2003 Volkswagen Jetta Review

Pros & Cons

  • Powerful 1.8T and VR6 engines, fuel-efficient TDI powerplant, fun to drive, comfortable ride, rich interior materials, loads of standard features, solid build quality.
  • More expensive than most small sedans and wagons, tight rear-seat legroom.
List Price Estimate
$951 - $2,325

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Edmunds' Expert Review

The Jetta is no longer priced like an economy car; yet, its powerful engine lineup, near-ideal balance between ride and handling and premium cabin materials make it one of our top recommendations to small car buyers.

Vehicle overview

Introduction: 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. VW's small car can no longer be grouped with economy cars like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla in terms of price, but it hasn't lost any of its appeal with U.S. buyers, thanks to a long list of standard features at every trim level and stylish, comfortable cabins replete with high-quality materials and the company's signature blue and red nighttime illumination.

Although the fourth-generation Jetta is now in its fifth year, Volkswagen has kept its top-seller fresh with continual upgrades -- the introduction of the marvelous 1.8T engine for 2000; the arrival of a wagon version, not to mention a sport suspension option for 2001; and last year, power upgrades for both the 1.8T and VR6 engines, as well as the return of the GLI sedan for enthusiast-type drivers who crave six-cylinder power without the premium features and price of the GLX. This year, the 1.8T becomes available to entry-level Jetta buyers in the GL sedan and wagon.

Unless cost is your primary concern in selecting a compact sedan or wagon, the Jetta merits serious consideration. Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options: VW is offering GL, GLS, GLX and GLI versions of the sedan, and GL and GLS versions of the wagon. Standard features on GL models include side airbags and head-curtain airbags; four-wheel antilock disc brakes; a height-adjustable driver seat; telescoping steering wheel; power windows, mirrors and locks; cruise control; a CD player; a full-size spare tire, and for 1.8T-equipped cars only, traction control. Options include stability control (ESP), heated seats, a Monsoon sound system and a dealer-installed CD changer.

The next step up is the GLS, which adds a center armrest, a sunroof and alloy wheels. All GL options are available on the GLS, along with a leather interior. GLS 1.8T models can be fitted with a sport package (firmer suspension, 17-inch wheels), and GLS 1.8T wagons are eligible for a premium package with power seats, automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and rain-sensing wipers. The GLX sedan comes with 16-inch wheels and all of the above, except the sport package and CD changer -- the changer remains optional and 17-inch wheels are an a la carte extra. Finally, the sporty GLI sedan has all the GLS content, except the sunroof (now optional), and adds 17s, a sport suspension, ESP and sport seats. Options are almost identical to those for the GLS.

Powertrains and Performance: GL and GLS buyers can choose from one of three engines -- a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder that makes 115 hp, a 1.9-liter turbocharged direct injection (TDI) diesel worthy of 90 hp or a delightful 180-hp turbocharged 1.8-liter inline four called the 1.8T. All three engines provide ample power for easy around-town acceleration and are available with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Fuel economy with the 2.0-liter is only average, but the TDI is a serious fuel miser (up to 49 mpg) and ideal for commuters. The 1.8T makes any Jetta a rousing good time, while delivering gas mileage about equal to the 2.0-liter (24/31 manual, 22/29 automatic). The compact 200-hp 2.8-liter VR6 purrs under the hood of GLX and GLI models; the former takes only a five-speed automatic, while the latter gets a six-speed manual.

Safety: The Jetta earned five stars in both of NHTSA's frontal-impact crash tests; the sedan earned four stars in side-impact testing. The IIHS rated the car "acceptable" for the offset crash test. Side airbags and head curtain airbags are standard across the line; stability control is either standard or optional, depending on the model. Interior Design and Special Features: Each Jetta's cabin is filled with high-quality materials and assembled with care. The front seats are roomy, but the rear bench, though nicely contoured, is tight on legroom. The wagon has 34 cubic feet of capacity with the rear seats up and 51.9 cubes when they're folded. Driving Impressions: Out on the road, the Jetta manages to provide both comfortable ride quality and agile handling. If the regular suspension is too soft for your taste, try the optional sport suspension.

2003 Highlights

Volkswagen eliminates the GLX trim level for wagons -- this means that those who prefer the VR6 engine to the 1.8T engine will have to stick with the sedan. As a consolation, GLS wagons equipped with the 1.8T are eligible for a premium package, which bundles traditional GLX content like power seats, automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, wood interior trim and a trip computer. Additionally, VW has made the 1.8T available on both the GL sedan and wagon. GLs now have power windows and mirrors, cruise control and a CD player, while the GLS gets a standard sunroof and alloy wheels. All Jettas are available with stability control (ESP), heated seats and the Monsoon sound system. Other changes include a ULEV rating for the 2.0-liter four-cylinder, redesigned cupholders and backlit buttons on the standard stereo head unit.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2003 Volkswagen Jetta.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

2003 Jetta - Wolfsburg Edition
rileyken,07/21/2003
This is a great car. It has very good handling and performance. There’s lots of power with the 1.8T Engine. Car’s Interior is attractive. The adjustable sports seats and leather steering wheel and leather parking brake are a plus. The overall quality is very good.
Won't buy another car until this one EXPLODES!
bradspunky06,04/08/2014
Wolfsburg Edition 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5M)
I have owned this 2003 VW Jetta, since 2006, bought w/23788 miles. It now has 196483 miles, still on its original clutch, its fifth set of tires. The first set went via burning rubber on launches for the first 20k of my ownership. If any portion of this car has a problem it would be caused by my abuse. I've only replaced the timing belt twice, and its still good as new. Interior is still as new except driver side entrance bolster. The engine has only gotten better and the transmission easier to shift. This car is miles of smiles for the dollar, and should be tops on your list. 31 mpg on long drives, 25-27.3 in town avg. Keep tire pressures all around at 4 lbs under max, for best handling! Updated 4/12/16 car has 231600 miles, still on original clutch, and turbo. The mileage is now between 21 and 26 depending on how I drive, but no smoke, a bit of oil burning, interior looks fantastic except bolster on driver left side of seat. Best purchase ever, love this car, handles like a dream, best tire for this car is a Cintinauro P7 Pirelli, check the tire rack for proof. You'll be like where has this tire been all my life?! Just replaced the speed sensor, it corrected a stalling issue, poor mileage, and a lack of power, all with one part. Best 527.00 I've spent, first dealer experience, and certainly won't be the last. I am still in love with my Yetta Jetta, and as I initially said, I'll drive it up til it pops. When it does, you'll be the first to know. Updated 4/15/17, car was traded in for 800.00, though I really wish I'd just kept it, instead on 5/28/16 with 236, 847 miles and a nearly completely blown turbo, I over revved it; blowing the seals. It started smoking, so before it became worthless, I traded it. It would've been 5500.00 to replace the turbo, and catalytic converter. Car was replaced by a 2009 Honda Accord EX 4cyl/5SPDR, in two years I only applied 20k to this plastic loud slow vehicle to replace it with a 2018 Accord Hybrid, A MUCH BETTER BUY. Still want another turbo, as the Jetta is still my number one car of choice, the repair bills not so much.
Constant expensive repairs
rocketknight,07/15/2013
Wolfsburg Edition 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5M)
Fun to drive. Too expensive to own! Breaks often, all unusual problems, always over $1K to repair. Engine design is terrible! Water pump broke at 32K miles/4yrs. 2/3 of transmission needed replaced at 100K from the plastic hydraulics reservoir bursting. Plastic parts throughout engine are designed to last <10 years. An engine fuse didn't burst when shorted causing a small engine fire. Plastic parts break when removing to get to broken parts. Metal fuel lines bolted over plastic coolant parts with no line flex make DIY very difficult. Most parts can only be obtained through dealers. Aftermarket parts cause check engine light to be constantly on, only solution is dealer parts @>2-3x cost. ETC. Worth of vehicle always less than repair costs.
Needed at least one review for diesel
rcplaneman16,04/11/2014
Looked through some of the reviews and noticed not one for a diesel and everyone main complaint being MPG. Well just wanted to state that the TDI Wagon for my family has reliably gets 35-38 mpg depending how one drives on the highway and has had no major problems for 225k miles. Only things replaced was 2 alternators, original died and its replacement died while under warranty and had to clean the carbon out once so far out of the engine. everything about driving is like the gasoline that everyone has talked about.

Features & Specs

See all Used 2003 Volkswagen Jetta features & specs

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    Good

More about the 2003 Volkswagen Jetta

Used 2003 Volkswagen Jetta Overview

The Used 2003 Volkswagen Jetta is offered in the following submodels: Jetta Sedan, Jetta Wagon, Jetta Diesel. Available styles include GLS 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 4A), GL 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 4A), GLS 1.8T 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5A), GL 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M), GLS 1.8T 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5M), GLS 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M), GLI VR6 4dr Sedan (2.8L 6cyl 6M), GL 1.8T 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5M), GL 1.8T 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5A), GLS 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl 4A), GLS 1.8T 4dr Wagon (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5A), GL 1.8T 4dr Wagon (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5A), GLX VR6 4dr Sedan (2.8L 6cyl 5A), GL 1.8T 4dr Wagon (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5M), GL 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl 4A), GL TDI 4dr Sedan (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 5M), GLS TDI 4dr Sedan (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 4A), GL 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl 5M), GLS TDI 4dr Sedan (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 5M), GL TDI 4dr Sedan (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 4A), 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), GLS TDI 4dr Wagon (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 5M), Wolfsburg Edition 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5A), Wolfsburg Edition 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5M), GL TDI 4dr Wagon (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 5M), and GL TDI 4dr Wagon (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 4A).

What's a good price on a Used 2003 Volkswagen Jetta?

Price comparisons for Used 2003 Volkswagen Jetta trim styles:

  • The Used 2003 Volkswagen Jetta GLS is priced between $2,500 and$2,500 with odometer readings between 166957 and166957 miles.

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 2003 Volkswagen Jettas are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2003 Volkswagen Jetta for sale near. There are currently 1 used and CPO 2003 Jettas listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $2,500 and mileage as low as 166957 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2003 Volkswagen Jetta.

Can't find a used 2003 Volkswagen Jettas you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Volkswagen Jetta for sale - 1 great deals out of 16 listings starting at $22,779.

Find a used Volkswagen for sale - 10 great deals out of 16 listings starting at $21,467.

Find a used certified pre-owned Volkswagen Jetta for sale - 4 great deals out of 10 listings starting at $9,393.

Find a used certified pre-owned Volkswagen for sale - 6 great deals out of 19 listings starting at $12,101.

Should I lease or buy a 2003 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.

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