I bought a new car, another Volkswagen — this 2024 Jetta GLI.
My 2013 VW Passat was easily the best car I’ve ever owned — roomy, powerful, reliable. That last one really surprised me, as VW has a middling reputation for reliability. But that car just kept going.
Yet things were starting to wear out, as things do. Over the summer I replaced the control arms and tie rods. After a double blowout, I replaced all four tires. The car was about to need brakes again. There was one repair that wasn’t a wear item — the AC compressor died and had to be replaced.
I’ve always driven my cars well into the era when they needed occasional repairs. I’ve brought a couple cars right through to the end of their natural lives. It’s a giant hassle, but it saves me a car payment. For many years, driving cars until the wheels fell off was a pillar of my personal finance strategy. But with the Passat I realized that I don’t have to do that anymore. I can afford a car payment and enjoy the ease a new car brings.
As I began looking at cars, I hoped to find one with a manual transmission. I like driving manuals, and have been sad to watch the number of everyday cars with an available manual dwindle to just a handful over the years. I was able to find manuals only in the Honda Civic, the VW Jetta, the Kia Forte, the Hyundai Elantra, the Subaru Impreza and Crosstrek, and the Nissan Versa — and then, only in certain trim levels. As I researched, I decided that the Civic was number one on my list because of Honda’s legendary reliability and because the Civic with the manual was a hatchback. I love hatchbacks! The Jetta was a close number two because of my excellent experience with the Passat. I decided not to consider any of the others.
Both the Civic and the Jetta are available in manually shifted boy-racer versions, the Si and GLI, respectively, with powerful engines and tight suspensions. I wasn’t considering those as they were well beyond my budget. Or so I thought: while looking through cars.com, I saw this brand new Jetta GLI priced just at my budget.
It turns out that this is the Jetta GLI’s 40th year, and VW produced a special run of 1,984 40th Anniversary Edition cars at a special lower price. I had stumbled upon one of them.
Margaret and I went to drive it and it was just a ton of fun. At 224 HP, it has gobs of power. It also has a good, stiff suspension that lets the car corner flat at speed. Thankfully, it also has very strong brakes. Crucially, thanks to several driving modes I can choose one that moderates the power and suspension for pleasant everyday driving.
A side note: Long ago, I swore off buying new cars. I could get a car 2-3 years used for a steep discount over the same car new. But right now that’s not true. I found plenty of 2023, 2022, and 2021 Civics and Jettas that were only three or four thousand dollars off the new-car price, and they had 30,000 or 40,000 miles on them already. It made more sense to buy new this time.
I’ve always wanted to own a fun car. I figured it would be a classic that I’d drive occasionally, but I’m happy that it’s this new car that I drive daily.