Heres The Thing:
16 years. Its 6 years more than it took the Roman Empire to built the Coliseum in A.D. 80. Its the same number of years that the Civil War, the First World War, and the Second World War lasted put together! To give you a better perspective, 16 years ago (1998) people saved their files in a floppy disk, Family guy premiered, and Chris rock hosted MTV Best Music Video Awards. Thats right people. that was so long ago that MTV aired actual music videos, which presumably went on after MTV cribs, where they gave a tour of Johann Sebastian Bachs nice summer home in Liepzig Germany. 16 years is an extensive amount of time, and is the amount of years that the most criticised Volkswagen Jetta (MKIV) has been on sale.
Its Introduction (1999-2005)
The MK4 Jetta was born in 1999 with an all new design that had more curves, and upright stance than the previous generation. It looked taller, and more agile thanks to its shorter length as well as its charismatic roof mounted antenna. This was also the generation of the Jetta that really emphasised on making Volkswagens cars of a more premium feeling ambiance than their competition, whilst leaving hardcore purity of driving as second priority. Features you would never thought of in the late 90s were included such as automatic climate control, automatic wipers, soft touch dash, 8speaker banging stereos, and leather upholstered seats which moved about and heated. It really was a nice car to be in. Power trains included anything from a lowly 1.4 to a 1.9 diesel to the glorious 2.8 VR6 in the GLI. Buyers could have a huge variety of options, though most of the people bought the base Jetta’s since their quality increase went hand in hand with price increase. There were also some flaws with some of the designs as well as the electrics. One of the various examples were the comically european placement of the cup-holders, which were located directly on top of the radio and erected themselves out of the dash. So many complaints , that the design changed in 2003.
Engines came in and went out through this 6 year life span, starting with the very popular “Two-Point Slow”. There was also a very unique 2.3L VR5 engine that came out in 2000, which consisted in 5 cylinders in a kind of slanted angle that helped with compactness and developed 168 HP. The other famous engine, the 1.8T, came out the same year and gave 148 HP which fitted quite admirably under the 5 cylinder engine, and under the 6 cylinder VR6. And speaking of the VR6, it first came as a 12V 2.8 launched in 1999 giving an almost laughably orderly 177 HP. In case of the diesel, this is a bit harder to explain since there were 6 different 1.9 diesel engines that went into the Jettas stubby hood. 6 damn 1.9 engines, and every single one of them had different horsepower outputs (from 109 hp to 148 hp. Talk about choice). The best engine of them all though was the later introduced 24V 2.8L VR6 that just had to be fitted with the 6 speed manual. I have to say, it is in my car bucket list for being one of the ultimate Q-Ship and underrated cars. I mean, the ONLY way to know it was a 24V 2.8 GLI was if you saw the 3 chromed G L I letters at the back. I Adore it!
Then there was the introduction of the first ever Jetta wagon, which was of this generation of the Jetta. The wagons though were made in the Wolfsburg plant, instead of the Sedans which were made in Puebla (Viva Mexico!). Still don’t think it is interesting? This was the first Jetta to use the brilliance that is the “Funk” button, and there also was a Wolfsburg special edition, but what really caught my attention were the 3 ultra rare colours available. Futura Yellow (1999 only), Cosmic green (1999 only), and Desert Wind (1999 only). Try and looks for them in any site, and though you may find some, they are very uncommon.
The First of Many Redesigns (2005-2008)
This generation of Jetta became an instant hit with the Mexican market. The people were buying them as if they were loafs of bread, and to understand why there was such a high demand you have to put yourself in the Mexican mindset and way of thinking. No, it isn’t only of eating fried food with cheese, or crossing the border what we think of. What the Jetta did was make a statement. The Jetta, to us, is a class above everything else in its segment and Volkswagen as a brand is considered far superior than its competitors. You see, if you say to any random Mexican stranger what compact car they like best they wont know what you are talking about. If you tell them what competitor of the Jetta they like best they will understand (but probably say Jetta anyways). Ford Focus? Renault Fluence? Nissan Sentra? No, none of these will probably be recognised by the average Mexican Joe (Jose?). But a Jetta? They know exactly what it is. This means that the Jetta has become something other than just popular, it has become a statement of success. It might seem outrageous, but to almost everyone in Mexico a Jetta means you stepped into another level. You are wining decent money, you are someone now, people will recognise what you drive and know that you paid a little bit more to have it, you have acquired a status. You know drive a Jetta.
This meant, Volkswagen was making the best business by selling something more expensive that sold in higher numbers than the cheaper competition. Thing is, they had to at least try and keep it fresh for the clients or they would otherwise loose their clientele. First it was a model rename, which included the base Europa, Trendline, and Sportline. Also, a slight nip and tuck was done to the Jetta, with added rims, added door decorations, improved radio and instruments (see 2005 Passat) some models with tinted headlights, and an array of special editions. And I’m not talking about the GXP Pontiac Solstice Coupe edition type, these were more in the lines of Warner Brothers Chevy Venture special edition. Probably even more hilarious:
Winter Edition: Climate Control, Wood Inserts, Different Wheels.
Summer Edition Pack 1: Different Wheels
Summer Edition Pack 2: +Sunroof
Soccer Edition Pack 1: Different wheels, soccer badges
Soccer Edition Part 2: +Leather
GLI Anniversary: Riced out exterior, sporty interior, rims, performance upgrades.
Although this was fun for a while, Volkswagen knew they couldn’t keep with the idiotic special editions, and the outdated looking body. Even more since the MK5 Jetta that was introduced in 2005 was sold along side it at the dealerships. What to do when you have 2 Jetta’s fighting for the markets’ popularity? Name it the Bora and sell both! This though, didn’t stay this way for very long, and in 2008 a major redesign was thankfully done to it. And I have to say, I congratulate the man that designed it, because after 2008 up to now, the car still looks handsome.
The Much Needed Extensive Refresh (2008-2010)
This was the Jetta that Mexico deserved. The looks went on par with the current design language of VW at the time, and it was so well done that currently people see it as a good looking car. All of the exterior was revamped with new headlights that contained VW logos in them, new rims, new round tail lamps, and the addition of the VW logo acting as a trunk release. On the inside, the instruments changed to a more modern look, as well as the radio that now integrated USB and Bluetooth capabilities. The seats were now made with different materials, and the interior ambiance was just more up to date. Also, new colours were available such as a Burgundy, a Teal Blue, the Desert Wind previously seen, and on the inside you could get beige or black leatherette. Mechanical-wise, the car now offered a Tiptronic 6 Speed automatic as an option, and kept the same engine (2.0L) as well as the 1.9 TDI Diesel. The catch with the Diesel was that it was only available in the highest trim and in manual, so it never really became a sales giant. The models didn’t change much from the past Jetta. Base was now called the City, Europa was the mid trim, and Trendline became the highest trim available. No special editions were introduced.
The Mexicans bought them in spades, and it was a good deal between what Volkswagen was offering, and what we bought. Issue was, this was the beginning of de-contenting the Jetta since prices had to keep competitive with other cars in the segment. This meant, safety features such as ABS or Airbags became optional extras, as well as rear disc brakes. Also, the interior had more blank buttons as a result, and year by year this was going to become a trend until 2016. But first, this Jetta was given a good zap of life by introducing the Turbo model in 2009.
The Turbo model consisted of a 1.8T chrome badge at the rear, different wheels, a minuscule ductail spoiler, 5 speed manual, heated leather seats, and a great steering wheel. It had the same underrated performance image as the past GLIs, but now with a lighter Turbo engine and modern amenities to nicely wrap up the package.
Then, as 2010 arrived, Volkswagen couldn’t help themselves and created another special edition. This was called the “Clasico” which means Classic, and it commemorated the long existence of this Jetta. It had a new very tasty Blue color, blacked out mirror and headlights, different rims, leatherette interior, sunroof, and a nice badge at the rear. It was a nice special edition, though it was just a glimpse of the best years of the redesigned Jetta which came afterwards.
The Best Years Of The Refreshed Jetta (2010-2012)
For me, these were the best times to buy yourself a MK4 Jetta. Though it wasn’t a Jetta anymore. Volkswagen knew they had a ticking clock on the back of their ears getting louder and louder as the years went by. The MK6 Jetta. They got themselves lucky by naming the MK5 Jetta the Bora, but now they had to think of a new strategy as the new Jetta arrived to dealership. The strategy was to name the MK4 Jetta the “Clasico”, or the Classic whilst the MK6 sold as the Jetta. The Jetta badges left the trunk and the Classic badges that were first in the trunk of the special edition now became the norm for every model.
During this short life-span the Classic changed models altogether. The Aire (Air) was the new base model which got its name thanks to having only air conditioning as an option. The next model was the CL “Team” which included a radio, rims, and different interior bits. Then the GL “Team” brought electric everything, and other type of rims. Both the Aire and Team had stickers on the lower side of the rear doors.
Next, the interesting models appeared, beginning with the Sport. The sport had leatherette seats, automatic climate control, big rims, disc brakes, blacked out headlamps, better stereo, sunroof, and a sport badge in the trunk. It was the baller version of the 2 Point Slow. Next, the TDI returned since its absence in 2010. Again, it was the most equipped model with only a stick.
Also, a very cool special edition was introduced based on a Team GL called the Black Edition. This added very cool looking blacked out rims, “Black” stickers on the lower side of the rear doors, full leather seats, blacked out headlights, and the availability of Black, White, or Grey colors.
But the best model yet made its return. The Classic GLI. It was now really shout with a body kit, different rims, alcantara interior trim pieces, GLI steering wheel, a big exhaust, a prominently erect spoiler, and awesome looking gauges. I loved that car, and it was the best bang for your buck performance at the time.
But, as the best years of the Classic MK4 finished, the worse years began, and its place in the market was becoming smaller and smaller.
The Worse Years, And Its Last Hurrah (2013-2015)
The year that followed the models were cut immensely. There was no Sport, no Diesel, no GLI, but only Team and Aire. You couldn’t buy any options other than the disc brakes, and the blacked out headlights had gone. It was just a car that was keeping up with demand, but not making itself reasonable against the competitors. Volkswagen was letting it die.
After that, the Team model got much needed improvements, such as a new design for the radio, other rims, the addition of an optional sunroof, but the damage was made. People didn’t buy this as much as it needed to in order to keep living. But the final nail in its coffin came in the shape of a new sedan named “Vento”. It was basically a Polo sedan, abet it with much less satisfactory materials, equipment, or technical innovation. But it was a small sedan that was competitively priced with VWs new design language. It has been on sale only a few months, and it has already become one of the top 3 selling vehicles.
Volkswagen has started to sell the 2015 models of the Classic MK4, but stays that it is going to be its last ever year. Its sad to see such an iconic car leave the country that made it so popular. To this date it still is the best selling compact of all time, the most looked for used car on websites, the least time spending car on used dealer lots and dealerships, the biggest quantity of used cars for sale right now, one with the biggest aftermarket community, the most stolen car of the country, and one of the most respected vehicles on Mexican roads. It was the most criticised Jetta of all time, but it is by far and away my favourite generation. You will be missed MK4.
And Thats The Thing.