If the engine or gearing don't sell you, then the Jetta's overall demeanor at speed should. On the freeway or expressway it is as solid, comfortable and quiet as any European touring sedan. A hundred miles an hour feels more like 50 or 60. And it's comfortable, particularly over long distances. The seats are supportive, wind and road noise are non-issues, and the stereo sounds great. The car's interior really leaves nothing wanting. Need more luxury? You'll have to upgrade to a bigger car, a Passat, or maybe a Phaeton. The new Jetta is easily the most refined and luxurious car in the sub-compact segment, all makes inclusive. This is where the price premium over competing domestic and Asian vehicles seems wholly justified.

If we had one complaint it would concern the suspension-and that complaint has cropped up before in previous generation Volkswagens. Much of the car's inherent ride comfort is derived from a soft suspension tune, and it is comfortable, but it takes a little away from the 2.0T's irrepressible sporting character. Quick turns or lane changes will yield distinct body roll. One driver described the feeling as "wobbly." Similarly, dipping deep into throttle on standing starts will produce pronounced squat, lifting the front end and causing your tires to shriek all the way down the street-at least until you shift into second gear and redistribute the weight. More aggressive dampers could remedy the problem but would also affect the car's exemplary ride comfort.

Naturally, our Jetta 2.0T came to us tricked out with a few well-placed bits from VW's own accessories line. It has snarky 17-inch Vision V wheels and Continental ContiProContact rubber, as well as an enhanced styling package which adds front and rear bumper lips and rocker panel treatments, along with a low-profile wing for the trunk lid. All of these pieces are tastefully restrained, yet effective in giving the relatively staid-looking Jetta a distinct visual edginess. And because light colors tend to make the Mk V look a bit "hunched over," we ordered ours in black. So equipped, with an anthracite leather interior, it's very, very handsome. A darker color like black may be harder to take care of than silver or white, but it really seems to more effectively even out the car's proportions. The effect is subtle, but worth mentioning.

Suffice to say we're looking forward to the next eleven months with this car. The Mk V Jetta is a luxury car for the masses. Add the 2.0T and six-speed tranny, and it's a luxury sport sedan for the masses. Does that justify the extra couple grand over a Toyota, Ford or GM product? We'd say yes, unequivocally. But then again we're a bit biased, and ultimately it's you who must make the decision.

2006 VW Jetta 2.0T
The Sticker
Base Price: $23,590
Price as Equipped: $29,064
Transverse front engine, front-wheel drive
2.0-liter inline four, dohc, four valves per cylinder, turbocharged and intercooled
Six-speed manual
Peak Power: 200 bhp @ 5100 rpm
Peak Torque: 207 lb-ft @ 1800 rpm
0-60 mph: 7.0 sec.
Top Speed: 129 mph
Fuel Economy: 24 city/ 31 hwy

From the Hip
+ Great engine, great shifter
- Squishy suspension

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