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2006 Volkswagen Jetta Road Test
More space, more power, more fun
By Bill Roebuck
The new design of the 2006 Volkswagen Jetta may already seem familiar, as it's been on the roads here since the start 2005. It may have been cheating a bit to call it an '06 with such an early introduction (should it have been an 05 1/2?). At any rate, it's no longer uncommon to designate the following model year for anything introduced after Jan. 1.)
Design changes for the new Jetta are subtle, making the look somewhat softer, though a new chrome front grille design is a big change.
The rear sports fast-response LED taillights as before. But the new design looks an awful lot like a copy of the Toyota Corolla's taillights, though. From behind, there's not much to distinguish the two.
One complaint I had about the previous Jetta was its very tight rear seat -- but now that space has been improved significantly, although it's still not what you'd call generous. Trunk capacity, on the other hand, is surprisingly larger than the Jetta's big brother, the Volkswagen Passat.
Jetta's five-cylinder engine makes it distinctive (although Volvo also offers this engine configuration). It's stronger than a four but more fuel-efficient than a six. At 2.5 litres and with 170 hp, it powers the five-passenger sedan around briskly. The six-speed automatic, tested with a Tiptronic automatic/manual shift feature (a $1,400 option), is one of the best going -- smooth shifts are the norm. It was developed for VW by Porsche, no less.
We've also tested the turbodiesel model, the TDI, and it's also quite responsive, especially considering the fuel source. It's pretty quiet too once you're under way, though idling is fairly noisy.
A distinction for the standard gasoline-powered Jetta is it offers the reasonably good city fuel economy at 10.8 litres/100 km, which is noteworthy when comparing it to other models in the family sedan class.
Another innovation for 2006 is an electronic key that you insert and then push to start the vehicle, although it took me three tries to get the engine going using it the first time I tried. The same thing happened the next day, but that might have been a quirk of this particular unit.
On both road and track, the Jetta feels very quick, even though it's not track burner. An acceleration time of 9.9 seconds to 100 km/h makes it, by comparison, more than two seconds slower than a 2006 Hyundai Sonata.
Handling also feels sporty, thanks in part to a new multi-link system in the rear, meaning the sedan now has a fully independent suspension system.
Sporting enthusiasts will appreciate the fact that the trunk pass-through is large enough to fit a pair of snowboards or water skis.
Safety is enhanced with standard side curtain air bags as well as the usual front units. Stability control also is available.
Price as tested: $29,675; base price is $24,995.
Bill Roebuck is the editor of www.cartest.ca and a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).