1990 Volkswagen Jetta GL 1.8L gas from North America


Absolutely love it


Alternator went out at 192000 miles... In a snow storm. The only time it let me down, but I was able to get it jumped and drive it home.

Driver's door trim strip fell off.

Wind noise from rear passenger door seal.

Speedometer light sometimes does not work at night, leaving me in the dark when it comes to my speed.

Exhaust hanger broke going up a dirt road (my fault). But man was it annoying until I got it fixed.

The radio only has one station, Oregon public broadcasting...

Normal tune up items like belts and filters etc.

Other than that, nothing wrong, and this thing has 200000 miles on it! This car has been serviced by an independent Volkswagen mechanic for the past 18 years, and I am only the third owner.

General Comments:

I love this car, and it has been better than any other car I have owned. It starts right up, and has reliably carried me on multiple 500+ mile trips without any problems at all. It has its quirks, but is very good overall for something that only cost $900.

I LOVE the handling on this car. Wherever I point the steering wheel, it just follows without complaint, and the wheel feels perfectly weighted for the car with tons of feedback. I have taken it on many twisty roads, and I am always surprised at how well it handles. Turn in is quick and precise, it feels well balanced and transitions well. Even with my 100hp and automatic transmission, I can usually out pace most other cars when the going gets twisty. The trade off is that because it's on such a short wheel base, you feel every bump and expansion joint in the car. There is a bit of body roll, but my shocks and struts are way overdue for a change (cough 200,000 miles on them cough). I just wish I got a manual, preferably a GLI though, because it would be that much more fun.

Speaking of the puny 100hp engine, despite the lack of power, the car feels much quicker than it actually is, so it is actually pretty fun, and the engine is always happy to go. The transmission feels really quick in first gear, but feels a little gutless in second, and doesn't seem to pick up much speed from 25-40mph until it shifts into 3rd. I really wish that there was a 4th gear (or rather I wish I bought a manual), because at 60mph, the engine is turning at over 3000rpm, which means that this car only gets around 27mpg on average, which sucks for a 4 cylinder car.

There are a few problems though. The original stereo sucks, there is a lot of wind noise, and the seat belts are these weird two piece units that just seem awkward.

Many people have had problems with VW because of reliability issues, and there are many reasons. Avoid these mistakes.

1. They buy some thrashed beat up, old car that was owned by someone who did not take care of it (I have had 2 and they were terrible). If the car has any modifications, be careful and check their work to see if they have done a good job. If it is spray bombed, walk away, just walk away.

2. Either trying to repair it themselves without knowing what to do, and making it worse, or bringing it to a dealer to service, who often do not care. Find an independent Volkswagen or German car specialist to do repairs, or if you are mechanically inclined, get yourself a Bentley manual.

3. Make sure the one you buy is actually German built. Many mk2 VWs were built in the USA, Mexico or Brazil, and their quality was sub par at best compared to German built cars. Just look for the letter W to be the first letter of the Vin number (w stands for Wolfsburg, the German plant that built them).

4. Lastly, these cars are 20 years old, don't expect them to not have problems, you will be disappointed. Every car this age has seen better days.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 8th March, 2011

1990 Volkswagen Jetta CSX 1.8 petrol from South Africa


Practical, reliable, die hard


- Brake booster had to be replaced twice

- Clutch cable has broken twice

- Wear and tear items (CV joints, wheel bearings, shocks etc)

- Tappet cover gasket (seal)

- Engine seized at 200 000kms (was subsequently rebuilt)

General Comments:

The Jetta was my second vehicle and was an upgrade from my epically unreliable Toyota Corolla (1983).

Based on the MkII Golf, the chassis is remarkably capable for a vehicle of it's size, it handles predictably, and is very stable at high speed.

Although not a blistering performance vehicle, it's 1.8 engine gives a linear pull through the range, and is always willing.

With a towbar attached the Jetta can easily handle light to medium towing requirements.

For it's day, the Jetta was well equipped, including air conditioning, fully adjustable seats and cruise control.

Despite the list of mechanical faults mentioned above, one must keep in mind that this vehicle has substantial mileage on it, so wear and tear item replacement is inevitable.

The only major issue was the engine failure at 200 000km. I had it rebuilt and haven't had a day's problem with it since. Another advantage of older vehicles, the engine rebuilt is inexpensive, easily a 1/4 the price of a modern engine.

Through the years I have often considering upgrading to a more modern, luxurious sedan, and every time, I do the math regarding purchase price, insurance and running costs, my conclusion remains the same, no current vehicle can match it in value for money and versatility combined.

I am a happy owner, and have decided for the last while now, that I will only upgrade as soon as the old girl gives in.

I've been trying to "kill" her subtly for the last 5 years to justify an upgrade... but she won't have any of it ;-)

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 19th July, 2009