A2 Jettas (1985-1992) are generally good cars although you do have to take care of them. However if you are in the market for one, be wary of those made in Mexico. (Look for the VIN, if it starts with WVW, it's Germany; if it starts with 3VW, it's Mexico.) Most people who have had really bad luck with these cars have owned a Mexican-built one. However let me say that my dad has a Mercury Tracer which is built in Mexico and it's been a pretty good car. Just avoid Mexican VW's.
Anyway, my car has been a part of my life since I was a small child. So I guess it's kind of nostalgic for me. Aside from that, it really is a good car.
The 1.8 liter engine has decent pep with the 5-speed transmission. I still get around 29mpg in mixed driving. The brakes aren't the greatest, but they work. Ride comfort is decent, although you won't forget you're in a German car. My car never had Air-Conditioning installed so it's a bit uncomfortable in the summer. The handling is excellent; probably among the best front drive cars. The seats are comfortable and firm, although the driving position would benefit from a tilt steering wheel. The trunk is cavernous although the seats do not fold down. The bumpers are somewhat weak and have been damaged (but repaired) in parking lot incidents.
These cars do require some minor repairs, but they are generally solid and dependable. If you're looking for something a bit more exciting that a run-of-the-mill Japanese car, look for a Jetta or Golf.