By Chris Chase; photos by Greg Wilson,
The fifth-generation Volkswagen Jetta – known among enthusiasts as the MKV (say “Mark five”) – was a bit of a throwback when it was introduced in 2005 as a 2006 model, being closer in proportion to the second- and third-generation models, with its long hood, high decklid and, inside, a huge trunk.
Critics, though, thought it looked too much like a Corolla, which, admittedly, it did.
Regardless, it was still a Volkswagen, which meant it was a nicely-built car praised primarily for a driving feel and interior quality a step above economy cars like the Corolla; the Jetta continued to be positioned upmarket from other compacts, and priced higher too.
The 2006 Jetta’s base engine was a 2.5-litre five-cylinder making 150 horsepower and 170 lb.-ft. of torque. Transmission choices in the then-new Jetta were a five-speed manual and an optional six-speed automatic.
A 1.9-litre diesel engine, good for 100 horsepower and 177 lb.-ft., was carried over from the 2005 model; it was available with the same transmission options as the five-cylinder.
The diesel disappeared in 2007, a victim of tighter exhaust emissions standards, but was replaced in 2008 by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder making a more impressive 140 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque.
The 2007 model did get a second gasoline engine option, a 2.0-litre turbo motor (2.0T) shared with Audi and the Rabbit GTI. It made 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque and was paired with a six-speed manual or VW/Audi Group’s DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) dual-clutch automatic.
In 2008, the five-cylinder engine got a boost in power to 170 hp/177 lb-ft. The 2009 line-up included a new wagon variant and the new 2.0-litre diesel engine; the DSG transmission was now the optional choice with the diesel (as well as with the 2.0T gas engine), while the five-cylinder still got the regular automatic as its option.
In 2010, the Jetta wagon was dropped and replaced by a wagon version of the all-new Golf, and the turbocharged GLI trim was dropped; the 2.0T engine was still available, though, in either Highline or Wolfsburg Edition trims.
Given the range of engines available in the Jetta, fuel consumption figures vary fairly significantly depending on which engine/transmission combination you choose.
In older versions, the 2.5-litre engine was rated at 10.7/7.2 L/100 km (all ratings listed as city/highway) with manual transmission, and those figures changed little when tested with the automatic. The addition of the DSG as the automatic option in 2010 made for a more efficient car, with ratings of 9.3/6.9 L/100 km.
2006 diesel Jettas were rated 6.6/5.2 L/100 km with the manual, and again, choosing the automatic didn’t change much. The new TDI diesel introduced in 2009 was rated 6.8/4.8 L/100 km with the manual.
The 2.0T motor earned ratings of 10/6.9 L/100 km in the Jetta, with a manual transmission, while the DSG improved city consumption to 9.4. By 2010, the turbocharged motor was rated at 8.7/6.3 L/100 km.
To this point, Consumer Reports lists the MKV Jetta’s overall used vehicle reliability as average in general; diesel models tend to fare a little better, while 2.0T models fall a little below that line. Thus far, the fifth-generation Jetta seems to be more reliable than its predecessor; a few of VW’s well-known trouble spots are still showing up, according to CR’s data, like frequent check-engine lights in the gas-powered models – a sign of something amiss in the emissions control system – and there’s evidence of electrical flaws, too, at least in early cars.
Here’s a thread at VWVortex.com from last year that deals with the DSG transmission reliability issues particularly that of the transmission dropping into neutral without warning; Transport Canada issued a recall for this. How widespread the problem is isn’t clear; there’s lots of talk about it online, but no indication from Consumer Reports that it’s an across-the-board trouble spot.
Consumer Reports lists the air conditioning compressor as failure prone in 2.0T Jettas.
While I sense a general movement toward higher quality in the fifth-generation Jetta, I don’t think VW is quite out of the woods yet as far as reliability goes. Check the MKV Jetta FAQ at VWVortex.com if you’re in the mood to learn a little (a lot, actually) about these cars.
The Jetta earned “good” ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in its frontal offset, side impact and roof strength tests. From the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the car earned four stars for both driver and front passenger protection in that organization’s full-frontal crash tests, and five stars for side impact protection for front- and rear-seat occupants.
Used Jetta values range from $12,700 for a 2006 with the five-cylinder engine and manual transmission, to $26,575 for a 2010 diesel model in Highline trim with automatic transmission. My choice would be a TDI wagon, the cheapest of which will be a 2009 Trendline TDI, at $20,875 with a manual transmission.
This generation of Jetta is a well-designed car that combines a manageable footprint with a comfortable interior and huge trunk, even in the sedan. The wide range of engines is appealing too. What you still need to watch for are reliability issues, which, while this car seems to be an improvement over its predecessor in that regard, warrant careful shopping. Look for a Jetta that comes with detailed service records; if the owner doesn’t have them and can’t give you proof of how the car has been maintained and what’s needed repairs, walk away, and have the car checked carefully by a trusted mechanic.
Those two items are particularly important when considering a car with a not-so-great reliability history like the Jetta’s. Find a good one, and you’ll enjoy this car for a long time, but if you wind up with a bad one, you might the relationship to be a lot less enjoyable.
Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) August 2010:
|Year||Model||Price today||Price new|
|2010||Jetta Comfortline TDI manual||$24,575||$28,575|
|2009||Jetta Comfortline TDI manual||$21,400||$28,175|
|2008||Jetta Trendline 2.5L manual||$16,275||$24,875|
|2007||Jetta base 2.5L manual||$14,175||$26,375|
|2006||Jetta base TDI manual||$16,375||$28,050|
VWVortex.com is usually my choice for VW information. It’s busy, it usually fun (TheCarLounge section can be particularly entertaining) and it has great FAQ sections on just about every VW model. TDIClub.com is a solid resource for diesel drivers. The Jetta section is the biggest one at VolkswagenForum.com, and VWForum.com lumps all fifth-generation cars (Jetta and Rabbit into one section. There’s a Jetta section at VolkswagenOwnersClub.com, but it’s one of the quieter places here; this site appears to be frequented mostly by first-gen Rabbit drivers. There is a section for the “new” Rabbit, which was a hatchback version of the Jetta in question, so there may some useful info to be found there.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2005192; Units affected: 5,379
2006: On certain vehicles equipped with a 2.5L gasoline engine, a fuel supply line clamp located in the engine compartment may not be positioned properly and could leak. A fuel leak, in the presence of an ignition source, may cause a fire. Correction: Dealers will inspect and, if necessary, replace the subject fuel supply line clamp.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2006122; Units affected: 244,526 (includes other models)
2006-2007: On certain vehicles, the brake lamp switch may malfunction. If this happens, the brake lamps could become inoperative; or could come on and stay on, even though the vehicle is parked. Correction: Dealers will replace the brake lamp switch with a newly revised version. This action includes vehicles previously affected by Transport Canada recall 03-184 and 04-075. The switch installed during this prior repair may not function properly. Note: parts available December 2006.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2007210; Units affected: 2,707
2006: Certain vehicles may have a small plastic tab located on the windshield washer fluid reservoir that may chafe against the underhood fuel supply line. If this happens, the chaffing could cause a fuel leak over time. Fuel leakage, in the presence of an ignition source, may result in a fire. Correction: Dealers will inspect and, if necessary, replace the underhood fuel supply line. As a preventative measure, dealers will also remove the plastic tab from the windshield washer fluid reservoir.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2007306; Units affected: 52,475 (includes other models)
2006-2008: Certain vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of CMVSS 108 – Lamps, Reflective Devices and Associated Equipment. 1). The required cap designed to disable the headlamp horizontal aim may not have been installed during vehicle assembly. 2). A cap may have been inadvertently installed to disable the vertical aiming screw. 3). An adjustment mechanism allows aiming of the low beam relative to the high beam. Correction: Dealers will affect repairs.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2009141; Units affected: 2,388
2006-2009: On certain vehicles, driveshaft cover plate screws may not have been torqued properly during vehicle assembly. Should they loosen, a knocking sound may be heard while the vehicle is in motion. In the worst case, the driveshaft screws could loosen to the point where the driveshaft detaches from the gearbox. If the vehicle is moving when this happens, the detached driveshaft could cause damage to the gearbox housing. A damaged gearbox housing could leak gearbox oil onto the street and create a risk of vehicle crash for both the driver and other motorists. This could result in property damage, personal injury or death. Correction: Dealers will inspect and, if necessary, replace the driveshaft screws.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2009249; Units affected: 3,467
2009-2010: On certain vehicles equipped with a Direct-Shift Gearbox (DSG), the wiring harness of a temperature sensor in the DSG may have connector wires that were insufficiently crimped during assembly. As such, the temperature sensor could falsely detect a high gearbox oil temperature, causing the transmission to abruptly shift to the Neutral position. A loss of propulsion, in conjunction with traffic and road conditions, and the driver’s reactions, could increase the risk of a crash causing personal injury or death. Correction: Dealers will reprogram the transmission control module with updated software.
Crash test results
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.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.
Chris Chase is an Ottawa-based automotive journalist. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).
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