This is was is a representation of Carly (I never bothered to take pics of her when I had the chance, so you'll have to deal with this random image I found). As you can see, she was a 2002 Volkswagon Jetta GLS in Baltic Green, which I understand was only available for exactly one model year (which makes me feel special). Doug DeMuro wonders what's the deal with Jetta tuner culture. I offer that the answer is: Carly.

Carly wasn't my first car, or even my car in any way speaking whatsoever. She was my mom's, in the same way DeMuro points out that only cute sorority girls drove Jettas, except this wasn't a cute sorority girl, this was my mom, so ewww. And she wasn't the only one to drive this Jetta, as this was my main means of getting from point A to B during my junior and senior years of high school other than walking. Carly had a 2.0 four-banger that put out a whopping 115 HP, which is much less than the typical four-bangers most midsizers have today. She also weighed 3,500 lbs, which is...about the same as most midsizers today.

Oh.

But she felt a lot more lithe than what those figures suggest. A big part of that was a very smooth-shifting 5 speed manual. A 5-speed manual that C/D, MT and even Edmunds.com said pretty much sucked (well, not in those words, but some stuff about "rubbery feel" and "cowl shake"). Trust me, it feels smooth when your only other automotive experience at that time is an automatic Caravan, so meh. And those 3,500 lbs sat on a very, very short wheelbase. Maybe not exactly Mini-like, or even like the new Mini, but you can throw it around a skidpad and have fun. In a lot of ways it's like a Miata with four doors and a roof. Sure, it won't win any outright drag races, and people will just see it as another anonymous entry-level sedan, but there are a few who appreciate the car for what it can deliver, and what it can deliver is a lot of fun. Also, the fact that it had four doors. When you're a freshly-minted driver in high school, you know how useful having four doors is.

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Oh, and it turns out Carly was a chick magnet. Well, one chick I knew who had a prev-gen Jetta (in the more common, almost VW-signature Forest Green) liked the fact that it was Baltic Green. Also, being able to shift through your own gears and hear the engine buzz while you pass all those other losers out there despite "only 115 highway passings" really impresses people (see four-door comment above).

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Carly later got traded for - get ready for this - a Hyundai Veracruz. Yup. I myself later moved on to a Chevy Malibu (the first-gen FWD one, proving that you can have fun in high school with anything with four doors but beyond that you're on your own) and then a Hyundai Santa Fe (I don't know why, because dumbass I guess). Carly really wasn't my first car because technically I didn't own her, but she was certainly fun to drive, had a lot going for her and you have to admit those early 2000 interiors were nice for the time. I can still smell all that plastic and fabric. Hey, it still beats an 80s Caravan. For someone who was just 16 and didn't know any better she might as well have been an Evo.

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photo for illustrative purposes only - me and Carly never went auto-crossing together Photo credit some guy named John Abella on Flickr, visit here

Oh, and the name Carly? You might be thinking it's pun-based (Car-ly, get it?) or that I have some thing for Miranda Cosgrove but it was for some girl I fancied back in high school. In a lot of ways she was like a Jetta (except for the being bloated part) - the quiet girl who a lot of people ignored but there were a few quirky people who saw something else in her. Of course, later on in life you meet people who you thought you knew and they turn out to do a complete 360, and you feel kind of glad that things went in a different direction in your life. Carly wasn't an exception - and I feel the metaphor fits Carly-Jetta too. Towards the end, she was too small, putting on the miles (she's still a VW product after all) and by that point even the 245 horses in my Santa Fe showed that her time had passed and it's time to move on. Trading her in was a moment of hesitation for the whole family though - we all had fun in her (insert "that's what she said" joke in here) and I was sure to keep a memento of her, a plastic fastener I found randomly rattling around in the glove compartment (more of that quality VW-via-Mexico assembly there).

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Don't tell the Hyundai dealership that last part.