What should I look for in a used Volkswagen Jetta saloon?
The Jetta will have been used on school runs and in tight city centre car parks so it’s worth checking the bodywork for scuffs and dents and any alloy wheels, if fitted, for kerb damage. Check the condition of the interior trim, the fabrics of which can be fragile, and make sure any stains are easy to wash out.
Volkswagen had largely sorted out the most expensive of its DSG automatic gearbox problems before this generation of Jetta was launched, but there are still some early cars for which problems have been reported, so make sure the gearbox changes smoothly and there are no signs of temperamental behaviour.
Timing chains fitted to petrol engines have been known to snap prematurely; this can cause significant engine damage but is often mitigated by having the car serviced on time. This means a full service history is critical.
Faults with the navigation and entertainment system, as well as other electrical niggles, have been reported on some models, so it’s worth checking that all the electrics work as they should.
Three recalls have been issued on this generation of Jetta, the most serious of which required wheel bearing housings to be checked and, if necessary, replaced, since some were found to crack. As always, it’s worth checking on the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency website and asking whether any recalls relevant to the car you’re planning to buy have been carried out.
Examples fitted with automatic cruise control (ie cruise control that senses the distance from the car in front) can suffer from problems whereby the system gets confused and slams on the brakes. Often, there’s little that can be done to solve this, although the system can be recalibrated – but, beware, it's not a cheap job.
The Jetta didn’t feature in our most recent reliability survey, but its sibling car the Golf did well in the family car category, scoring an excellent overall score of 95%. VW as a brand finished in 17th place out of 37 manufacturers.
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