The fifth generation of the VW Jetta – which includes the first fully independent suspension system, and a more powerful base engine – makes a great exclamation point to the first 25 years of the compact sports sedan’s sales in North America. Volkswagen really lathered the newest Jetta with some nice technical treatments: new standard electro-mechanical steering system, and a new optional 6-speed automatic transmission with sport mode selectors. There’s also more cargo space, and a fuel tank with enhanced protection by its new location within the body structure. The exterior shape is larger via a 7-inch jump in the overall length, a 1-inch gain in the width, and nearly 3 inches more in the wheelbase. A 150 horsepower 2.5-liter, inline five-cylinder replaces a 115 horsepower four cylinder. The new base engine also delivers 39 percent more torque (now 170 pounds-feet at 3,750 rpm) than its predecessor.

During a one-week test drive of the new Jetta, the car handled well – responding to parking assignments and lane change requests with ease. The Jetta’s fully lined, super-large trunk features 4 tie-down hooks in each corner. This trunk can handle multiple golf bags, grocery bags, baseball bats, and a few boxes all at once. (The test vehicle’s trunk lid caused a few impatient moments by not allowing closure 100 percent of the time. Although the lid requires only a light touch to close it, too many times the gates would not engage.) Interior-wise, the Jetta presents a pleasant, eye-appealing environment that includes new ash wood and metallic accents. There are numerous standard items (like heated front seats, front and rear reading lights, and trip computer with compass). The $1,075 optional 6-speed automatic transmission with manual up/down shifts was nice, yet the transition into second gear sometimes was fraught by an unwanted vehicle body lurch. Mile per gallon estimates are 22 city/30 highway. MSRP is $20,390.