2019 Volkswagen Jetta

By September 11, 2019

The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta compact sedan returns for the new model year to serve as the companion to the related Golf hatchback. Conservative in its style, the VW Jetta is well-mannered on the road, as well as amply-equipped.

New for 2019, the redesigned Jetta shares few components with its 2018 predecessor. A spirited, turbocharged Jetta GLI has joined the lineup. Alloy wheels and full LED lighting are now standard, and active safety features are widely available.

Crisp sheetmetal marks the new Jetta, which rides atop a sophisticated platform, like that used for Golf and other VW models. While those vehicles employ a multi-link rear suspension, the Jetta retains a simple torsion-beam setup except on the GLI, which gets that independent rear suspension.

Five Jetta trim levels are offered: S, SE, R-Line, SEL, and SEL Premium. Three GLI versions are available: S, Autobahn, and 35th Anniversary Edition.

In all Jettas except the new GLI, a 1.4-liter turbo-4 engine is rated at a modest 147 horsepower, but delivers 184 pound-feet of torque. It mates with either a 6-speed manual (standard on S trim) or an 8-speed automatic.

Beneath the Jetta GLI hood is a different 2.0-liter turbo-4, borrowed from the Golf GTI. It whips up 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet. The GLI can have either the manual gearbox or a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Active-safety technology is standard on all Jettas except the S trim, which can be similarly equipped by adding a $450 Driver Assistance option package. Safety and driver-assistance features in the group include automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors. SEL trim level adds adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, automatic high-beam LED headlights, and active lane control.

Crash-testing by the NHTSA resulted in five-star ratings overall and for side-impact, and a four-star rating for frontal impact and for rollover prevention (a calculated figure).

Subpar headlights kept the Jetta from achieving Top Safety Pick status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Otherwise, the IIHS gave Jetta “Good” scores in all of its instrumented crash tests.

Model Lineup

Prices do not include $895 destination charge.

The 2019 VW Jetta S ($18,745 with manual shift, $19,545 with automatic), the base model, is well-equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, cloth upholstery, steering-wheel audio controls, and a 6.5-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

A $450 Driver Assistance package adds automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alerts.

SE ($22,395) comes only with automatic transmission, adding safety features from the Driver Assistance package, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition, heated front seats, synthetic leather upholstery, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

R-Line ($23,245) features a sportier body kit, fog lights, and 17-inch wheels, and an electronic differential.

SEL ($24,695) gets a 10.25-inch “digital cockpit” screen that replaces conventional gauges, plus 400-watt BeatsAudio, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control.

SEL Premium ($27,695) includes the configurable display, along with leather seats, navigation, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, and 8-way power driver’s seat with memory and lumbar support.

GLI S ($25,995 with manual, $26,795 with DSG dual-clutch) comes with a lowered suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels, limited-slip differential, LED headlights and taillights, heated steering wheel, and keyless ignition. Heated cloth sport seats feature red contrast stitching. The 6.5-inch touchscreen offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Forward-collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot monitors are included.

GLI 35th Anniversary Edition ($26,995 with manual, $27,795 with DSG) adds unique wheels and adjustable adaptive dampers. Three modes are available: Comfort, Normal, and firmer Sport.

GLI Autobahn ($29,195 with manual, $29,995 with DSG) adds a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, 8.0-inch touchscreen, heated/cooled leather-upholstered seats, power driver’s seat with memory and lumbar support, BeatsAudio, and panoramic sunroof.

Exterior

The latest VW Jetta has some deeply stamped and crisp body lines that don’t overcome the basically conservative design. Its proportions are clean and elegant. Standard LED headlights provide a distinct view. SEL trim gets more sophisticated LED projector headlights, accompanied by halo-effect running lights.

Side skirts make GLI sedans appear lower – and they are, with a 0.6-inch suspension drop. A red streak within the honeycomb grille was inspired by Volkswagen’s sporty Golf GTI.

Interior

Each Jetta makes good use of its interior space, backed by a well-finished feel. Front seats are firm and nicely-bolstered, but short on lumbar support.

Two adults can expect good space in back, and a third passenger might be welcome for shorter journeys.  Wide back doors give rear-seat occupants easy access. Rear legroom tops that of typical small cars.

Jettas feel tightly assembled, in a price-appropriate interior. Soft-touch door and dashboard trim clashes with a few grainy plastic pieces.

Durable cloth upholstery in a Jetta S seems more compelling than synthetic leather in SE, and SEL versions. Only SEL Premium features leather-upholstered seats, benefiting greatly from adjustable lumbar support. GLI cloth seats also excel, though more lumbar is needed.

Jetta dashboards lean toward the driver. The Jetta SEL gets an 8.0-inch touchscreen rather than the usual 6.5-inch unit. The 10.25-inch widescreen display on top trim levels substitutes for conventional analog gauges.

At 14.1 cubic feet, trunk capacity is on track for a mid-size sedan, though it’s somewhat less than the space in a similarly sized Golf hatchback.

Driving Impressions

The latest VW Jetta has a friendly, docile personality in base trims. It’s quite unlike the engaging feel conveyed by the GLI version, which steps up a notch in sporty attitude. Regular Jettas make excellent long-distance cruisers, thanks to their exceptional 40-mpg fuel economy on the highway.

Even though Jettas use the same stiff structure as the enjoyable Golf, comfort takes charge in the sedan. The soft Jetta suspension grapples well with pockmarked pavement, yielding an easygoing ride. Accurate steering responds quickly. The engine does its best, accelerating at an adequate pace. The manual gearbox permits crisp shifting, assisted by a light, easy clutch.

Upper trim levels offer four drive modes. In Sport, steering firms up nicely when pushed, but remains quick and light in urban situations.

For spirited driving, the Jetta GLI is the solution. Its stronger turbo-4 builds power quickly (and quietly). That 228-hp engine works well with either the slick-shifting manual gearbox or the fast-acting dual-clutch automatic. The reduced ride-height GLI suspension is firmer and more responsive, approaching the feel of a Golf GTI. Brakes come from the Golf R, but a GLI rides more firmly than the regular Jetta.

The 2019 Jetta ranks among the most fuel-efficient compact sedans. With either transmission, it’s EPA-rated at 30/40 mpg City/Highway, 34 Combined. The 8-speed automatic’s stop/start system is less intrusive than most. The Jetta GLI is EPA-rated at 25/32/28 mpg with either the 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Final Word

Spacious and comfortable, as well as well-built and competent, the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta makes for good value. The Jetta SE may be the top choice for frugal drivers, while the SEL Premium is well-filled with features. The Jetta GLI is a natural; it provides much of the joy offered by the Golf GTI, for a lower price.

 

Driving impressions by Andrew Ganz, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.