Volkswagen has a habit of keeping old models around for as long as there is a demand for them regardless of how outdated they are compared to the competition. The obvious examples are the Type 2/Transporter, which is still part of the Volkswagen lineup in Brazil, the Type 1/Beetle, finally phased out in 2003 in Mexico, and the first-gen Golf, produced until 2009 in South Africa under the moniker Citi Golf.
One of the lesser-known long-running Volkswagen models is the second generation Jetta. Introduced throughout Europe in 1984, it was launched in China in 1991 and built locally by FAW-Volkswagen, a joint-venture, until last year. With the exception of the third-gen model, all Jettas have shared showroom space with the mk2 in China.
Like the Santana, the mk2 Jetta underwent several facelifts during its long career. The latest – and arguably most thorough – one came in 2010 when designers gave the car angular headlights and a sleek grille that were inspired by Volkswagen’s then-new language. Out back, the basic square structure of the tail lamps was retained but a piece was added to the trunk lid to create a more shapely design. The 2010 modifications also included round bumpers on both ends, a sculpted trunk lid and steel wheels fitted with full plastic wheel covers, making the car considerably more modern-looking than it truly was.
Under the skin was a largely unmodified A2 platform and a selection of gasoline-burning four-cylinder engines with a displacement of either 1.4 or 1.6 liters. Both manual and automatic transmissions were offered, and a panoply of trim levels could be selected.
Volkswagen tried to phase the Jetta out several times in a bid to modernize its Chinese lineup but the car proved very popular among taxi drivers and fleet buyers such as government institutions and police services so it stuck around until last year.