Well, I'm joining this VW
thread late, I'm so ashamed.
I've had my 97 Jetta TDI for about six and a half years now. Out of pocket expenses other than routine maintenance has totalled less than $500. That was for a battery (not routine maintenance as it died in under 2 years, a power steering reservoir, wiper stalk, and diagnostics for uneven turbo boost). That's definitely excellent in my book for a car with 212,000 km's. Because of my positive experience, my friend's mom bought a 2000 Beetle TDI, and it has been okay, but not great. Despite that, it has 220,000 km, and is still solid, and drives incredibly well. It will last a long time still. She just took delivery of a brand new Touareg V6 this week, and I'm hoping it will treat her well.
My two bosses bought 2003 Jetta TDI's just over one year ago, and they've been flawless. My dad drives a 2001 Passat 1.8T and the only expense outside routine maintenance was for an airflow cover underneath the vehicle that got damaged somehow, otherwise it's been flawless too at 75,000 km. So if you take my experiences and of those that I know well, in my opinion VW
's are still very good cars.
To get a better idea for your case though, it all depends on your expectations. It also depends on what engine you are looking at. Like has been said, if you want numb, mindless transportation, the Japanese have that market cornered. If you want low finance rates and cheap parts (which are replaced frequently) go with the American companies. If you don't mind more expensive parts but to have a vehicle that maintains its value very well, drives very nicely, and has a nice overall feel, plus 12 year rust warranty, the VW
's are great vehicles. If you want another small, but fun car, check out the Mazda 3. It's quite a bit less expensive than the VW
's, but provides an excellent chassis.
I know this is a long reply, and I hope it's not too confusing. Let us know what engine, etc, you're looking at, and ask any specific questions. And just like CPDC10 said, check out http://www.vwvortex.com
as the ultimate resource for VW
"it's kind of like an Airbus, it's an engineering marvel, but there's no sense of passion" -- J. Clarkson re: Coxster