I bought my used Jetta about 4 years ago and I still love it. I don't think I can go back to a 4cyl ever again! This car is fast and fun to drive. Problems: side moldings (one fell off, the other one about to). Paint looks awful (but I live in So Cal desert), exterior molding on front windshield disintegrated. Blew a coil last year and now the heater core is kaput. Very expensive to fix. Cupholder is a joke. And my heavy foot doesn't help the already low MPG. Mostly it's just normal problems after 11 years. Plus I drive it hard. But depite this, I am deeply attached to her - I had a Honda before and nothing compares to the driving experience of the Jetta.
The '96 GL was my second Jetta after I traded up my old one, an '86, with 200K miles. I bought this one used (returned from lease) with around 40K miles on it. I love the German engineering and absolute solid feel of this car. This one has 100K miles on it and is as tight as the day I bought it. Although no frills, it's peppy, good in inclimate weather, gets around 34 highway MPG, and is very dependable. Other than routine maintenance (brakes, exhaust, battery etc) I've put no money into this vehicle. If you're looking for a no nonsense safe solid car that's also stylish and fun to drive try a Jetta. This has been the best car I've owned.
I bought my 96 Jetta GL in the beginning of January, used at 56k miles, in 2003 as my first car. I've had some trouble with it since I bought it 8 months ago, probably due to the previous owner's neglect, but I love it regardless. So far I've replaced all four tires, repaired an oil leak, re- glued side moldings, and replaced its brakes. The transmission isn't exactly top-of-the-line, but what more can you expect from a 4-cyl? Still, I love the car. The sunroof is great, and the trunk is roomy. Overall, I'm glad I picked it as my first car.
I LOVE MY JETTA! I bought my Jetta brand new in '96. It has taken me back and forth to school countless times (300 miles one way), cross country twice and to Alaska. 73000 miles later, I still love my Jetta and have had no problems. I have gotten the scheduled VW maintenance every 7500 miles, without fail. I had to have the drivers door lock replaced in TX, but have not had any problems with it since, even in AK with below 0 temperatures. In fact, last winter, my Jetta sat outside for a week when the temperature didn't get above 0 and she started right up, no problems! I've only had to have the brakes and battery replaced. I really cannot say enough!
I have put approximately 97,000 miles on this car, and the major complaint I have is having the clutch replaced three times in the six years I have owned the car. I have used aftermarket parts, so perhaps that is why the clutch has been replaced. The Jettas don't have the ugly and bland styling of Japanese cars, but I would say they are not quite as reliable, although parts (after market) are as cheap. The gas milage is great, it starts even on the coldest of MN winters. I keep it well maintained, and use synthetic motor oil. If you go to a regular parts store, and not a dealer, the parts are not that expensive. The ignition coil, for example, was $60.00 at Napa.