2006 Volkswagen Jetta Review
Edmunds' Expert Review
- Powerful turbo engine, fuel-efficient TDI power plant, comfortable ride, GLI model's tight handling, rich interior materials, loads of standard safety features, excellent crash test scores, solid build quality.
- Elevated price, bland exterior styling contradicts nameplate's youthful image.
Two new trim levels join the Jetta lineup for 2006: the upscale 2.0T and the sporty GLI. Both feature a 200-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and both can be equipped with VW's trick DSG direct shift gearbox. All Jettas besides the Value Edition now feature standard alloy wheels, and torso-protecting rear-seat side airbags are newly optional.
The 2006 Volkswagen Jetta offers a near ideal balance between ride and handling. This, along with its premium cabin materials and long features list, makes it one of our top recommendations to small-car buyers.
The Volkswagen Jetta 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 Civic and 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, as well as stylish, comfortable cabins replete with high-quality materials and the signature VW blue and red nighttime illumination.
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 and a sport suspension option for 2001; and the return of the GLI sedan for enthusiast-type drivers in 2002. For 2004, a new and more powerful 1.9-liter TDI power plant debuted. The TDI promises to offer all the economic pluses of a diesel along with comparable power and refinement to VW's gasoline engines. An all-new VW Jetta arrived midyear in 2005, and although it's a better car in every way, it lacks the cool factor of the previous-generation Jetta. Regardless, the new Jetta is a leap forward in refinement, handling, power and value. The addition of a turbocharged 2.0-liter four for 2006 means even greater levels of performance, and the return of the GLI model brings a little excitement back to the Jetta lineup. If you're looking for a car that's small but not too small, not to mention safe, refined and well equipped, the 2006 Volkswagen Jetta deserves consideration.
Performance & mpg
Value Edition and 2.5 models come with a 2.5-liter five-cylinder with 150 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. The TDI has a 1.9-liter diesel four that makes 100 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque while getting up to 42 mpg. The 2.0T and GLI feature a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 200 hp. A five-speed manual is standard on the Value Edition, 2.5 and TDI, while the 2.0T and GLI feature a six-speed manual. A six-speed automatic is available on all models. The automatic in the TDI, 2.0T and GLI is VW's DSG direct shift gearbox. A manual transmission by definition, the DSG removes the clutch pedal, and places it under the control of computer chips and hydraulic servos. When left in auto mode, it's as smooth and hassle-free as any conventional automatic. When shifted manually, the DSG offers quick, precise gear changes.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes, seat-mounted side airbags for front occupants and full-length head curtain airbags are standard across the line. Stability control is either standard or optional, depending on the model. Seat-mounted side airbags for rear passengers are optional. In NHTSA crash testing, the VW Jetta received four stars for driver and passenger protection in frontal impacts, and five stars for front and rear seat protection in side impacts. The IIHS rated the VW Jetta "Good" (its highest rating) after conducting its offset frontal-impact crash test. The sedan also aced the side-impact test conducted by the IIHS.
Out on the road, the 2006 Volkswagen Jetta manages to provide both comfortable ride quality and agile handling. Though not as edgy as the previous Jetta, the current model has a rock-solid feel with a surprisingly quiet ride. Acceleration is acceptable with all of the engines, but our favorite is the smooth and potent turbo four. This engine is most enjoyable in the GLI sedan, which has a taut suspension to back it up.
The Jetta's cabin is filled with high-quality materials and assembled with care. Even the base Value Edition model has an upscale flair with comfortable seating and tasteful trim. A tall roofline gives the front seat a spacious feel. Headroom is a little tight in the rear, but there's ample legroom for adults. Trunk capacity measures 16 cubic feet.
2006 Volkswagen Jetta models
The Volkswagen Jetta sedan is available in Value Edition, 2.5, TDI, 2.0T and GLI trim levels. The Value Edition sedan comes with 15-inch wheels, air conditioning, a 10-speaker CD stereo with MP3 compatibility, cruise control and power windows, mirrors and locks. The 2.5 adds upgraded interior trim and alloy wheels. The TDI is equipped much like the 2.5, while the 2.0T adds a 16-inch wheels, a sunroof, 115-volt power outlet and heated seats. The sporty GLI boasts 17-inch wheels, a firmer suspension, bi-xenon headlamps, color-keyed body cladding and sport bucket seats. Options include a navigation system, leather upholstery, power seats, automatic climate control, a six-disc CD changer and, on the GLI only, 18-inch wheels.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
NHTSA Overall Rating
- Frontal Barrier Crash RatingOverallNot RatedDriver4 / 5Passenger4 / 5
- Side Crash RatingOverallNot Rated
- Side Barrier RatingOverallNot RatedDriver5 / 5Passenger5 / 5
- Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsFront SeatNot RatedBack SeatNot Rated
- RolloverRollover4 / 5Dynamic Test ResultNo TipRisk Of RolloverNot Rated
- Side Impact TestGood
- Roof Strength TestNot Tested
- Rear Crash Protection / Head RestraintAcceptable
- IIHS Small Overlap Front TestNot Tested
- Moderate Overlap Front TestGood
More About This Model
Fun. It's what's been missing from the recently redesigned Volkswagen Jetta. VW gave the car new lines, a bigger cabin and more power across the board, but somewhere along the way, the Jetta got a bit too serious. So far there have been just two models, the entry-level 2.5 and the frugal TDI.
For 2006, Volkswagen has added two more: the luxurious 2.0T and the sporty GLI. The two models cost essentially the same, and use the same turbocharged engine, but they're as different as wine and whiskey.
With its standard heated seats and optional wood trim, the 2.0T is for the someday-CEO, the Trump wannabe that just made it out of the mailroom.
In the Jetta's sensible-yet-sporty world, the GLI, with its blacked-out honeycomb grille, sport seats and a sport-tuned suspension, is for the up-and-coming rock star. It's the fun one.
Both models are front-wheel drive and use the same 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder that's also used in the Passat as well as Audi's A3 and A4. The engine produces 200 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 207 pound-feet of torque from 1,800 to 4,700 rpm, which is more than enough grunt to make the chubby 3,300-pound 2006 Volkswagen Jetta GLI a relatively quick ride.
Buyers can choose between two transmissions, a six-speed manual or a six-speed direct-shift gearbox (DSG). We prefer the DSG, which permits fully automatic or true manual operation. In "Drive" it's a quality automatic. In manual mode, it switches gears in a heartbeat and perfectly matches revs on every downshift. Plus, there's no clutch pedal to mess with, just a couple of well-placed steering wheel paddles.
Fuel economy is good, too, 24 city/32 highway with the manual and 25 city/31 highway with the DSG, but the 2.0-liter drinks premium.
Additional features include standard stability control, traction control and 17-inch alloy wheels. A standard sport suspension is the GLI's only real mechanical difference over the 2.0T, and the cars we drove wore optional 18-inch five-spokes with summer performance tires, also exclusive to the GLI. The resulting ride is stiff and sporty but by no means uncomfortable, much like the ride in our Audi A4 long-term car.
Looking the Part
In typical German fashion, big honking wings, spoilers and faux carbon fiber are all conspicuously absent. Instead, VW's wild child Jetta has subtle touches to denote its high-performance pedigree.
Outside, the GLI gets the black honeycomb grille accented with a red pinstripe, black lower body trim, blue tinted windows, dual stainless exhaust tips, bright red brake calipers, auto-leveling high-intensity xenon headlights, and GLI badges front and rear that replace the Jetta name completely. Two new colors are exclusive to the GLI, Salsa Red and Deep Black Metallic.
Things are just as sporty yet subtle in the cabin. All the wood and metallic trim from the standard model have been replaced with genuine aluminum. The front seats are eight-way adjustable sport buckets that are exclusive to the GLI. They offer exceptional support and comfort, even on long drives. The pedals are covered in aluminum trim with rubber grip strips for quick footwork, and the tilting and telescoping F1-style flat-bottom steering wheel is thickly padded.
Safety concerns are addressed with standard dual front, front-side, front-side curtain and rear-side curtain airbags. Rear-passenger thorax airbags, which come out of the door, are optional.
Behind the Wheel
This is not a horsepower-addled rally car like the Subaru WRX or Mitsubishi Evolution. It's fast, just not crazy-fast. VW claims the car will sprint to 60 mph in 7 seconds when equipped with the DSG transmission. That's the same time recorded by the last A3 we tested, which used the same drivetrain, and it's nearly two and a half seconds quicker than the last Jetta 2.5 we took to the track.
Instead of stoplight-to-stoplight racing, the GLI is built for high-speed cruising and occasional canyon carving. The DSG-equipped GLI we drove positively shone on the open road. The turbo four offers plenty of bottom-end torque to get things rolling, but it really shines from 4,000-6,000 rpm, where the motor sings and the turbo whines. Tip the accelerator in the engine's sweet spot and the car leaps forward.
At triple-digit speeds on an empty stretch of New Mexico highway, the GLI's interior remained quiet and its engine purred along like a happy kitten. High-speed stability was excellent.
When the road does turn, the electromechanical steering is tight and sporty, offering excellent feedback and feel. And the suspension, which has thicker antiroll bars, gives the car a hunkered-down planted feeling in the corners. Push too hard and radical understeer rears its ugly head, but the car is easy to drive quickly and much more fun than we thought it would be.
At $23,790, the 2006 Volkswagen Jetta GLI's base price is only a grand less than the starting price of the Audi A3, which shares the Jetta's platform. Order the option Package 1 for $1,460, which adds a sunroof and satellite radio, and the GLI's value remains high.
But cough up $3,200 for the option Package 2, which includes the sunroof, the satellite radio, dual-zone climate control and heated leather seats, and $1,800 for the DVD navigation system, and suddenly the affordable GLI costs about the same as an equally equipped Acura TSX.
Additional options on the GLI include the DSG transmission ($875), the 18-inch wheels ($750) and the rear thorax airbags ($350). Order it all and a loaded-to-the-gills GLI comes in over $31 thou.
As much as we like to think of ourselves as rock stars, and as much as we like driving the GLI, that sounds like a lot for the Jetta.
Used 2006 Volkswagen Jetta Overview
The Used 2006 Volkswagen Jetta is offered in the following submodels: Jetta Sedan, Jetta Diesel. Available styles include 2.5 4dr Sedan (2.5L 5cyl 6A), TDI 4dr Sedan (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 5M), TDI 4dr Sedan (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6AM), Value Edition 4dr Sedan (2.5L 5cyl 6A), Value Edition 4dr Sedan (2.5L 5cyl 5M), 2.5 4dr Sedan (2.5L 5cyl 5M), 2.0T 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6AM), Value Edition PZEV 4dr Sedan (2.5L 5cyl 6A), 2.5 PZEV 4dr Sedan (2.5L 5cyl 5M), GLI 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M), 2.0T 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M), 2.5 PZEV 4dr Sedan (2.5L 5cyl 6A), GLI 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6AM), and Value Edition PZEV 4dr Sedan (2.5L 5cyl 5M). Pre-owned Volkswagen Jetta models are available with a 2.5 L-liter gas engine or a 1.9 L-liter diesel engine, with output up to 150 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2006 Volkswagen Jetta comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 6-speed shiftable automatic, 5-speed manual, 6-speed automated manual. The Used 2006 Volkswagen Jetta comes with a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. basic warranty, a 4 yr./ unlimited mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. powertrain warranty.
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Should I lease or buy a 2006 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.