For 2019, Volkswagen‘s classy compact got a major update. We gave the new model a whuppin’ on some twisties in the Tar Heel State. Here’s what you need to know if you’re in the market for a new sedan.
It’s More Focused
The Jetta—now 40 years old—enters model year 2019 on a new platform—VW’s MQB architecture, the same as its amusingly proficient Golf. The Jetta still lacks its smaller sibling’s flickable nature, but the Jetta delivers just enough teutonic handling that you’ll find yourself taking the long route to the grocery store, especially if you select the R-Line trim, which has an electronic front differential to transfer the 1.4-liter four engine’s 147 horsepower instantaneously between the front wheels. Its exterior look is sharper, too, with a sloped rear roofline and the emphasized front grill that’s de rigueur in the car design world.
The Cockpit’s All About You
Sit inside and there’s no doubt that VW is trying to make the point that as opposed to its family-ferrying competition, the Jetta is more of a driver’s car: The center of the dash is clearly angled toward the driver’s seat. There’s plenty of attention given to personalization: The radio station options on view, driver seat position, and even the color of the interior ambient lighting can be associated with a particular keyfob.
It’s a Value Play
Compared with the more playful-seeming Civic, the Jetta seems like the grown up in the room. But it’s not priced that way—and you should maybe even consider it if you’re in the market for a first car for a teenager. Here’s why: You can opt for the lowest-rung “S” model and add on a suite of driver assist technologies: forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, and emergency braking—and still come in around $19,000. If you’re buying for yourself, the Jetta can be optioned up to around $28,000, with options like a panoramic sunroof, the 10-inch Digital cockpit, rain-sensing wipers, and more.
The Warranty Is Impressive
Remember Dieselgate, the scandal where VW agreed to pay $25 billion in claims and buy back around half a million cars, due to its emissions cheats? Hard to imagine, but the whole scheme unraveled just under three years ago. In an effort to rebuild trust in the brand, VW is giving the new Jetta an impressive warranty (inline with most of its other new models): six years or 72,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper and powertrain coverage. That’s double the Honda Civic’s basic warranty. It’s transferrable, too: When you sell it, the next owner will retain its benefits.
You Can Still Get a Manual
Though you’ll likely find nothing lacking in the Jetta’s 8-speed automatic, implemented by VW here for the first time, you can still opt for a six-speed manual—an increasing rarity.
It’s Thrifty on Gas
During a jaunt around Durham, NC, and its backroads, we got just over 36 miles a gallon in the new Jetta. That’s better than the 34 mpg stated by VW, and likely a tad better than you’d see from a Chevy Cruze or a Honda Civic. The jump in fuel economy is due in part to the new design’s lower coefficient of drag, and active louvers in the grille.
Fender Is Out and Beats Is in
The Jetta’s upscale audio option ushers in a new partnership with Beats by Dre for an upscale soundsystem—the same spot where Fender played in the past. The Beats system distributes 400 watts across seven speakers, including a subwoofer housed in the spare wheel well. Beats engineers claim they tuned the system for a sound that’s similar to what engineers hear in the studio. We were only mildly impressed by its soundstage, but stepped into a model without the system and immediately missed it. If you’re in the market, drive one with, one without, and make the call yourself.
[From $18,545; vw.com]