With the introduction of the redesigned 2019 Volkswagen Jetta, there can be little doubt that the German carmaker is serious about the U.S. market. Although it’s being assembled in Mexico (actually part of America, if we remember our geography accurately), the updated Jetta was designed and engineered specifically for American tastes. Moreover, Volkswagen is only offering it in the Americas. You may be asking: "So what?" Well, the major benefit to an America-only Jetta is that product planners loaded it with features popular with Americans of the U.S. variety. For example, LED headlights and taillights are standard on all grades, as are App-Connect and aluminum-alloy wheels.
Europe’s best-selling nameplate in the U.S., some 3.2 million Jettas have been sold in this country since 1990. Americans love Jettas, and there’s even more to love in this longer, wider and taller edition. Assembled on VW’s Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) platform that underpins the new Atlas, the seventh-generation Jetta provides a pleasing (and quite American) compromise between ride quality and handling.
More coupe-like in its exterior styling, the redesigned Jetta still doesn’t stray all that far from the lines of the last generation. It seems odd to us, though, that for a model targeting young buyers to the point that BeatsAudio now supplies the audio upgrade, there aren’t more interesting exterior colors from which to choose. For the most part, the available colors are dominated by the usual array of white, silver, gray and black. There are, however, red, blue and burnt orange that add at least a touch of pizzazz to the paint choices.
What’s New for 2019?
The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta is totally redesigned. A high performance version, the Jetta GLI, will be available in Spring 2019.
What We Like
More bang for the buck than last year’s version; standard LED lighting; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard; forward-collision warning/emergency braking and blind spot monitoring are standard on most grades; 6-year/72,000-mile limited warranty
What We Don’t
No turbo diesel; middle-of-the-road driving dynamics; loss of Fender audio system upgrade; no paddle shifters available for the automatic tranny
The only engine offered is a carry-over from last year’s Jetta. It’s a 147-horsepower 1.4-liter 4-cylinder turbo. Granted, 147 ponies don’t sound like a lot, but the 184 lb-ft of torque arriving at 1,400 rpm brings a bit of gusto to accelerating. Neck snapping, no. Lively, yes. All but the entry-level S grade come with an all-new 8-speed automatic ($800 option in S grade). A 6-speed manual transmission ushers engine output to the front wheels in the S grade. Four driving modes (Normal, Sport, Eco and Custom) offer different shift points and throttle mapping, as well as changes to steering, HVAC and so forth on SEL and SEL Premium trims.
No matter which transmission switches the cogs, the government estimates fuel economy will be 30 miles per gallon in the city and 40 mpg highway.
Standard Features & Options
Volkswagen offers Jetta in four grades. Prices include the $895 factory delivery fee.
The Jetta S ($19,440) anchors the trim choices with standard equipment including LED daytime running lights/headlights/taillights, 16-inch alloy wheels, cloth seats, power outboard mirrors, power locks/windows, air conditioning, auto on/off headlights, six airbags, a backup camera, an automatic post-collision brake system, Bluetooth connectivity, Car-Net App-Connect, a 6.5-in touchscreen and a 4-speaker audio system with a USB port. The only factory options are heated outboard mirrors and the Driver-Assistance Package with front-collision warning/automatic emergency braking and blind spot monitoring with rear-traffic alert.
The SE ($23,050) improves on or adds to the S standard features and options with a panoramic power sunroof, 16-in 2-tone alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a leather gearshift knob, a rear-seat center armrest, heated front seats, leatherette seating surfaces, dual-zone automatic climate control and remote keyless entry with push-button start. The only factory option is the Cold Weather Package with a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, remote start and heated windshield wipers and heated washer nozzles.
Adding to the SE, the R-Line ($23,890) includes front fog lights, a gloss-black front grille, black side-mirror caps, a unique rear bumper with dual exhaust ports and 17-in gray alloy wheels. Optional is the Cold Weather Package.
The SEL ($25,310) loses the fog lights, but gains LED projector headlights, replaces the 17-in wheels with the 16-in 2-tone alloy wheels, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, 10-color ambient interior lighting, 400-watt 8-speaker BeatsAudio system with subwoofer, an 8-in touchscreen, two USB ports, a 10.25-in digital cockpit display, satellite radio capability, Car-Net Security & Service, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and automatic high beams. The Cold Weather Package is optional.
To the SEL equipment and option package, the SEL Premium ($27,840) adds outboard mirrors with integrated turn signals, 17-in two-tone alloy wheels, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with memory, front sport comfort seats, leather seating, upgraded 8-in touchscreen and Car-Net Guide & Inform.
A backup camera and six airbags, in addition to the usual passive safety systems like ABS and stability control are standard on all Jettas. Every Jetta grade except the S comes standard with forward-collision warning/automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring and rear-traffic alert. These are a $450 option package on the S grade. SEL and SEL Premium add adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and automatic high beams. All Jettas come with post-collision brake system.
No third party has crash tested the 2019 Jetta.
Behind the Wheel
Volkswagen has engineered the rehabbed Jetta to perform within the parameters of its competition, but it doesn’t outshine it. It has always punched above its price in the way it feels and behaves. It looks and feels like more than a $20,000 sedan — that hasn’t changed. In Americanizing it, however, it has lost some of its scrappy edge. We think Jetta lovers may find the seventh generation a bit too refined. Speaking as Americans, we certainly appreciate the quiet, comfy ride. We also like all the connectivity and technology, but miss the emotion. Maybe we just can’t get over the loss of the turbo diesel-engine. It’s like when your rowdy running buddy gets married. You still like him and you’re still friends, but he has settled down and grown up. Ugh. Where’s the fun in that?
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Honda Civic — No discussion of small sedans is complete without mentioning the highly versatile Civic. It offers something for nearly everyone.
2018 Mazda3 — Sporty and fuel efficient, the Mazda3 is not only fun, but it offers an array of standard features and available technologies.
2018 Chevrolet Cruze — Often overlooked when shopping in this segment, the Cruze gets high marks for its handling and infotainment/connectivity technology. And if you want that diesel, look at the Cruze Hatchback.
2018 Kia Forte — Surprisingly roomy, the Forte also scores with its value, user-friendly touchscreen interface and solid warranty.
If you want to stir the transmission yourself, we think the Jetta S with the Driver-Assistance Package is the way to go. The S has a lot of content, and you’re out the door for 20 grand. Even if you want and pay for the 8-speed automatic, the S is still a great deal.