I've had a few VWs, the last 2 being 99 and 00 TDIs, a Jetta 5spd and a Golf auto, the first an 87 Jetta GLI and a 98 Passat 1.8T (2 of them got wrecked, hence the early replacements!). My 00 TDI fuel pump melted at high altitude, and I dumped the car because, indeed, it was a $4k repair.
Base Jettas now have been de-contented ("redesigned") to compete with Corollas. The only VWs true to the form of my 87 (a real sport VW) are possibly the current GLI, and really only the GTI. Nothing replaces the torque and fun of a TDI in this class, but if you're going to deal with German repair costs, you'd be better off buying a Mercedes (which I did, 3 times after VW)
I find my Focus SE Sport to handle very much like my 87 GLI (which is to say, light, fun, and with "playful" and easily-managed understeer).
So far, at 18k, I've spent about $120 on maintenance. Cheapest car I've ever owned. Can't say that about any VW, especially a TDI