upscale styling and greater interior room, A5 is now equal to the former generation Passat. The introduction of the first independent rear suspension in a Jetta was the largest update in this series. The base engine is a 2.5L I5 that produces 110 kW and has an available 168 ft•lbf (228 N•m) of torque.
Overlapping the final model year of the A4 Jetta, the A5 went on sale in March 2005 as a 2005 ½ model in North America. In the late summer of 2005, a 2006 GLI version was released. This new model was designed by Walter de'Silva. Unfortunately sales were quite disappointing in the US due to the rapidly rising fuel prices that resulted in the heavy demand for vehicles equipped with the TDI diesel version. Many critics believed that the A5 was too high-priced for the highly competitive compact vehicle market , though they embraced the overall vehicle. The new GLI was named an Everday Hero by Car and Driver for 2006 ‘for an enthusiast who wants sports car handling without losing too much practicality'. For the 2007 model year, a station wagon of the A5 Jetta is promised.
In Mexico, the A4 continues to be sold as the Jetta, while the Bora is the A5. The A2 is sold as the Jetta in china, and the A5 is marketed as the Sagitar together with the A4 Bora. Launched in Latin America in 06, it is named the Vento. In February of 06, the Jetta was launched in Australia and production was made at the Mexico plant.By Jessica Donaldson