2003 Volkswagen Jetta Review
Edmunds' Expert Review
- 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.
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.
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.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
NHTSA Overall Rating
- Frontal Barrier Crash RatingOverallNot RatedDriver5 / 5Passenger5 / 5
- Side Crash RatingOverallNot Rated
- Side Barrier RatingOverallNot RatedDriverNot RatedPassengerNot Rated
- Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsFront SeatNot RatedBack SeatNot Rated
- RolloverRollover4 / 5Dynamic Test ResultNo TipRisk Of RolloverNot Rated
- Side Impact TestNot Tested
- Roof Strength TestNot Tested
- Rear Crash Protection / Head RestraintNot Tested
- IIHS Small Overlap Front TestNot Tested
- Moderate Overlap Front TestGood
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), GL 1.8T 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5M), GLI VR6 4dr Sedan (2.8L 6cyl 6M), GL 1.8T 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5A), GLS 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl 4A), GL 1.8T 4dr Wagon (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5A), GL 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl 4A), GL 1.8T 4dr Wagon (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5M), GLS 1.8T 4dr Wagon (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5A), GLX VR6 4dr Sedan (2.8L 6cyl 5A), 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), GLS 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl 5M), GL TDI 4dr Sedan (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 4A), 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), GLS TDI 4dr Wagon (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 5M), Wolfsburg Edition 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5M), Wolfsburg Edition 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5A), and GL TDI 4dr Wagon (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 4A). Pre-owned Volkswagen Jetta models are available with a 2.0 L-liter gas engine or a 1.8 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 180 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2003 Volkswagen Jetta comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 4-speed automatic, 5-speed shiftable automatic. The Used 2003 Volkswagen Jetta comes with a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. basic warranty, a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. powertrain warranty.
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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.