The Volkswagen Jetta has been around for quite some time now, having been first released in 1979 in the throes of the oil crisis, when small cars and efficiency were the order of the day for auto designers. The very first Jetta and every generation afterwards have shared a chassis with the Golf hatchback, opting for a slightly less convenient trunk. Over the years, it’s gotten bigger and more luxurious and now is a decently sized sedan. With the current, sixth generation of the Jetta hanging around since 2011, it was time for a refresh. This time, VW opted for their new MQB platform, which also underpins the Golf and Atlas models.
When you get a first look at the new Jetta, there’s no denying it’s a Volkswagen. The brand identity is strong through a very distinctive front facia with the prominent VW logo in the center. This new model takes the design of the previous generation and updates and softens it slightly, with some curves to go along with the straight lines. And there are lots of lines! No less than 6 character lines adorn the hood alone, which might lead you to worry that the design is too busy. Viewed from a distance, however, the lines are clean and the proportions are right. Is this going to win any design awards? Probably not. But it is a handsome little sedan.
At first, the Jetta is only available with a very European 1.4-Liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Putting out 147hp and a respectable 184lb-ft of torque, it does a decent job of pushing the car along. The 8-speed automatic transmission has plenty of cogs to always make use of that torque, so it feels a little quicker than it really is. Not too many drag races will be won, but it doesn’t feel sluggish and it returns an impressive 30mpg city and 40mpg on the highway. Our test vehicle had the R-Line package, which is supposed to be the more performance-oriented version. But the all-season tires really let the handing down and took a bit of the R out of R-Line. We’d like to see more performance oriented tires on a sport version. Instead of giving us a loaded one, however, it was nice to try one that wasn’t the most expensive version in the lineup for a change. Starting at just $23k, the R-Line strikes a good balance between features and price. With a large LCD display, the infotainment system is easy to use and has great smartphone connectivity, with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay standard.
Some really fun tech goodies are available as options or in the higher line trims, such as a completely ‘glass’ cockpit that replaces the standard gauge cluster with a completely customizable widescreen LCD, and a full suite of active safety features. The SEL Premium trim starts at $27k and can cross above $30k if you heap on the options, but at that point you’re getting every feature you could ever want. We definitely look forward to what we hope will be an forthcoming GLI performance model, with a 2.0-turbo and even more performance. In the meantime, however, it’s just nice to see a well-rounded platform like this right out of the gate. The fit/finish of the interior is pleasing and the seats are quiet comfortable. The R-Line steering wheel is a highlight, wrapped in leather and with nice thumb grips and aluminum accents. Overall, the interior is just like the exterior. Handsome, but not revolutionary in any way. Essentially VW has given us a great little sedan, with nothing to rave about, but also not much to complain about. When coupled with VW’s new transferrable 6-year, 72k mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, you start to see real value in the new Jetta. Especially if you cover lots of highway miles, this will get better mileage than some hybrids.
Overall, the new Jetta isn’t as much a revolution as it is an evolution. Taking advantage of the same platform sharing concept that started the whole model almost 40 years ago, VW has managed to create a new Jetta that fits just like a well worn-in glove. It’s at once familiar, yet modern. Unfortunately, with many companies offering more exciting alternatives, this Jetta might just be too boring. But if you’re just looking for a good little sedan with a great warranty, you have to consider the 2019 Jetta.
Special thanks to Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. for providing the 2019 VW Jetta R-Line for review.