It is manufactured first in 1979 as a family car. It was offered with either two or four doors as sedan and wagon.
The first generation was produced between 1979 and 1984 in Wolfsburg, Bosnia, and Herzegovina and Yugoslavia. About 570 000 were provided in several different countries. It was available with a front engine and front wheel drive with the capacity of 1.1l to 1.6l petrol and 1.8l diesel version. Four and five-speed manual transmission was possible and also 3-speed automatic. It was with the three-box design and composite headlamps or sealed beam lamps. Some of the models were fuel injected. It received top starts on safety indicator both for passengers and the driver. The speedometer, luggage space, and climate control were very liked back at the time. It was also known as Atlantic and Fox in Mexico and South Africa. Its biggest competitor at the time was Renault 18. In 1990 the model received a facelift and bigger bumpers.
The second generation was manufactured between 1984 and 1992. It became the bestselling European car in North America and was traded twice than the Golf. It was larger and heavier and could fit five people. Separate subframe to reduce the noise, muffler and improved rubber mountings were added. The trunk and the interior space were also increased, and the class was changed to compact. They were assembled in Wolfsburg. Monitoring of the average speed and fuel consumption was inserted. In 1988 a better fully electronic fuel injection system was upgraded. It was offered again as either two or four-door sedan. Jetta Turbodiesel won a competition for the longest driven diesel car from VW with a little over 900 000 km passed. On a safety test, it was ranked second with one of the smallest collision losses and injury among all 4-door sedan cars except the Golf. Theft protection system was introduced, because of many robberies of radios.
The cars in North America had fewer specifications than those in Europe. However, it was with more features than the Golf. The handling and larger interior were well liked. The manual transmission and the braking system had some critiques and weaknesses. It was considered not very pleasant to drive and noisy but also cheaper than Audi. In 1987 Mark 2 GLI was launched with 16 valve Twin-cam 1.8 liter engine with 134hp and 1984cc and later on in 1990 updated with Mark 2 body style 2 liters 16-valve power plant.
It has been produced in China, USA, South Africa, Nigeria, Brazil, Yugoslavia, and Mexico. Later on, the Jetta was called Jetta Night.