1996 Volkswagen Jetta GLS 2.0 from North America


Sporty and refined, if not a bit much to maintain


Cruise Control functioned intermittently, and eventually stopped working altogether.

Driver's seat sagging on left.

Driver's side rear window will not function.

Engine feels a little choppy (needs a tune up, haven't gotten around to it.)

Headlight switch fried, had replaced.

The clear coat has begun to peel and looks absolutely horrible.

Check Engine light came on about 5000 miles. after purchase from previous owner, no idea what caused it.

AC/Heat controls light bulb was burnt out @ time of purchase, replaced for 2 bucks. (Dealer wanted 90$ for labor)

General Comments:

Despite the condition of the interior (dirtier than any car I've owned) and the slightly iffy exterior (clear coat), I bought my car for $3500 in the hopes that I wouldn't have to do much for upkeep.

It has nice acceleration, but not nearly as fast as my 86 Accord LXi. Its handling is way better than any car I've driven, and I drive turns and corners like a madman. Also, great mpg for a sporty car, averaging out between 22 and 29 mpg (city & highway).

The interior dirties very easily, and I haven't had the time to clean it up. The driver's seat sags on the left side, causing me to lean a bit to the right intentionally to correct it, making for a very uncomfortable ride.

The sound system that came with it was amazing. I replaced the stock head unit with a JVC, and the two mid-levels with 2-way pioneers. Still needs some improvement though.

I would recommend a Jetta to anyone who wants economy and speed. Sure, it's not blazingly fast, but it's faster than a lot of the economy cars out there. Unlike my Maxima (86), my Accord (86), and my mother's Volvo (90), this car has yet to leave me stranded. I hope this luck of mine continues, knock on wood.

BTW - I have seen the trouble with the side moldings falling off, but mine are in perfect shape, no sign of peeling. Again, knock on wood.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 21st September, 2004

22nd Mar 2006, 18:44

Well, I've had my Jetta for about 8 weeks and I have never experienced a ride like this before. I've driven Honda and GM (both standard) and it's unbelievable. Also it has very low mileage for a '95 (74000). Very economic for a sporty car. What I find is that it seems to burn gas a lot faster on the highway and more economic for city driving. The best thing is that my dad is a mechanic and I don't have to hassle myself to maintain it. I would definitely tell my friends about Volkswagen.. VERY FUN TO DRIVE.

1996 Volkswagen Jetta GL 2.0 from North America


This has been a reliable vehicle, enjoyable to drive, and not really that expensive to run or repair


Brake job (pads front and rear, front rotors turned) at 85,000 miles.

Cigarette lighter stopped working after a year and a half.

Driver's side door lock stopped working after 7 years.

Using key on trunk caused alarm to go off after 6 years.

Timing belt snapped at 140,000 miles. (This was my first car with an overhead cam engine, and the dealer never mentioned the timing belt issue. I lost the manual, and wasn't following the maintenance schedule exactly. I would urge owners to make sure they follow it!) Replaced engine with used engine having around 45,000 miles on it. Power and acceleration much improved.

Mass air flow meter failed at 167,000 miles. Expensive part from Volkswagen, but you can get it on the net for much less. An easy do it yourself job.

Front pads and rotors replaced at 165,000 miles.

Ignition coil replaced at about 90,000 miles. (Don't buy after market ignition coils for this car: they frequently don't work. It's also a good idea to have one with you if you travel a lot. They're hard to come by in small towns in the middle of nowhere.)

Wheel bearings on all wheels began to fail at between 110,000 and 140,000 miles. Repeated failures of new bearings replaced by Firestone. Finally went to dealer. Firestone mechanics had failed to replace retainer clips, causing bearings to wobble slightly and ultimately fail again. Go to dealer for this service! Once I did that, the problems ceased.

Battery blew up once in Mobile AL due to extreme hot weather. It had the battery blanket on it (standard on cars in the Northeast). Take it off if you move down south.

Apart from that, only needed general regular maintenance: oil changes every 3000 miles, tires, exhaust (still have original catalytic converter), tune ups.

General Comments:

I drive many miles a year, and often 1000 miles at a stretch. One of the best features of this car is the driver's seat, which can be adjusted too many different positions, relieving driver fatigue.

Car gets between 30 and 35 mpg on highway, depending (I think) on the freshness of gasoline. (I'm in NY, so I have a lot of pollution control stuff on the engine, but get good mileage nevertheless.)

Car has never not started in very cold weather.

Sound system has been pretty good. Poor reception on AM radio, but excellent sound otherwise. CD cartridge player in trunk a bit of a pain. They now have single CD players.

Car is spacious and can carry a lot of gear. Added a Thule roof rack.

Getting a Bentley manual and doing some repairs and upgrades yourself is worth it, if you're of that ilk.

Don't bother turning the rotors. It's not really economical in the long run. You'll be better off just replacing them.

My car is now pretty old, and has very high mileage. I'm not in a position to buy a new one at the moment, so I'm trying to keep it alive. I drive a lot, and pretty hard, and still get pretty good performance out of it. You just have to mind what it tells you with its noises and other idiosyncrasies.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 18th August, 2004

15th Oct 2008, 17:55

I had bought my 96 Jetta used. I call my Jetta my "bad boyfriend" because even though I have to deal with its tantrums and putting a bit of money into it; I would never give that up because that car is amazing. Good luck with keeping yours alive. =)

13th Feb 2009, 13:30

A Jetta is a very nice looking unreliable car.

If you own a jetta for a year, you'll find out the hard way just how unreliable these cars are. You'll be faced with breakdowns, and constant repairs that cost between $300 for minor parts to $1000+ for anything engine or transmission related.

So if you love it then fine but be prepared to spend a lot of your hard earned $$$$$ on repairs just to keep it on the road.

If you ask me, there are so many much nicer cars you could own that are not constant headaches.