Life is about Priorities
Lou Ann Hammond, Sun, 24 Sep 2006 08:00:00 PDT
My sister commutes to work; five days a week, 1.5 hours each way. How she does it is beyond me, but why she does it is the same reason millions of other adults do it. They have found the American dream that they can afford even if they have to drive 3 hours each day to do it.
Calling a car a commuter car has a bad conotation in some crowds. The term implies that one is a hard working middle income person that leaves their tract home in the morning, coffee cup in hand, listening to their tunes till they reach work, which is about the same time they actually wake up. It also implies that the person driving the car doesn't care about the car they drive, that it is just a means to an end. That is the juxtaposition.
Over 16,000,000 vehicles a year are sold, millions of them commuting to work five days a week. They battle road rage, stress and fatigue, their daughters going through puberty while they're going through menopause. The commuter car buyer is the largest buying segment in the nation. With gas going up, which means all products they need or want will go up in price the commuter is looking closer and closer at the purchase of their vehicle and the gas mileage. According to J.D. Power and Associates the average cost of a car is $27,000. If they can find a car that meets their needs under that price that is bragging rights.
Volkswagen is celebrating its 5th generation Jetta and its 25th Anniversary. According to Volkswagen there have been over 2,200,000 Jettas sold in the last 25 years. The new Jetta, the one we drove, has grown in size and features a four-wheel independent suspension, a new 2.5-liter 150-horsepower, 170 lb.-ft of torque with an in-line five-cylinder engine and an optional six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic. How does it work for a commuter car?
Jetta is known for being the perfect long distance commuter car. The new Jetta 2.5 gets 22mpg city, 30mpg hwy. The engines are known to be reliable and the resale value has been good up to late. If you get the turbodiesel the fuel economy for the city is 36mpg and 47mpg on the highway. Volkswagens warranty for the Jettas are 48 months and 50,000 miles.
As I drove along the windy roads of Borrego Springs I felt more than comfortable in the car. At the price of $22,080 the new Jetta's interior will be roomier than its predecessor's with more legroom and occupant space and a larger trunk. Safety features were impressive with six airbags for the new Jetta which include front side thorax airbags, side curtain protection in the front and rear and crash-active front headrests. Still thinking of my sisters safety VW included crash-optimized foot pedals that descend upon serious impact, daytime running lights, three-point safety belts adjustable headrests for all five occupants (or four Americans), front seatbelt pre-tensioners with load limiters, and emergency locking retractors on all seatbelts.
Tunes are important in a commuter car. I did notice that the audio system wasn't the best, but I took solace in knowing that Volkswagen had not opted to make safety an option and had instead put a "less than" audio system in. The only other cars in this commuter group that had comparable safety features were Honda Accord and Subaru Impreza. People will buy a new sound system before they buy safety equipment. I really appreciate Volkswagen taking the high road on this, however, I understand that the Canadian cars will not have all the safety equipment that the American cars do.
If you want to save yourself $1,075 (or spend it on a new tuner system)opt out of the 6-speed tiptronic. I don't say that often because I think a manual gives you a better feel for the car. However, this is not a true manual. Volkswagen has a rev limiter on their tiptronic that shifts up for you if you hit it. I'm not interested in spending $1,075 to have freedom from an automatic when I want it only to be told that I haven't the freedom I thought I did.
Later in 2005, Volkswagen will offer its Direct Shift Gear (DSG) automated-manual transmission (TDI & GLI). If you are into a tiptronic that works like a manual this is the car for you. Volkswagen is very committed to their diesel engine and cleaning up diesel fuel. According to Dr. Pischetsrieder's speech at the Los Angeles Auto Show, "In the Unites States, Volkswagen is working with Archer Daniels Midland to introduce Soya Methyl Ester, or SME. Because this fuel contains oxygen, it significantly reduces particulate emissions when blended with conventional diesel in concentrations of 10 to 20 percent." The turbo-diesel will cost more initially, especially if you order the DSG tiptronic with it, but you will save gas and reduce emissions.
VW Jetta and the beetle have been the flagship of Volkswagen, the Jetta accounting for 40 percent of Volkswagens U.S. sales. They are the people's car, a car that at $18Kish-$25Kish most people can afford and feel good about. There is no other company that has been able to market their moniker and to build a brand around their moniker as well as Volkswagen.
I can't think of a car in this price range that I would rate as superior in design, but all are pleasant. No rattles, no squeaks, safety and standard heated seats are big in this segment and this Jetta meets all those requirements.
Now if they can just take care of that issue of daughter-puberty/mother-menopause thing.