I have had my 2005 2.5L for 3 years now. I have had to replace the timing chain and tensioners once already. 4 months later I had to replace the tensioners again. Thank god my Husband works on VW's cause if you take it to a VW dealer to get fixed your looking at a $2,500 job and that's on the low side. Now my car has an intermittent starting problem which after days and days of research I see that this has been a big problem for this car and several other VW car's. I have talked to a VW mechanic from a local VW dealer and he has said to get rid of the car, especially the 2.5L. He has been a VW mechanic for 35 years. Needless to say. I will never buy a VW again.
My 2005 Jetta has 87000 miles, is serviced regularly, but now I have to get a new car. The timing chain, gears, spark plugs, and coil pack supposedly all went out last week and to fix it would be $3700 according to the dealership. While I have loved the design and the drive, it just isn't worth it. The worst part is they only offered me $1500 for a trade in. Why would I want another VW if that is all they think it is worth? I'll be getting a Toyota this weekend.
I purchased my car used with 31,000 miles. Kudos to VW for adding the 6-seepd tranny, larger brakes, stiffer springs, body kit and Recaro seats! This Jetta is definitely worthy of the GLI badge. The suspension is on the firm side, but it's great fun to drive. It is very comfortable on my commutes. As a previous reviewer also mentioned, the front lip hangs fairly low, so you need to exercise caution when parking or when going up ramps. I love the car so far.
We've owned our 2.5L Jetta since new, but I've been driving it since about 44K miles. Now has 127K. This is a well-built, full-featured, and generally dependable daily commuter. New it was $27K and it has some features missing on my wife's $50K 2011 Audi A4. While it is a good "A to B" car, there is nothing fun or inspiring about this car. If that is not a priority in your car ownership, then no worries, the interior amenities will more than make up for it. But if you want something that's fun on the on/off ramps, and inspires confidence when you go to pass, then the 2.5L 5 cyl. is not your engine. Go with the 2.0 Turbo. Just regular maintenance, but some inconvenient repairs. UPDATE 8/7/2017 (since Edmunds asked for one): I got rid of this car at about 156K last year (maybe, April/May 2016). It was having some form of spark/fuel issue and I ended up donating it to charity. Presumably they figured out what was wrong with it and sold it because they sent me a check for a $1,000. Beside that issue, I had the oil separator valve go bad not to long before that. There is an aftermarket replacement part, but VW has integrated it into the valve cover for some strange reason, so the "dealer" repeater is to replace the valve cover for $300.00. I wasn't playing around with a cheap aftermarket part so (unhappily) paid for the valve cover. The only other two major issues with the car was the one electrical cooling fan for the radiator went bad (which I replaced myself - not terrible difficult). Earlier on its its life (right after warranty expired), the oil pan had been leaking. We kept having it checked and asking dealer to fix it, but they couldn't seem to find the problem until AFTER the warranty expired when it was a $1,000 job. After we complained, they did fix it under warranty "this time." Glad we documented it as a problem with the dealer. Also now that I think about it, the driver's side fender rusted out underneath and a small patch of rust started on the driver's rocker panel. However, even almost 10 years in, VW covered it under the rust protection warranty. But still, the car did start rusting out when it was pretty well taken care of (waxed at least once or twice a year). So, overall, it was a very good, but not great car. I've owned other cars that required more non-routine maintenance and others with less, but if I'm going to have oddball problems in a car, it needs to be a fun driver.
I bought this car used, 2.0l, 5 speed manual, with under 95k miles. So far I haven't had any problems and it runs great. Overall, the exterior and interior are fine, nothing to brag about although it is a little snug in the back. The car handles well, the power is what you'd expect out of a 4 cylinder, 1st gear is almost worthless. As far as maintenance is concerned, I can do most of the basics easily but the more advanced fixes are not cheap. If you can find one that had the timing belt, water pump, tensioner and etc changed recently then you'll save yourself a couple hundred dollars. If I had the choice again, I'd probably purchase another VW.