Pros: Relatively cheap, somewhat easy to work on, sporty and quick
Cons: very poor quality, unsafe door locks, expensive parts, not very crash worthy
I am a car guy. I work for a car company, I fix my own cars, I have a busines selling custom racing parts for cars, I write a car newsletter for my local Porsche club. In general, if I have something to say about a car, it is probably true.
Also you should know my other cars include Porsche 911 and Snaab 900S (see my review on why you should not buy a Saab).
I have continuously owned Jettas since 1987. Our first Jetta (which my wife drove), a 1986, was quite nice. We bought it off a widow (it was her husband's car) for $7K (in 1987). We drove it for 14 years with only normal maintenace issues. This car had issues whith the door locks, but they were easily fixed by me.
So I decided to buy a 1996 Jetta (in 1999). I paid 9K for this one, it had 38K miles when I bought it. The car passed an inspection by a trusted professional mechanic, a carfax history report was also checked.
I can say without hesistation that this car is a piece of junk. I have been locked in and out of this car so many time that at this point I do not even lock it anymore (if it gets stolen, all the better).
The locks freeze up whenever it gets really cold outside (I live in Rochester, NY where it is freezing half the year).
I have been stuck in the car unable to open the doors. Had to roll down a window to get out, which is really convienent when wearing business attire. I reported this problem to the National Highway Safety Administration, and to VW. Niether seemed to care. Imagine getting into an accident and the help can't easily get you out.
Other stuff I am not happy with:
1. Poor corrosion resistance (in Rochester, our cars are immersed in salt for 6 months). I doubt this car will last 10 years.
2. Struts leaked after 4 years (my '94 Saab and '87 Porsche still have the original struts--non leaking I might add). Car is unstable and needs to have the struts replaced ($500 in parts)
3. Interior plastic components crack and break.
4. Foam in the seats is shot.
5. Paint is fading and developing wierd gray blotches (my car is black)
6. All the molding has fallen off. I had to put new molding on myself.
7. Had a small fender bender last year, cost me 2K just for the parts (I fixed it myself).
8. Exhaust system is poorly designed and needs regular attention.
9. Brakes are inadequate (had brake fluid boil when braking at the bottom of a really big hill...boiling fluid=no brakes)
10. Had to rewire the stereo speakers because the wires fatigued in the door.
11. No glove box.
This would be a very expensive car to own if you did not do your own repair work.
There is really no reason to consider a Jetta, there are much better deals out there. I would suggest something like a used Saturn rather than a used Jetta. I will never buy another VAG product (Volkswagon Audi Group) including an Audi (just a really expensive Volkswagon).