Pros: Stylish, TDI engine, mechanical reliability, handling
Cons: Road noise, price tag, after-sale service.
I purchased my Volkswagen Jetta GLS 2002 in February of 2005, and without any doubt I believe that it has been the worst purchase of my life. There are many reasons why I wished to abandon this vehicle, some much more important than other, and all of them will be covered in this epinion. I did eventually get rid of this vehicle just recently, and you will read all about it at the end of the review. About a week ago, I decided to write a one thousand word letter of complaint to Volkswagen Canada hoping that they might be kind enough to help me with the hassle this car has brought to my life. Although this letter of complaint is not directly related to the purchase of a Jetta 2002, Ive decided to add it to this epinion because it shows how their after-sale service is cheap and inhumane, and thats certainly something a prospective buyer might like to know before signing a contract. You will find this letter at the end of my review.
So lets start by covering what the VW Jetta GLS 2002 has to offer. Out of all the imported mid-size cars on the market, the Jetta certainly has lots to offer in terms of equipment. The GLS trim comes standard with the following equipment:
8-speaker AM-FM-CD-Cassette stereo
Power windows, door locks, and exterior mirrors
Heated front seats
Heated exterior mirrors
Four air bags
Remote alarm and door & trunk unlock
The car I purchased came with the following options which must be purchased separately; black leather interior, electric sunroof/moonroof, and alloy wheels. The engine in my Jetta is a 2.0L combined with a 5 speed manual transmission.
VW also has different engines available to suit your needs; the powerful VR6 (which was eventually discontinued), the turbo-charged 1.8T, the basic 2.0L 115 hp engine, and the legendary TDI turbo diesel. I decided to choose a Jetta with a 2.0L engine as this was the best engine to suit my needs. However, I soon regretted this decision. VW has been using the 2.0L for over 15 years. Its definitely an engine that has proved its reliability since its not rare to see a ten year old Gold/Jetta with over 300,000 km on its odometer and still running. However, for todays standards, it really needs to get revised or discontinued and thats what VW ended up doing with the next generation of Jettas. First, this engine brings a lot of noise. Its not too bad when youre driving 50-60 km in the city, but as soon as you hit highway speeds of 100-130 km the 2.0L brings a loud continued noise to the inside of the vehicle. Its not too surprising when you look at the tachometer, since the engine runs at almost 4,000x/min at speeds of 120km/h which is very high. And this situation gets even worst when you couple the engine with an automatic 4-speed transmission, since the engine tends to revolve slightly faster and the same speed. And for what concerns fuel economy, the 2.0L is nothing miraculous. The engine is rated at 23-24 mpg for the city, and 29-31 mpg for the highway. Its not disastrous, but certainly not as economical as Honda Civic or Toyota Echo of the same year.
So, should I ever buy this car again (which will never happen again anyways) I would definitely opt for either the turbocharged 1.8T, which has more torque to offer, or the TDI. Especially with the sky-rocketing price of gas, I think the TDI is the best choice. In 2004, VW had decided to revise the engine, which increased the hp of the TDI from 90 to 100. So, people complaining of diesel engines not delivering enough power might find 2003+ models interesting.
My car came with a five-speed standard transmission, which I am very satisfied with. Shifting from one speed to another is done very smoothly, to the point where some of my friends sitting in the back dont even notice its standard. However, if you go into reverse, make sure the car is completely idle and wait about two seconds before engaging it into reverse. If you dont, youll hear a harsh grinding noise which will make you shiver. But thats not really an issue for me as I have driven many Hondas and Toyotas in the past which would do the same thing.
The interior of a Jetta is very refined. Most of the plastics used are also found in the Audi A4. And if you decide to purchase the leather interior, youll get yourself a pretty luxurious looking ride. The quality of the leather is above average and very resistant to scratches. The ergonomics at the drivers seat are also pretty good; everything you need to access while driving is easy of reach and is located right where you would expect it to belong. However, the stupid cup holder is very irritating. It is one of those retractable cup holder located into the dash. Although the design is pretty clever, it shouldnt have been placed superior to the stereo. If you drive too fast over a speed bump, you might get yourself a nice beverage spill on your stereo. That problem was finally fixed in 2003 and up models, by simply moving the handbrake more to the left thus allowing space for two cup holders between the two front seats. Mind you it took about 4 years for the engineers at VW to figure that out.
Driving a Jetta is usually a good experience since the car handles pretty well on the road. The car sticks to the road at all times, even in sharp turns. The car is very responsive to the movement of the wheel. I think what helps with the handling of this car is the fact that Jettas are pretty heavy in relation to their size. My VW weighs 1327 kg which is approximately what a Pontiac Grand Am GT weighs. Road noise with the Jetta is very high; the car doesnt seem to be insulated very properly. And if you made the choice to take the 2.0L engine, this car will bring so much noise to your ears youre not going to like driving it too much. Honestly, I wouldnt mind all the exterior noise if I hadnt paid the big price for it. But taking in consideration that a fully equipped Jetta costs about 31,000$, its totally unacceptable to have all that noise coming into the car. One of my friend has a Hyundai Accent which is more silent and she paid 13,000$ for god's sake.
Its hard for me to rate the reliability as I have only been the owner of this car for 7 months now. Up to now, with the car having 51,000km on its odometer, I havent had any mechanical or electrical issue. The car started nicely at all temperatures and it never left me stranded anywhere. But based on several professional reviews of VWs of the same generation, the reliability they offer is nothing to get excited about. Although you are buying a German-engineered vehicle (and also paying the price tag of a German vehicle), dont be fooled; North American models are assembled in Mexico and Brazil with cheaper and less qualified labor. I think the only exception to that rule is the Touareg, which sells 75,000$ +. So my point here is that although this model is not the most unreliable car on the planet, you might want to chose a Honda or Toyota which are rated much higher on reliability and can cost you 10,000$ less.
So, to sum up this review, Ive decided to list a few reasons why someone might want to purchase this car, and Ive added my response to them:
The TDI is economical: Yes, indeed it is. You can get close to 1,000km with a full tank. The TDI is a very interesting option for those who do a lot of distance and hate to see so much of their income go into gas. Also, diesel engines have a longer lifespan since they revolve at lower speeds. However, there are a few things you might want to consider when buying a TDI. First, there are other cars out there that run on gasoline and consume only a bit more, the Honda Civic for example. Another interesting option is the hybrid engine offered on the Prius and Civic. Second, you should also consider the hassles of running on diesel the engines get more difficult to start in winter as they get older, you might also notice a smell inside the car. And last, diesel in not as accessible as gasoline, and mechanics willing to work on diesel engines are also not as accessible. Oh, and by the way, never run a diesel engine until the tank is empty, youll completely scrap the engine.
Volkswagens have made their proofs in terms of reliability: True. However, this pertains mostly to the engine and the transmission. Youll notice that older models are falling into pieces, despite the fact that the engine and the transmission are still working fine. You might also want to read what I wrote earlier in the review concerning the assembly of North American models.
A fully equipped Jetta with leather interior is almost like driving a luxury care: I guess so. But in that case, you might want to consider an Acura 1.7EL with leather interior, which will come to about the same price if not a little less.
VW designs are stylish: You got me there! Thats actually what got me to buy this car. Ive always admired VWs for there original euro-inspired designs.
Also, just a little fact on Golfs and Jettas you might want to know: they are not easy cars to steal. The combined alarm system and anti-ignition device are very effective To the point where mechanics wont even install a remote starter on the car since it requires six hours of labor to bypass the anti-theft system. Im sure professional automobile thieves are still able to steal the car, but if you look at the statistics of insurance companies, youll notice they dont rank very high in terms of probability of theft.
So this pretty much sums up my thoughts on the 2002 Volkswagen Jetta GLS. As I promised, you will find my letter to VW Canada at the end of my review; it might be interesting for you to read if you would like to know how customers are treated at certain VW dealers. (Ive censored some confidential info).
LETTER OF COMPLAINT
Dear customer service representative,
On -------------------, I purchased a used Volkswagen Jetta GLS 2002 at -------------------------------, located in ---------, -----------. I purchased this vehicle plus an extended warranty of two years for a total amount of ----------- $. Of course, this vehicle had passed the so-called rigorous 112-point inspection given by the dealership and was covered by the 2-year/40,000km limited warranty.
As I was driving back home from the dealership with my newly purchased vehicle, I noticed the something was obviously wrong with the car. At speeds of over 60 km/h, the wheel of the car had to be turned approximately 30? to the right in order for the car to be going in a straight line. Should I have let go of the wheel, the car wouldve steered to the right by itself. In addition, the vehicle also had several minor problems, such as a burnt tail light and reverse light.
The following day, I immediately took an appointment with my local mechanical shop thinking that the car simply needed the alignment adjusted. However, the clerk informed me that this car couldnt be aligned properly. It turned out that the left tie-rod was completely bent and the vehicle showed signs of some structural damage. I was further informed that repairing the broken tie-rod would fix a great proportion of the problem, but that however, it still would not permit this vehicle to be ever aligned properly.
The same day, I sent a document by fax to --------------------------- stating that I wished to cancel the contract, as I was legally allowed to do so in the first two days of the contract. I also left the car at ------------------------ so that it would be in their possession until the contract would be cleared. I met with the representative on February the 14th to discuss about canceling the contract. The representative told me that the tie-rod on the Jetta had been fixed and that the Jetta was now in perfect condition. He also showed me a document, which was most likely produced after purchasing the vehicle, stating that the car had been inspected in 112-points. However, since I had been informed at my local shop not to keep the car due to the obvious signs of structural damage, I still wanted to cancel the contract. During the whole meeting, under no circumstances did the representative accept to cancel the contract, despite my legal right to do so.
I believe that --------------------------- has overlooked many points which make a Volkswagen a certified pre-owned VW. From the 112-point inspection list posted on www.vw.ca, here are the points I believe had not been verified by --------------------------------- (thats if the car had even been verified at all).
Steering wheel alignment
I have to admit that my level of trust in the dealership was greatly increased due to the fact that this Volkswagen had supposedly been verified in 112-points. Also, I think that if it wasnt for the certified pre-owned VW program, I most likely would not have purchased this vehicle.
I dont think that it is necessary for me to continue writing about what an experience it has been to purchase a Volkswagen. I also dont think you would be surprised if I told you that I am extremely unsatisfied. Sure, you may reply that ---------------------- is only an authorized dealership and they do not represent Volkswagen Canada. But I believe the head office is just as responsible as -------------------------------- as they are the ones authorizing this commerce to sell Volkswagen products and use the Volkswagen trademark.
Not until this week have I been able to finally put an end to this misery. I was able to get rid of my Volkswagen Jetta once and for all as a trade-in for --------- $. This whole escapade cost me 8,290 $ in less than six months. And thats not counting my out-of-pocket expenses for figuring exactly what was wrong with the car something that should have been done by ---------------------- in the first place.
I dont believe I will ever be able to recuperate any of this money. I also do not expect anything to come out from this letter. I am sending you this letter for one simple reason: to demonstrate how furious I am from my experience. This was my third Volkswagen and definitely my last. And you can be assured that I will never recommend a Volkswagen product to anyone I come across in my personal, social, and professional life.
As I promised, I am updating this epinion since I got a call from Volkswagen Canada yesterday. Her name was Kathy and she introduced herself as a VW Customer Service Rep. She told me "here, at VW Canada, we are truly sorry about your situation". She asked me a few questions, which most of them were already answered in my letter. She also asked me if I had really sold the vehicle, and I answered yes. She replied that since I didn't have the car anymore, well it was like the problem had been solved... I told her that a 8,000$ deficit was considered, by some, a PROBLEM! She stated later in the conversation that since I didn't have the car anymore, there was no way for them to verify if what I was saying was true, and therefore, they could only base themselves on what the dealer was going to tell them. Common, give me a break! As if the dealer was ever going to admit anything!!!
Anyways, this call really didn't bring anything good to me. Actually, most of it sounded like recordings of ''we're truly sorry'' and ''we deeply apologize''. I guess the only part that brought me satisfaction was when she asked me if I had purchased another VW to replace this Jetta... I laughed, and then I said I had bought a Honda. I wouldnt be suprised if her whole job consisted of replying to complaint letters by reading a INSERT CUSTOMER NAME here type of text. But who knows, I'm impressed they called me once, maybe they'll call again and give me some good news? The saga may continue!