Used 2002 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon
Edmunds' Expert Review
The Jetta is no longer an economy car; however, its powerful engine lineup, near-ideal balance between ride and handling and high-quality cabin materials make it one of our top recommendations to small sedan and wagon buyers.
The Jetta, Volkswagen's sedan and wagon versions of the Golf, has always been one of our favorites. Like many cars conceived in Germany, the Jetta possesses an uncanny ability to keep the driver in touch with every undulation and irregularity on the road without sacrificing comfort. And with 2002's significant powertrain upgrades, the Jetta will be among the fastest small cars on the road.
The model lineup includes GL, GLS and GLX versions of both the sedan and wagon; a value-packed GLI sedan will be added in the spring of 2002. The entry-level GL model comes with either a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that makes 115 hp and 122 pound-feet of torque or a 1.9-liter turbocharged direct injection (TDI) diesel engine worthy of 90 hp and 155 lb-ft of torque. Both engines provide ample torque low in the rpm range for easy around-town acceleration and are available with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. In addition, the TDI is a serious fuel miser and thus ideal for long-distance commuters. With a manual gearbox, the TDI-equipped Jetta can achieve 50 mpg on the highway.
Standard features on GL sedans and wagons include seat-mounted side airbags for front passengers and head-curtain airbags for front and rear occupants; four-wheel antilock disc brakes; a height-adjustable driver seat; tilting/telescoping steering wheel adjustment; power locks and an eight-speaker stereo with cassette player.
The next step up the Jetta ladder is the GLS trim level, which has more powertrain choices and offers more standard content like cruise control, power windows and mirrors, a CD player and a center armrest. Engine choices include the frugal TDI, a delightful 180-hp turbocharged 1.8-liter four called the 1.8T and a smooth 2.8-liter VR6 (like a regular V6 but more compact for the Jetta's small engine bay).
If you're looking for a compact luxury car and don't want to pay the premium for an Audi or BMW, you should check out the top-of-the-line Jetta GLX, which comes standard with the VR6 and provides such nifty equipment as automatic climate control, heated eight-way power seats, leather upholstery, a sunroof, a premium Monsoon sound system, 16-inch wheels, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob and parking brake handle, self-dimming mirrors, rain-sensing wipers and wood trim.
For the first couple months of 2002, all VR6 buyers (GLS and GLX) will continue to get last year's 12-valve 174-hp version of this engine, but in the spring of 2002, a new 24-valve 200-hp version will arrive for the GLX sedan and a new GLI sedan only (wagons won't get this upgrade until the 2003 model year). When this upgrade comes, you'll be able to choose either the GLI with a six-speed manual or the GLX with a five-speed automatic with Tiptronic rather than the standard Jetta VR6 choices -- the five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Note that the Jetta GLI will replace the manual gearbox-equipped GLX sedan. Until the new 24-valve VR6 arrives, the GLS 1.8T sedan and wagon definitely offer the best performance in the Jetta lineup, and they're already available with the Tiptronic automanual. All 2002 Jettas equipped with the 1.8T or VR6 come with VW's Anti-Slip Regulation (i.e., traction control).
Optional features on the GLS 1.8T, GLS VR6 and GLX include a sport suspension and 17-inch wheels, and you can get leather upholstery, seat heaters, Monsoon sound and a sunroof for all GLS models.
In an appeal to those who want maximum performance without extraneous (and expensive) luxury features, VW will introduce the GLI sedan to take the place of the increasingly out-of-reach manual-shift GLX. Scheduled to arrive at dealerships sometime in May 2002, the GLI will come with the 200-hp VR6; the six-speed manual; stability control; 17-inch wheels; cloth sport seats; and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and brake handle.
Regardless of which trim level you choose, the Jetta's exterior is sleek and curvaceous, and if you opt for the more practically shaped wagon, you get 34 cubic feet of luggage space with the rear seats up and 51.9 cubic feet when they're folded. Built with high-tech bonding agents and laser-welding techniques, Jettas are structurally rigid, which makes for crisp handling and a solid feel. This VW has always been a driver's car, providing an enjoyable experience despite a simple MacPherson-strut front suspension and a torsion-beam rear axle.
Due to its popularity and subsequent price increases, the Jetta is not quite the bargain it used to be in the 1990s. Still, Volkswagen's bread-and-butter sedan and wagon lineup offers powerful engines, a pleasant balance between ride and handling, and upscale interior components. Unless cost is your primary concern in selecting a compact sedan or wagon, the Jetta merits serious consideration.
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Back when it debuted in 1980, the Volkswagen Jetta was essentially a four-door Rabbit with a trunk instead of a hatchback. At that time, VW decided to capitalize on the wildly successful Rabbit by introducing a version with a more upscale body style. In one deft stroke (OK, maybe it was more than a single stroke) of the designer's pen, an econobox was transformed into a stylish, formal sedan.
As it went through the years, the Volkswagen Jetta remained a twin of the Golf (aka Rabbit in the states prior to 1985) under the skin. The most distinctive VW Jetta yet arrived in 1999; sporting clean, purposeful lines. And in 2000, VW made a 150-horsepower 1.8-liter turbocharged inline four available to Jetta fanciers. This engine filled the chasm between the boring 115-horse I4 and the energetic but pricey 2.8-liter V6 that debuted in 1993. Thanks to the 1.8T, it was now possible to have a Jetta that possessed entertaining performance without having to spend the big bucks for the V6 upgrade.
For the 2002 VW Jetta 1.8T, the engine is rated at an astounding 180 horsepower. This is an increase of 30 horsepower over the 2001 Jetta 1.8T version. Car buffs will recognize that this engine is also used in the Passat, GTI and New Beetle Turbo as well as by Audi in its A4 and TT models. Oddly, in the new Passat, the 1.8T is rated at 170 horsepower, still admirable but 10 horses shy of the amount in the smaller Jetta and GTI models.
When we asked a VW spokesperson about the lower output version residing in the heavier, more upmarket Passat, the answer was rhetoric to the effect that the "Passat is geared toward a different driver." We surmised that perhaps the Passat's engine was tuned for more torque at the expense of peak horsepower, but this is not the case the Jetta 1.8T's engine also has 8 pound-feet more torque than the Passat's version.
Trim levels for 2002 continue with the base GL, midlevel GLS and luxury/sport GLX. The Jetta GL comes with desirable features such as air conditioning, power locks and a stereo with a tape deck. Want power windows, power mirrors and cruise control? That'd be the Jetta GLS. The more notable features of the top-dog VW Jetta GLX are the V6 engine, leather seating, wood trim, moonroof, high-powered "Monsoon" sound system, powered and heated front seats, trip computer, fog lamps and alloy wheels. The Jetta wagon, which debuted as a late '01 model, comes in GLS and GLX trim.
Safety continues to be a Jetta strong point. The Volkswagen Jetta received the highest possible ratings for driver and front passenger front-impact crash protection. In addition to dual front and side airbags, the Jetta comes with the latest safety advance: the side curtain airbag. This feature helps protect the heads of both front and rear passengers in a severe side-impact collision. Active safety (the kind that allows one to avoid an accident) is up to snuff, as well, with antilock brakes and traction control both standard.
Though official pricing on all Jettas wasn't available at press time, we were told that the 2002 Jetta GLS 1.8T will list for $19,550 in GLS trim, an increase of 1 percent for a car with 20 percent more power and a newly standard CD player. We would expect this version to be the volume leader for the model, which is the best-selling European vehicle in North America.
Scrutinize the 2002 VW Jetta 1.8T, and you'll notice not a whit of difference in appearance compared to the 2001 Jetta 1.8T. There are no badges or graphics to trumpet the more robust 1.8. Evidently, VW believes in the "walk softly but carry a big stick" philosophy.
So how much of a difference does the additional power make? Quite a bit, according to VW the 2002 Jetta will be able to sprint to 60 mph in just 7.7 seconds. And if you're worried that the higher peak power results in a loss of this jewel's flat power band, fret not. Peak torque still arrives at less than 2,000 rpm (1,950 rpm, to be exact) and stays up there until the tach's needle reaches 5 grand. The result is that this engine feels like the "old" 150-horse unit in terms of its flexible power delivery; it's just stronger throughout.
Our test car was equipped with the Tiptronic five-speed automatic, and it's a perfect match with the little turbo motor. Not once was the tranny caught flat-footed when a downshift was needed, it came without a moment's hesitation, and gearchanges were unobtrusive and timely. We're not sure about the Tiptronic; it's fun to play with and fairly quick to react when the lever is bumped to change up or down, but we saw it upshift (while in the manual "Tiptronic" mode) a few times on its own well before redline. We can understand having it programmed to upshift at redline if the driver hasn't yet flicked the stick, but it shouldn't take matters into its own hands until then.
Other vehicle dynamics are familiar to anyone who's driven the "new" Volkswagen Jetta or Golf which debuted in 1999. That is to say, handling is buttoned-down, steering is well-weighted and responsive, and the ride is comfortable, firm and controlled. Covering ground at a rapid clip is no problem, such that we'd advise a watchful eye on the speedo, as the Jetta is quite comfortable cruising at extra-legal velocities. Our sentiments on the binders were mixed, as the brakes seemed touchy at first, but felt strong and were no problem to modulate once we got some miles under our belts.
So what's wrong with this little gem? Regular readers will be familiar with our VW Jetta gripes, but in case you missed 'em, here they are: The stereo still has a separate power button (as opposed to this being controlled by simply pressing the volume knob). The front seat recliner works by way of a rotary knob that seems suitable only for those who are double-jointed. When in use, the cupholders block the stereo controls. And the back seat is short on legroom. But, hey, if the car were perfect, it would be an anomaly and would make our job that much tougher.
These petty annoyances with the VW Jetta 1.8T are more than offset by the tight build quality, adroit handling, effortless speed, comfortable seats, high-quality cabin materials, excellent crash scores and classy style. And to engender even more faith in its cars, Volkswagen has beefed up the warranty to include 4 years/50,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper protection (up from 2/24) and a fully transferable powertrain warranty good for 5 years/60,000 miles (changed from a 10-year/100,000 mile warranty that could only be transferred to a family member). And the roadside assistance program was doubled in length, making it good for 4 years/50,000 miles.
Sales have been strong as of late, and the Volkswagen Jetta is the company's bread-and-butter car. Now that the most affordable performance-oriented 2002 VW Jetta 1.8T has more power and the option of a five-speed Tiptronic gearbox, we don't see that changing anytime soon.
Used 2002 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon Overview
The Used 2002 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon is offered in the following styles: GLS 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl 4A), GLS 1.8T 4dr Wagon (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5A), GL 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl 4A), GL 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl 5M), GLS 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl 5M), GLS 1.8T 4dr Wagon (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5M), GLS TDI 4dr Wagon (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 4A), GL TDI 4dr Wagon (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 5M), GLX VR6 4dr Wagon (2.8L 6cyl 4A), GLS TDI 4dr Wagon (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 5M), GL TDI 4dr Wagon (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 4A), GLS VR6 4dr Wagon (2.8L 6cyl 4A), GLS VR6 4dr Wagon (2.8L 6cyl 5M), and GLX VR6 4dr Wagon (2.8L 6cyl 5M).
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Should I lease or buy a 2002 Volkswagen Jetta?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.