Volkswagen needs you…and a lot of other Americans…to reach their goal of 5% U.S. market share. It’s about 2% today. Their new atlas and Tiguan SUVs will certainly help, but they need more. So, enter an all-new Jetta compact sedan. Now, VW says that more than ever, it was designed with Amercian buyers in mind. But in doing so, VW risks ruining what made Jetta popular in the first place. So let’s see how well VW walks that tight rope.
With over 17½ million sold since 1979, the Volkswagen Jetta is a well-recognized, global nameplate. When the last Jetta sedan debuted right around the beginning of this decade, it was part of Volkswagen’s new strategy to not only build cars in North America, but to tailor them specifically for American drivers.
What that meant was less emphasis on ride-and-handling, making space and price the priorities. That “bigger and cheaper is better” approach yielded exactly the desired results, record sales.
For 2019, the 7th gen. Volkswagen Jetta not only doubles down on that strategy, but attempts to bring more driving excitement back into the mix.
While it still bears a resemblance to the conservative Passat, it’s certainly the most dynamic Jetta we’ve ever seen, and if you were expecting to hear the words “coupe-like profile”; well, they’re here.
The other usual descriptors apply as well, longer wheelbase, shorter overhangs, wider track; and cliché as it all may be, it’s hard to argue with the very handsome results.
A slicker shape is only part of what VW has done to get back some of the fuel economy lost without diesel or hybrid models. Active grille shutters up front, and while technically the same engine, the 1.4-liter turbo behind that grille is now tuned for more efficiency.
3-horsepower was lost in that transformation, now at 147; but torque remains the same at 184 lb-ft.
Furthering the theme, base cars get an extra gear for a 6-speed manual, and the optional automatic is now an 8-speed.
The results are improved Government Fuel Economy Ratings of 30-City, 40-Highway, and 34-Combined; the same regardless of transmission.
While far from flashy inside, the exaggerated tilt of the center stack, sets a more driver-oriented tone to the space; and there’s much less hard plastic to be found, leaving nothing much to complain about.
And impressive features like the digital dash won’t be found anywhere else in this segment.
Top SEL Premium trim will also get you leather seats, both heated and ventilated; a new 8-inch Discover Media infotainment with navigation; selectable drive modes, and a 10-color LED ambient lighting system.
There is indeed plenty of space inside to get comfortable, no matter whether you’re the driver or just along for the ride. And cargo space is plentiful as well, at 14.1 cubic-ft.; 60/40 split-folding seatbacks are standard.
Our early drive time came around Raleigh, North Carolina; and we’ll jump right in with talk of the suspension. Yes, a torsion beam is back at the rear on all trims. And while it’s easy to complain; for American Jetta buyers, it’s likely the ideal blend of capability with great everyday comfort.
And, it keeps costs down. Helping offset that is the fact that that torsion beam is now bolted to VW’s MQB architecture. Does it provide A4-like sport sedan agility? Not quite. Is it a sensibly entertaining everyday compact sedan? We’d say yes and then some. Certainly more lively than segment leaders Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.
The new 8-speed automatic stays very busy managing power delivery from the little 1.4-liter; but it does so without undo effort. Sporty R-Line trim has no any added power, but it does get an XDS electronic differential, unique wheels, black trim, and dual exhaust tips.
VW is certainly attempting to attract your bucks by delivering as much bang as possible; very well equipped base S trim starts at $19,395, down 100 bucks from last year; top trim SEL Premium goes for $27,795. Plus, VW’s new People First warranty includes bumper-to-bumper protection for 6 years or 72,000 miles.
It would be foolish to expect the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta alone to put the brand’s sale’s goal within reach. But, it is another correct step in that direction. VW has walked the tight rope well. So, if you’re thinking about a compact sedan, with Corolla and Civic on your list, we think you should add the very entertaining VW Jetta at the top.
Engine: 1.4 liter
Torque: 184 lb-ft.
EPA: 30 mpg city / 40 mpg highway