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First Drive 2019 Volkswagen Jetta: Mainstream American Family Sedan

When Volkswagen moved the Jetta down market with the sixth generation model, specifically designed and built for the North American market, there were more than a few enthusiasts who were disappointed as previous Jetta’s especially in GLI trim, gave you a bit of that BMW M driving experience at half the cost. The thing is, the move down market greatly increased sales, and at the end of the day, that is what a car company needs to do.

Now comes the all-new 2019 Jetta built on the MQB platform, though still specifically tailored for the North American market. Not that long ago the compact sedan segment was one of the main battlegrounds for all volume manufactures. Now with the market moving to CUV’s and SUV’s while the segment is still important, it’s not quite as critical, but that doesn’t mean OEM’s can slack off on quality, content, and pricing.

The new Jetta is a simple but handsome design, it has more sophistication in its looks than the outgoing model. The nose has VW’s new corporate grill, the hood has some stubble styling creases and the headlights are now LED’s

The side profile has a nice upswept look, while the rear is clean and nicely tailored. All of this leads to a 10% reduction in aero drag from .30 to .27. This reduction in aero drag leads to a nice quiet cabin with no wind noise being generated off any of the body.

Speaking of the quiet cabin the Jetta is among the quietest in the category. As mentioned there is no wind noise and very little road noise transmitted into the cabin. Sure, it’s not Audi quite, but the only car in this category that has less road noise in the cabin is maybe the Honda Civic.

Fit and finish inside the cabin is very good, the materials are on par with what you’d expect for the price and category. There is quite a bit of plastic, however, it does have soft touch material in all the right places and the plastics do have a quality look and feel to them. The seats are comfortable and firm, while I only drove the car for eighty to ninety miles, they feel as if they would be good for several hundred miles at a time. If I had one gripe about the interior it would be that the seats are a little high. Not only myself but my drive partner commented that we’d like the seats to adjust about an inch or two lower. Current North American trends say we like a higher seating position, but those above 6’3” or with a long torso might feel a little claustrophobic.

In vehicles with navigation, the Jetta’s 10.3” digital cockpit has a full-width high-resolution nav screen. If you’ve seen it the Audi’s then it’s very similar though smaller and no Google Maps integration, just standard road maps.

The eight-inch infotainment system is a nice upgrade from the last gen, though it swaps buttons for touch points on a high gloss screen. So, be prepared for an abundance of fingerprints. There is an optional Beats Audio system, that will be better than the standard audio, however, it’s nowhere near as good as the Fender system offered in other models. Mostly it’s a taste thing, but the audio is tuned as you’d expect Beats to be tuned, the bass is over-boosted.

Rear seat room is good, it’s right in line with the outgoing model. While it measures a little smaller Marc Gilles, VW’s Communication Manager pointed out that the way the room is measured it comes up against a structural area on the floor of the car. Being is as it’s a small bump you can still slide your feet easily under the front chairs, so effective legroom is no different even if it appears so on a spreadsheet.

Under the hood is a 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder producing 147 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 184 ft/lbs of torque at 1,400 rpm. While the numbers don’t look great, it produces good acceleration, Put your foot down and you can get rubber in two gears. It has more than enough power to get you up to speed comfortably and it rolls down the highway at 80mph with no problem. Fuel economy is rated 30 city, 40 highway and 34 combined. I saw 37 in mixed driving with lots of two-lane rural roads. Fuel economy is the same be it with the six-speed manual or the new eight-speed auto box.

The automatic does upshift quickly to keep the revs down, but with full torque available from just off idle it’s not a problem. In Eco mode we watched the tach as the Jetta upshifted into eighth by 43mph, never going above 1,800 revs.

On the road, the 2019 Jetta is highly competent. It’s no sports sedan, however, it does not need to apologize on how it handles on the back roads. On the highway and in stop and go traffic, the Jetta strikes a good balance of firm but comfortable. You don’t feel frost heaves and road joints transferred through the chassis and into the cabin, the suspension just soaks it up and moves along. The Jetta has a little body roll going into corners but not so much that it immediately pushes you into understeer.

Pricing on the Jetta is as follows:

In summery the all-new 2019 Jetta is a pretty impressive vehicle in its class. Again it makes no pretensions of being anything other than a mainstream volume family sedan, and under that premise it delivers. It’s fair value, and with Volkswagen’s new 6 year/72,000 mile transferable warranty buyers will have peace of mind knowing that if something does go amiss that it won’t be coming out of their pocket anytime soon.

When the Jetta gets to dealers at the end of April, there will be some great lease deals going on, I expect you will be able to get an S model for around $120/mo and an SEL for $170/mo, and at that price, you can’t go wrong. Other than the Honda Civic if I were spending my own money I can’t think of any other compact sedan I’d consider over the new Jetta.

  • Smaglik

    Did I read that right? It comes with a manual? Wait, nevermind. Only on the bottom spec. Sigh.

    • Wait 18 months for the GLI

    • Zentropy

      I don’t understand this practice, either. Kudos to Honda for recently offering a sprightly Accord with a manual.

  • Fred

    On that test drive, can’t VW program the directions into the GPS? Also since I’m playing this video on my laptop I can’t hear what you are hearing.

    • The model I had for that portion of the drive didn’t have nav. The one I drove earlier in the day did, and yes you could set waypoints into it.

  • Harry Callahan

    Looks like VW hired away the current Sonata designer….

    Snoooze……

    • Alff

      Little known fact – all mainstream sedan makers hired the same guy.

      • Harry Callahan

        Except Mazda…the 6 is a bit distinctive.

      • Monkey10is

        It is weird; I look at this car and see almost zero VW design cues. It is remarkably identity-less.

    • What kind of man puts catsup on a hot dog?

      • Harry Callahan

        Ketchup

  • Alff

    How did that post collision braking system perform?

    • Just fine, thank you!

    • outback_ute

      I’m surprised that they lump the collision avoidance tech under the term “Front Assist”, it made me wonder if the car actually had the stuff. And as a stand-alone $450 option you wonder if it would be cheaper to have just one configuration with it included across the board, given the safety benefit. I presume that reduced insurance premiums would make it beneficial for the buyer anyway.

  • Sjalabais

    Isn’t this very cheap? How would you stereotype the American Jetta buyer – if that, at all, is possible?

    In Eco mode we watched the tach as the Jetta upshifted into eighth by 43mph, never going above 1,800 revs.
    That’s quite the contrast to the Ford Galaxy diesel I rented in Germany this winter, that found its last gear at 190 kph / 120 mph in continous pedal-to-metal-acceleration. It surprised me a lot, especially since this was not a gas engine.

    • tonyola

      I’d say that American Jetta buyers are cross-shopping with the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. VW is no longer trying to charge a premium for “German engineering” – too many people have discovered to their dismay what that’s really about. The 2019 Jetta is in the same general price range as the 2018 Civic sedan.
      https://automobiles.honda.com/civic-sedan#specifications

  • Harry Callahan

    I understand that getting a drivetrain Federalized for emissions compliance is expensive, and is a major factor in why so few cars are offered with manual transmissions here in USA–the automatics and manuals must be certified separately since each configuration requires different ECU calibrations.

    That said, if VW has already paid to certify the manual, as offered only in the S trim, why the heck don’t they make it available in all trim levels? Even as an added cost, special order option?

  • Rover 1

    Since it gives both performance AND fuel economy improvements, at the same time, and FOR FREE, it’s good to read that some styling changes ” leads to a 10% reduction in aero drag from .30 to .27. ”

    But why has it taken so long to catch up to and finally pass the 1983 Renault 25(Cd 0.28)
    http://petrolblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Renault25.jpg

    or equal the 1984 Mercedes Benz W124(Cd 0.27), lower still on the coupe.
    https://assets.hemmings.com/blog/wp-content/uploads//2011/05/W124300E_1000.jpg

    or equal the 1989 Lexus LS400(Cd 0.27)
    http://dzag5wgsqu6mr.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/T_4449.jpg

    None of these cars are blobby ‘aero’ shapes, they’re all quite boxy, but smoothly contoured. None has styling that surprises or looks out of place. Why has it taken VW so long to catch up to the 1980s?

    • Zentropy

      I wonder if the pedestrian protection regulations have led to increases in Cd, given that the front end of cars are now designed to be “fatter”?

      • Rover 1

        The fronts of all those cars are higher than the new Jetta at the bonnet/hood edge. The Lexus and Mercedes Benz in particular are fairly bulbous.

        My point is also that these cars are from THIRTY YEARS AGO!

        And VW claims to be proud of only just, in the latest model, due to being a technologically leading manufacturer, bringing in changes that “lead(s) to a 10% reduction in aero drag from .30 to .27.”

    • outback_ute

      I wonder if those figures were calculated or measured, and scale or full size?

      They are also longer cars which helps, plus all but the Lexus would have narrower tyres; remember when manufacturers would quote different cD numbers for the base model? I wouldn’t say that the Jetta is a particularly blobby shape either, cf. Prius or Insight, so perhaps there is a practical minimum figure?

      • Rover 1

        Those figures are measured. Base tyre on the new Jetta is 195/65/15 the exact same size as the standard W124 and the same width as the Renault 25 on higher versions.

        The Lexus ran 225/60/16s and still achieved a lower Cd in 1996, yes it’s about 10% longer.

        BUT the Renault is from a 1984 design and we are in 2017.

        The W124 is from a 1986 design and is only 3 inches longer, the Coupe version, which is more aerodynamic still, is actually shorter by 0.1 inch.

        And we are in 2017.

        And VW is ‘proud’ of being a leader in design and technology.

        • Zentropy

          It’s an interesting discussion, though I wonder if we’ve reached the reasonable limits of drag reduction on production cars. Sure, you can create a car shaped like a raindrop, skirt the wheel wells, run skinny tires, and seal up the undercarriage, but some of these options aren’t entirely practical. Maybe we’re just at the point of diminishing returns, making it plausible that the substantial gains made since 1988 shouldn’t be compared to the low-hanging fruit engineers were able to grab prior.

          It’s also important to note that VW didn’t technically achieve “a 10% reduction in aero drag” when they went from a Cd of 0.30 to 0.27. Actual drag depends on the product of the coefficient and frontal area, meaning two cars can have identical Cd but exhibit different drag. The 2019 Jetta is larger than the outgoing model, but certainly not 10% larger, so there has been some measurable improvement. Regardless, I’m not sure anyone besides VW considers the company a leader in design and technology.

          • Rover 1

            Electric cars don’t have the cooling needs of combustion engines, so there is some hope there, Tesla have settled for ‘just good enough’ with 0.24 on the model S and 0.23 0n the Model 3., these figures equalling some other cars from Audi and Mercedes Benz with coolant radiators.
            The record holder is still the ’96 GM EV1 at 0.18 (TWENTY+ YEARS AGO)
            http://www.hybridcars.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/gm-ev1.jpg

            but then VW’s own XL1 equalled that, ( and drastically reduced the frontal area as well), despite a diesel engine supplement to it’s electric motors) The final ‘production’version went back up to 0.189. Proving that VW do know about aero.
            https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c6/2013-03-05_Geneva_Motor_Show_7986_zoom_in.JPG

            Your point about frontal area is quite valid, GMC’s FWD Transmode/Campervan/RV had a Cd of 0.31 but a big frontal area.

          • Monkey10is

            Your reminder that drag is the product of frontal area x Cd is a good one.

            Probably the truth of this is very mundane; the shape itself is probably not that much more slippery; but simple steps have made most of the difference.

            There is probably better airflow under the hood (along with better heat management) and intakes moved to less aerodynamically disruptive locations. So, although I haven’t seen close up shots to prove it, I’d expect that probably all of that wide chrome grille is a solid panel, as are the ‘brake duct intakes’ housing the fog lamps. All of the air intake is likely to be in the small ‘bottom feeder’ grille below the fender (aerodynamically the best place for it) or even the slot above the ‘splitter’ below.

            Other subtleties in how the air flows off the rear of the car (coupe-like roofline, the aero lip on the trunk lid, any tapering in the trunk planform etc.) have probably made up the rest of the difference.

            (But remember: IANAAE; I am not an automotive engineer…)

  • MattC

    Serious question and not one to offend the VW purists. Has VW improved on reliability or was the reliability issues overblown? In this arena, Toyota /Honda rules typically because of their reliability records. I like the look of this gen Jetta but do not want to be on the first name basis with the service department .

    • VW has their issues, but with the new 6/72 warranty that should alleviate some of the drama.