2008 Volkswagen Jetta Review – German Design and Engineering at an Economical Price

Expert Reviews Volkswagen

2008 VW Jetta
by Alex Kramer


  • German build quality
  • Luxurious interior
  • Improved acceleration
  • Confident handling
  • Classy styling


  • Hefty curb weight
  • Drivetrain could use refinement
  • Intrusive center console
  • A bit pricey for a compact

When it comes to the finer things in life, the place of origin often matters. Whether it’s a pair of Italian leather loafers, a Swiss watch, or a bottle of French wine, we’ve come to associate certain countries with quality craftsmanship in key products they produce. In the realm of cars, Germany has an enviable reputation for producing the worlds finest, with brands like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi representing the pinnacle of high-performance, luxury automobiles. Unfortunately, this level of quality often comes at a price. Or does it? The Volkswagen Jetta brings German design and engineering to a car that starts at well under $20,000. But does it still retain the same qualities that make other German cars so special? After a weekend of driving around the San Francisco Bay Area, we’re ready to weigh in on this budget Bavarian.

VW Jetta 6-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission VW Jetta dashboard

Driving Impressions

Our silver Jetta SE test model came nicely equipped, with options such as a 16″ alloy wheels, power moonroof, satellite radio, and 6-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. This pushed the MSRP to just over $22,000, and out of true budget territory, but the Jetta was never meant to be some generic econobox. From the rock solid build quality, to the composed ride, to the top-notch interior, the Jetta exudes a classiness that’s way beyond the average compact sedan. In fact, I’m sure a well-equipped Jetta would give some smaller luxury sedans a run for their money. Still, the car had a few quirks up its sleeve, including an uncommon 5-cylinder engine design and bold Audi derived front-end styling. Like the commercials Volkswagen uses to advertise the car, the Jetta presents a unique entry in the mass-market small car segment.


All it takes is to open and close one of the doors on the Jetta, and feel the nice resounding “thunk”, and you know the car in front of you is a solid piece of engineering. Teutonic is an adjective often used to describe German cars, and it definitely fits here. Everything from the exterior paint to the interior surfaces exudes quality in both materials and design. The only penalty for all this solid engineering is a hefty curb weight of close to 3300 lbs., which is several hundred pounds more than most compact cars.

VW Jetta - 2.5L 5-cylinder engine 2008 VW Jetta - instrument pod 6-speed automatic tiptronic transmission

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics

The interior fit and finish is exceptional for a car of this price. The quality of materials used on the interior surfaces is outstanding, and the layout and design of the various controls is excellent. Front and rear leg room is also exceptional for a compact car, with plenty of space for four full-sized adults, and the trunk can easily handle several large suitcases.

My only complaint has to do with the way the center console is designed. If you have longer legs, like I do, the unique design of the console, which swoops toward the dash in an arc, could cause it to bump up against your right leg. Although this was just a minor annoyance, it proved more aggravating over time.


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  • g says:

    just had to replace my totaled prius .I chose a 08 jetta 2.5 se and I love it mpg is not all that but it is a tight comfotable reliable sedan Much more than I expected for the price espectaillty after driving and pricing the audi a3 and a4 Jetta wins hands down Fit and finish are way above my prius aswell as seating quaility .. das boot wins so far no complaints on the overall …

  • strangways56 says:

    my jetta does whatever i ask it to no complaints nice car!

  • Angie says:

    I owned a 2007 jetta wolfsburg edition and loved it. It got totaled on 2-14-11 and I miss it badly. Thinking about buying another one.

  • Richie says:

    car continues too have ongoing electrical issue and warning light a plenty—What a hassle to own a VW

  • Jen says:

    Less than impressed.

    I’ve had my 08 Jetta 15 months, bought it with 11 miles on it. I experienced a whacky lurching within the first 1,000 miles that the service dept could not explain. Now I have electrical issues with my door locks-the back passenger side and driver side doors won’t lock, and when they do, they won’t unlock. My service experience has been TERRIBLE! They take the car for a full day and don’t even fix the problem, let alone give you a loaner!

    After owning a Nissan Pathfinder for 3 years, I say Japanese cars all the way!

  • James Hadden says:

    My mother came down for a visit and she was given a Jetta 2.5 (2008).She wanted me to drive her down to see her Mother in Miami.She said “you can drive my rental” Needless-to-say, I was VERY impressed with the exeleration.It really gets out of it’s way.The tourque converter mated well to provide effective torque in the powerbands.The layout is smart BUT the ONLY two things I hated were; You have to lift up the [right] arm rest to insert the seat belt clip.I also felt the egress and degress akward.I am 6’0″ and 230#’s I kept hitting my head on the A pillar-roof of the car, everytime I got in or out! The electric windows are not like American cars. They are Fully Automatic on ALL the windows (usually only the drivers window has the “Toll booth” option) I had drove the car for 3 days. It was a little confining around my head. I am used to my SUV.

  • Anthony P. says:

    You guys are both wrong. Jettas are made in Mexico. They are just as reliable no matter where they are built.

    The Jetta Wolfsburgs’ final assembly point is also Mexico, which happens to be a state of the art factory.

  • John says:

    the only ones made in Germany are the 12,500 Wolfburg Editions. I’ve had the new body style since 2005.5 and it is rock solid with absolutely no issues… oh and made in Mexico.

  • iamunknown says:

    The thing is, so many reviews say that the jetta is not that great and many things go wrong with it. But that is if it is one thats made in Mexico. The ones assembled in Germany are much more reliable.

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