Volkswagen's Jetta has always been one of my favorite compact front-wheel sedans. One of the reasons is that for nearly a decade now, I've enjoyed the VW automatic - not just in the Jetta, but also in many of VW's vehicles.

Volkswagen is doing right by the consumer in offering an automatic transmission with six speeds that allows the driver to get the most he or she possibly can in the way of performance, plus their money's worth at the pump. The six automatic is mated to a 20-valve, 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower.

The Jetta is a fun-to-drive-compact with typical German engineering that gives this front-wheel drive sedan a terrific feel of solid handling foundations. I felt quite confident and secure behind the wheel of the 2008 Jetta. Its four-wheel independent suspension and electro-mechanical steering gave me a direct on-center feel and stable ride.

Volkswagen offers great pricing on its compact Jetta. The 2008 base model SE starts at $16,990. My SE tester had a starting price of $19,760. The top-of-the-line SEL is priced at $22,825.

Hosted on the Jetta are dynamic safety equipment, including electronic stability control, anti-lock braking, anti-slip regulation, brake assist and six airbags. Side-impact airbags for the rear seats are offered as optional at $350. Buyers can also elect to have active head restraints.

Standard convenience features are a comprehensive lineup of air conditioning, cruise control, traction control, eight-way adjustable front seats, tilt and telescoping steering column, and an eight-speaker AM/FM sound system with CD player and MP3-ready format.

Options on the Jetta are the $1,800 navigation system, $1,000 tilt and slide power sunroof. A cold weather package, featuring heated seats and headlamp washer nozzles is priced at $225.

The Jetta has a four-star frontal crash rating and a five-star side-impact rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Jetta is one of the best examples of an affordable German-engineered sedan. n

EPA fuel economy: City: 21, Highway: 29

Base MSRP: $19,760 (as tested: $21,674)