Introduced in 1979, the Volkswagen Jetta compact sedan moves into its seventh generation for 2019, completely redesigned with a new chassis and all-new bodywork.
The first generation was boxy with sharp angles, but the design has softened through the years, but the latest model retains the VW hallmark of classic precision. Bauhaus design inspiration puts utility first and avoids excessive ornamentation, according to the German automaker.
The new Jetta is now based on the award-winning MQB platform (shared modular design construction of VW’s transverse, front-engine, front-wheel-drive vehicles), with bolder design, more interior space, innovative technology, and a lower base price.
Jetta is available in S ($18,545, more new technology and features, lower price), SE ($22,155, upscale driver-assistance and convenience systems), R-Line ($22,995, first for Jetta, sporty styling), SEL ($24,415, innovative Digital Cockpit, and 10-color ambient lighting), and SEL Premium ($26,945, luxury touches such as navigation and leather seats with front ventilation).
All Jettas come with the Volkswagen People First Warranty – six years or 72,000 miles, bumper-to-bumper, transferable to subsequent owners.
A 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 147 horsepower is mated to either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic and Sport mode.
The all-new eight-speed automatic offers two additional gears over its predecessor, while weighing the same. The shorter first gear provides faster acceleration. Both manual and automatic configurations are EPA rated for 30 mpg city/40 highway/34 combined. I managed 36.3 mpg, driving mostly on the highway.
Standard Start/Stop technology on the automatic-transmission models promotes fuel economy by stopping the engine during idling, then restarting seamlessly when the brake pedal is released.
My Jetta SE was Blue Silk (azure) with Storm Gray V-Tex leatherette interior. The upper interior (dash, door panels) were darker gray, with subtly patterned silver metallic trim dividing the colors.
Eight exterior colors are available, depending on trim level, including new Habanero Orange (fire, $295) and Sage (gray/green, exclusive to SEL and SEL Premium). Interiors come in Premium Cloth or V-Tex leatherette in Titan Black, Storm Gray, or Dark Beige, depending on trim level and exterior color chosen.
Jetta now has a unique light “signature,” with all-new standard LED daytime running lights, which, along with the standard automatic LED headlights, combine with the trapezoidal grille for a wide front graphic, creating a lower, sleeker appearance.
The grille is composed of four horizontal chrome bars (one large bar across the top), with two flowing into the angular headlight housing, connecting to the chrome-trimmed LEDs for a wraparound effect.
Taut surfaces and extended side windows underlined in chrome, along with a sloped roofline, visually reduce the car’s height and present a coupe-like impression. A sharply carved undercut character line runs just below the shoulder, at the level of the door handles, tapering off at the rear, extending across the top of the taillight housing and into the trunk lid. The side sills have a light crease, which extends toward the rear wheel arch.
Two creases start on the rear quarter panels and wrap around the bumper and rear fascia. The integrated rear spoiler emphasizes the car’s width, which is further highlighted by the sharp, angular lines of the LED taillights extending into the trunk lid. The addition of all LED lighting and more chrome gives Jetta a premium feel.
The Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB, Modularer Querbaukasten in German) allowed designers to reshape the body for a longer wheelbase, wider track and shorter front overhang. Jetta is also wider and taller, adding up to more interior space.
This architecture incorporates unitary construction with two solid-mounted subframes and bolt-on front fenders. The body and chassis feature a large percentage of ultra-high-strength, hot-formed steel, allowing thinner and lighter parts without loss of strength.
An active radiator shutter and air-curtain intakes on each side, along with aerodynamic wheel designs and underbody panels, allow Jetta to have a 10 percent improvement in aerodynamic flow over the previous model.
My Jetta SE had eye-catching 16-inch “Rama Black” (soot) two-tone wheels (silver-painted face with dark-painted pockets) with five forked “V” spokes, wearing all-season tires.
The redesigned interior was engineered for more comfort, and has more headroom, knee room, and shoulder room than the previous Jetta. The makeover includes new fabric colors and designs for the seats, including an ergonomically-optimized backrest release, and decorative door and dash trim.
Trapezoidal design elements from the exterior are echoed inside. In a first for Volkswagen, 10 colors of customizable interior ambient lighting can change the mood in an instant.
The trunk has 14.1 cubic feet of cargo, enough room for weekly groceries, cat supplies, and some holiday shopping as well.
Passengers were comfortable with 38.5 inches of headroom in the front and 37.2 inches in the rear; and 41.1 inches of legroom in the front, 37.4 inches in the rear.
Form follows function in the driver-focused cockpit, with the instrument panel and infotainment system arranged in an easy-to-read horizontal orientation. Infotainment and dual-zone automatic (SE trim and above) climate-controls are on the center console, which is angled toward the driver.
A multi-function trip computer is between the large speedometer and tachometer, showing fuel consumption, trip distance, Bluetooth status, and navigation directions (if equipped; my Jetta was not). The panoramic glass tilt/slide sunroof is standard on SE trims and above.
All 2019 Jettas have a multi-function steering wheel, leather-wrapped on SE and above. The heated driver’s seat is manually adjustable, including height. The passenger’s seat is manually adjustable four ways. Split-folding 60/40 rear seats are standard.
Standard Driver Personalization can store up to four settings to customize drive-mode selection, climate control, ambient lighting color, driver’s seat memory, driver-assistance system preferences, radio presets, Volkswagen Digital Cockpit arrangement, navigation view, and more, depending on the trim.
Volkswagen’s innovative MIB II infotainment system features a 6.5-inch capacitive-touch sensor, which doesn’t require pressure and enables gesture control like swiping and pinch-zooming. Car-Net is standard with App-Connect to run select smartphone/smartwatch apps through Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink, all free of charge.
My Jetta was not equipped with internal navigation or satellite radio, so App-Connect picked up the slack with my Google Maps and music apps.
There is a more-rigid body than on the previous Jetta, creating a safer vehicle with a laser-seam-welded body shell; crash-optimized, energy-absorbing front end; and heat-formed steel center pillars.
Seat-mounted side air bags protect the front passengers, while side-curtain air bags protect front and rear outboard seats.
Jetta is the only vehicle in its class with standard Automatic Post-Collision Braking, designed to apply the brakes when air bags inflate to help bring the car to a stop after a collision. Intelligent Crash Response reacts to an air bag deployment by turning off the fuel pump, unlocking the doors and activating the hazard lights.
My Jetta had Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist) to warn of impending frontal collision and assist in applying the brakes; and a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert to warn of vehicles approaching from the rear in traffic or from the side when reversing, with a range of about 65 feet (RTA will apply the brakes to mitigate or avoid a collision).
The redesigned Jetta is sleek and sporty, with Volkswagen’s clean, timeless design DNA. The most technologically advanced Jetta ever is still fun-to-drive, and even better looking and more comfortable.
I missed having navigation. I like to see a map when I’m in an unfamiliar area, but my smartphone helped with directions when needed.
Jetta has 24-hour roadside assistance for things like towing, jump starts, tire changes, out of fuel, and lock out.
Destination charges of $850 added to the base price of $22,155 brought the delivered price of my attractive Jetta to $23,050.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at email@example.com.