I drove pretty much every small to midsized Japanese sedan before buying the Jetta. The only cars that came close in their standard configurations were the Nissan Sentra-S and Altima. The VW's features, handling, and interior quality were well above anything else I tested. Plenty adequate acceleration, torque-y little engine, great handling, and a well-crafted overall package. It feels faster than it is, but that's good because it's really easy to misbehave in this car. A nice entry point into German-designed cars - sporty, solid, and wonderfully engineered. A classy commuter that's also fun to buzz the backroads with on the weekend.
Premium VII stereo package is pretty darned good for stock audio - solid bass and clarity even with windows down. Cabin fit-n-finish is excellent. Intelligent convenience features. Crisp, confident driving feel at all speeds. Really good driving position for me personally - car fits like a glove.
Better OEM tires (Turanza E400s are a bit noisy). Decrease sunroof wind noise. 6-speed auto's aggressive shifting can be a little jerky in stop-n-go traffic, even in non-sport mode. 5-cyl. engine drones slightly at highway speeds. Backlight the stereo display even when headlights are off, please.