Compact car; Built in Mexico, Germany
  • 2-door coupe
  • 2-door hatchback
  • 4-door hatchback
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,000 – $2,200*


1991 Volkswagen Jetta Carat 4-door sedan


19901/2 Volkswagen GTI 2-door hatchback


1991 Volkswagen GTI 16-Valve 2-door hatchback


1990 Volkswagen Jetta interior


1990 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0-liter 16-valve engine

Pros:
  • Cargo room
  • Maneuverability
  • Steering/handling
Cons:
  • Automatic-transmission performance
  • Noise

Neither the Golf nor the Jetta is likely to win any beauty contests. However, they are very roomy, economical cars that deliver European performance at a reasonable price.

Overview

Both the Golf hatchback and the Jetta’s 2-door and 4-door sedans had been restyled in 1985, adding more interior space. For 1990, the Golf/Jetta lineup consisted of 2- and 4-door Golf hatchbacks models in GL trim, plus the sporty GTI model. Volkswagen’s Jetta line consisted of 2-door and 4-door sedans in GL, Carat, and GLI trim levels. The entry-level Golf GL and Jetta GL models were powered by a 100-horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder. Slotted above the GL models were the Jetta Carat 4-door sedan and Golf GTI 8V 2-door hatchback, both with a 105-horsepower 1.8-liter. The two flagship models were the Jetta GLI and the GTI. For 1990, only the GLI came equipped with the 16-valve, twin-cam 2.0-liter engine. It delivered 134 horsepower, and came only with a 5-speed manual. Both of the 1.8-liter engines could be mated to either a 5-speed manual or a 3-speed automatic. Rounding out the lineup was the Jetta GL Diesel, available only as a 4-door with a 5-speed manual.

Yearly Updates

1991 Golf/Jetta
The overdue debut of the 2.0-liter Golf GTI 16V makes news for 1991. Use of the 5-speed manual transmission is mandatory with the new 134-horsepower VW engine.
1992 Golf/Jetta
The Jetta’s 2-door body style is dropped for ’92, and the new 59-horsepower, 1.6-liter ECOdiesel engine arrives to power the Jetta GL Diesel model. The new unit replaces last year’s normally aspirated 52-horsepower diesel. And finally, VW joins the rest of the universe and rewires the radios in the Golf/Jetta models so they turn off when the ignition is switched off.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

The entry-level Golf GL and Jetta GL models are powered by a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder providing 100 horsepower at 5400 rpm and 107 pound-feet of torque at 3400 rpm. Slotted above the GL models are the Jetta Carat 4-door sedan and Golf GTI 8V 3-door hatchback, both with a slightly more potent version of the same engine, delivering 105 horsepower at 5400 rpm and 110 pound-feet of torque at 3400 rpm. Powering the flagship Jetta GLI and Golf GTI is a new 16-valve, twin-cam 2.0-liter engine. It delivers a lively 134 horsepower at 5800 rpm and 133 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. Rounding out the powertrain offers are two diesel engines provided for the Jetta GL Diesel, available only as a 4-door with a 5-speed manual. The first is a 52-horsepower 1.6-liter 4-cylinder, replaced in ’92 when a 59-horsepower, 1.6-liter ECOdiesel engine arrived to power the Jetta. The two engines produce 71 and 81 pound-feet of torque, respectively. All VW engines can be mated to the 5-speed manual, while the 3-speed automatic is only available with the 1.8-liter 4-cylinder.

ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/109
Engine HP 100
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 107
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
25/32
23/28
28.3
24.2
ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/109
Engine HP 105
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 110
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
25/32
23/28
25.5

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/121
Engine HP 134
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 133
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual

21/28

22.6

Diesel ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.6/97
Engine HP 52
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 71
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual

37/43

Turbodiesel ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.6/97
Engine HP 59
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 81
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual

37/40

Road Test

These cars impress us with their competent, well-balanced road manners–including the base models. Even more impressive are the Jetta GLI and Golf GTI equipped with the 16-valve 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. Both provide excellent performance with brisk acceleration. Models with the 1.8-liter engine and automatic transmission also accelerate well, but tend to bog down once they shift into third gear. To get the automatic to downshift into second for extra passing power requires a heavy foot on the throttle. A real diamond-in-the-rough is the Jetta GL equipped with the ECOdiesel engine. Not only does it pollute less, it provides real-world fuel economy that approaches or exceeds 40 mpg.

Tires grip tenaciously and the firm steering is very responsive. There’s some body lean in tight turns, but overall the suspension provides better road-handling ability than is generally found in a subcompact.

All Golfs and Jettas are roomy inside, despite their subcompact dimensions, with adequate space in back for two adults. The bucket seats are highly chair-like, providing outstanding back support. Radio and climate controls are mounted high in the center of the dash, where they are easy to see and reach.

These utilitarian models both provide generous room for your cargo. The Jetta has a huge trunk, while the rear seats in the Golf fold forward, providing nearly 40 cubic feet of hauling capacity.

Ratings

Model Tested: 1991 Volkswagen Jetta

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 3
30%
Fuel Economy - 6
60%
Ride Quality - 4
40%
Steering/Handling - 5
50%
Quietness - 3
30%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 4
40%
Room/Comfort Front - 4
40%
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
30%
Cargo Room - 3
30%

Other

Value - 4
40%

Total: 39

Specifications

2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
97.3 171.7 65.5 55.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
16.6 14.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.1 37.1 39.5 35.1
2-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
97.3 158.0 65.5 55.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
39.6 14.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.1 37.5 39.5 34.4
4-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
97.3 158.0 65.5 55.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
39.6 14.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.1 37.5 39.5 34.4
4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
97.3 171.7 65.5 55.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
16.6 14.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.1 37.1 39.5 35.1
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1992 Golf 4-door hatchback

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Front Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 109
Injury 93
Theft 171

Trouble Spots

Engine stalling
Description: If the engine occasionally loses power, stalls, or stumbles, the problem may be vibration of the mass air flow sensor. (1990-92)
Hard starting
Description: If the starter does not work when the engine is hot, a relay may have to be installed between the battery and starter solenoid. (1990-92)
Poor drivability
Description: Magnetic interference can cause drivability problems if the shielding for the oxygen-sensor wiring is damaged. (1990-92)
Starter
Description: If the starter does not engage, it and the ring gear may be damaged. (1990-91)
Tire wear
Description: Cupping of the rear tires may be caused by too much positive rear toe, which is corrected by replacing the rear-axle stub shafts. (1990-92)

Recall History

1990
Description: Brake fluid may exceed allowable operating temperature.
1990 Jetta
Description: Power-steering-pump bracket on some cars could break.
1990
Description: End cap connecting heat exchanger’s core to engine-cooling system could rupture and allow hot coolant to escape into passenger compartment.
1990-91
Description: Engine preheating tube may not be supported, and may chafe against right front brake line.
1990-92 GLI/GTI w/16-valve engine and California Emissions
Description: Throttle plate may not return to full idle position.
1991 Jetta
Description: Some front-brake hoses are too short and could stretch and develop cracks, which could result in fluid leakage and loss of braking ability.
1991 California Jettas w/cruise control
Description: Lock-nut rod may not have been properly torqued, so adjustment could change.
1992 Jetta
Description: On a few 4-door sedans with electric windows, rear-door panel openings have sharp edges that can damage insulation of wiring harness, resulting in short circuit and potential for fire.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.