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Jumping off from the Rabbit

The Jetta was introduced in 1980 as an option for the Rabbit. Volkswagen noticed that many Americans were buying larger sedans, so the hatchback's hood was elongated and the interior size increased. The Jetta has been dubbed the best-selling European car in America and Volkswagen's top-selling vehicle. A stylish, comfortable, and upscale sedan, the Jetta is renowned for its lavish sensibility and exceptional steering, control, and ride.

When it was first introduced in 1980 on the A1 chassis it came with a 1.6L 4-cylinder engine that could kick 78 horsepower. It came in L, GL, GLI, or Wolfsburg trim, and had many similarities with the Rabbit, with an exception for the expanded trunk that generated more space. For 1984, after the much expected success with the Jetta, Volkswagen upgraded to the A2 platform. The engine now sported a 1.8L inline-five engine with 85 horsepower, that would later improve to 105. Gas and diesel options were available. These ranged from an eventual 1.8L 16-valve that arrived on the GLI in ‘87 with 123 horsepower to a 1.6L fuel-injected turbo diesel engine. By the end of this generation, the coupe had been abandoned and Volkswagen remodeled the Jetta for a new decade.

The Jetta Takes Off

With the A3 platform, the Jetta was constructed in 1993 for North America with a boxier design and received a setback in public appeal. There were neither diesel nor coupe options, and the car could only be purchased as a four-door sedan. Some dubbed it the "poor man's BMW," but the Jetta did offer some cool options and trim levels. This generation brought the widest array of selection, making the Jetta suitable for nearly any person's needs. A K2 trim was offered with a roof rack that made it convenient for skiers and snowboarders to attach their gear for safe travel. The Trek trim followed suit except with the installment of a roof rack for mountain bikes. The Jazz trim featured an exclusive stereo system, and there were several other trims such as the City Trim or VR6. Regular trims included the GL, the GLS, and the GTX. The diesel option returned in 1998 with a 1.9L turbodiesel engine with an output of 90 horsepower on the TDI, and with the next generation, Jetta was on the rebound to restore what had been lost.

1999 marked the beginning of the design that is not far from the one typically recognized today. This look abandoned the boxy shape from the ‘90s and opted for a more rounded form with a curved roof. This bubble-like car design would distinguish all future Jettas to come. Trim levels were GL, GLS, GLX, or GLI. The new style sported optional leather seats and a sport package for the GLS, and the GLX was a more luxurious option with leather seats and wood grain trim. No longer would the Jetta be perceived as a poor man's anything. Performance continued to improve with 200 horsepower from an unusual staggered-bank V6, called the VR6, or 180 horsepower with a 1.8L inline-4 available in the GLI.

The generation introduced in 2005 introduced an independent rear suspension and bumped the performance up with a 2.5 5-cylinder 170 horsepower engine. Sporting a new chrome grille, the Jetta was restyled and updated to fit the times. A turbocharged direct fuel injection diesel engine debuted in 2009 that could reach 140 horsepower. The latest generation in 2011 was restyled to reach people on a mass production scale - larger than any other previous generation. On the A6 platform, trims came as S, SE, SEL, and TDI, and the Jetta further continued to grow in size and space. Comfortable leg room and trunk space have been notable benefits with the Jetta. It's also known for offering a selection of style with the GTI, sedan, and Sportwagen models.  With the newest Jettas, the standard engine is a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine. The SE and SEL chucked the old 2.5 5-cylinder engine for a 1.8L 4-cylinder TSI, direct injection engine with 170 horsepower and 184 foot-pounds of torque. One minor setback for many enthusiasts is the lack of a manual transmission option on the high trims, but the 210 horsepower 2.0L engine on the GLI makes up for it. Though the Jetta is far from a showy car, the interior and great performance can make it feel like one, and it's still seen as an affordable upscale sedan. 

Volkswagen is a registered trademark of Volkswagen AG. 1A Auto is not affiliated with or sponsored by Volkswagen or Volkswagen AG. See all trademarks.

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