2020 Volkswagen Jetta

2020 Volkswagen Jetta Review: Refined And Reliable

by Deiondre van der Merwe

The trusty Volkswagen Jetta raises its familiar head yet again in 2020 - an ever-present competitor in the dwindling compact sedan segment where it rather subtly tackles the likes of the Honda Civic Sedan and Mazda 3. Still, most consumers who purchase the Jetta put a more significant focus on overall refinement, reliability, and value - which the Jetta certainly delivers. Those are the primary characteristics for which it is best known and over 100,000 consumers in the US chose to purchase one in 2019. All models in the range share the same turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that imparts a modest 147 horsepower, and all but the S model comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The Jetta is sophisticated and amicable but lacks excitement in comparison to competitors, which is a shame when Volkswagen asks upwards of $18,895 for it.

2020 Volkswagen Jetta Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2019 Jetta?

The 2020 Jetta range hasn't changed substantially other than the addition of a Wi-Fi hotspot as standard, wireless charging from the SEL trim upwards, and the standard Cold Weather package offered from the SEL. Unfortunately, the Jetta now has a shorter warranty, down from a six-year/72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty in favor of a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty. Both the SEL and SEL Premium models now come fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels.

Pros and Cons

  • Budget-friendly for shoppers with tight finances
  • Great standard features
  • Manual option available
  • Very fuel-efficient
  • Affordable additional packages
  • Capacious trunk
  • Only one engine choice
  • Sluggish performance
  • Not very unique

2020 Volkswagen Jetta Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
1.4T S
1.4-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Manual
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$18,895
1.4T SE
1.4-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$22,645
1.4T R-Line
1.4-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Manual
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$22,695
1.4T SEL
1.4-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$25,495
1.4T SEL Premium
1.4-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$27,945

Jetta Exterior

The 2020 Jetta range stays true to its recent redesign, with no substantial changes present on the exterior compared to the 2019 model. Nevertheless, the Jetta isn't particularly hard on the eyes and is sophisticated and conservative by exterior design terms. It's a typical compact sedan by nature and does not have many unique exterior features in comparison to competitors, though the LED headlights (projector-type on the SEL and SEL Premium) and taillights are quite attractive. The base model comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, and 17-inch alloy wheels become a standard offer from the R-Line model upwards, while a panoramic sunroof is standard on all but the base S. The R-Line also gets unique exterior styling inspired by the Golf R, along with black mirror caps.

2020 Volkswagen Jetta Front View Driving Volkswagen
2020 Volkswagen Jetta Front View Volkswagen
2020 Volkswagen Jetta Front View Driving 1 Volkswagen
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Dimensions

Based on Volkswagen's MQB platform, the Jetta's wheelbase is long enough for a compact sedan and on par with competitors in the segment coming in at a measurement of 105.7 inches. It's 185.1 inches in length, has a good width of 70.8 inches, and shares similar dimensions to rivals. All models share the same approximate curb weight of 2,959 pounds, making the Jetta slightly more portly than the Hyundai Elantra's mass of 2,844 lbs, while the Honda Civic Sedan is up to 200 lbs lighter in its base form.

  • Length 185.1 in
  • Wheelbase 105.7 in
  • Height 57.4 in
  • Max Width 70.8 in
  • Front Width 60.7 in
  • Rear Width 60.4 in

Exterior Colors

Offering a combination of nine paint options, the Jetta's color palette is basic but pleasant. Available plain colors include Black and Pure White, while Tornado Red - available on all but the SEL Premium - and Habanero Orange Metallic (a $295 premium option) are still available for the slightly daring. The metallic paint range is quite extensive for an entry-level compact sedan and includes Silk Blue (on all but the R-Line), Deep Black Pearl, Platinum Gray, Pyrite Silver, and Sage Green - Silk Blue is a personal favorite.

  • Habanero Orange Metallic
  • Black Uni
  • Tornado Red
  • Blue Silk Metallic
  • Pure White
  • Pyrite Silver Metallic
  • Platinum Gray Metallic
  • Deep Black Pearl Metallic
  • Deep Black Pearl

Jetta Performance

The Jetta's one-for-all turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine isn't particularly thrilling to drive, but it provides enough reliable and stable power to get the job done. It will get you from 0-60 mph in a leisurely 7.7 seconds - average for the segment and well behind the performance-oriented Jetta GLI's circa six-second sprint. It's worthwhile noting, however, that the Jetta produces more torque than both of its main rivals. There is no distinct difference in acceleration times between the six-speed manual transmission and the eight-speed automatic transmission; however, the auto is smoother. While it's not exactly a performance sedan, the XDS differential found in the R-Line model does provide more traction, meaning out on the real world there's better cornering grip than many rivals. The Jetta reaches a maximum speed of 127 miles per hour, typical for the segment - you shouldn't be expecting more than this from an entry-level compact sedan, anyway.

2020 Volkswagen Jetta Front View Driving 2 Volkswagen
2020 Volkswagen Jetta Rear Angle View Volkswagen
2020 Volkswagen Jetta Wheel Volkswagen

Engine and Transmission

One standard engine is available throughout the Jetta range, a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that yields a self-effacing 147 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. The Base model Jetta S comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, as does the R-Line, while optional on those two, and standard on all others, is an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Both of the transmissions are undifferentiated in terms of acceleration times, but the automatic transmission is seamless in the way it shifts. Overtaking abilities on the highway are rather lazy, despite the turbo engine's strong torque figure, and the Jetta runs out of breath when performing highway passes - not an uncommon trait in the segment. Acceleration from a standstill is slightly more pleasing due to the steady amount of torque, so it's not all bad. To be fair, the sedan delivers on reliability and provides enough power to get you from A to B, so it does the job that's required of it. Put it next to a slightly more nippy and powerful Honda Civic, though, and things tend to start getting slightly glummer for the Jetta.

  • Engine
    1.4-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmissions
    6-Speed Manual, 8-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain
    FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

The Jetta cannot be faulted in terms of essential comfort and providing a relatively hassle-free drive to its director. Still, it's a little less athletic than competing sedans in the compact segment. The ride is soft, and minor bumps in the road don't prove to be bothersome. More significant obstacles, however, could start to become problematic and the Jetta could stand to take a few notes in the damper department from rivals like the Civic and Mazda 3 - both of which ride far smoother.

Nevertheless, its handling abilities compete strongly against the Civic's, especially with the XDS differential found on the R-Line trim, which provides a bit of extra traction and more precise handling. The Jetta displays some lean in the corners and shows some nose-heavy understeer when pushed too hard, but the steering firms up quite well as speed increases. It's an all-round pleasurable drive and doesn't show any horribly vexing characteristics. The problem is, with neither extreme positives or very pestilent negatives, it becomes rather unmemorable.

It's a viable option to consider for those who don't care for an overly thrilling and engaging drive, focusing more on comfort and dependability instead. All things considered, the Jetta performs well as a compact sedan and serves the driver well in terms of comfort and punchy city-driving, although it tends to get a bit winded on the highway and is quite mediocre in the thrill-seeker's books.

Jetta Gas Mileage

Though the Volkswagen Jetta may not be an athlete, it's not the absolute heaviest in terms of fuel economy. The EPA gives estimates of 30/40/34 mpg city/highway/combined regardless of your choice of transmission. These figures are substantially less than the both Honda Civic and the Hyundai Elantra that share an EPA estimate of 36 mpg combined. The Jetta has a fuel tank capacity of 13.2 gallons, which will get you about 450 miles of travel on a full tank in mixed urban and extra-urban conditions.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    13.2 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 30/40 mpg
* 2020 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T S Manual

Jetta Interior

Inside the Jetta, you'll find ample space and comfort with a good range of standard features to be had. Soft-touch materials are present throughout the sedan, but the use of hard plastic bits contributes to a slightly cheap feel in certain places. Cloth upholstery comes as standard in the S model, but V-Tex leatherette is standard from the SE upwards. The SEL Premium is the only model in the range that sees genuine leather upholstery. You start to feel a considerable difference in the interior from the R-Line and upwards. At base level, it provides a no-frills, no-fuss approach with a minimalist design and simple flow between the instrument cluster and infotainment center as well as the multifunction steering wheel. The dashboard shows some wrap-around styling akin to the Golf, but overall, the interior is a strong point for the Jetta.

2020 Volkswagen Jetta Dashboard Volkswagen
2020 Volkswagen Jetta Steering Wheel Volkswagen
2020 Volkswagen Jetta Dashboard 1 Volkswagen
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Seating and Interior Space

A maximum of five people can be accommodated in the Jetta and no faults can be found in the outright spaciousness of the sedan. There is ample legroom in front with 41.1 inches of real estate that can be used to stretch your legs out. The rear legroom is slightly less at 37.4 inches but is still spacious enough for two adults to sit comfortably on a long journey, though if you're over six-feet tall, you'll fall victim to some discomfort. Parents of younger children will enjoy the easily accessible LATCH anchors for car seats, and getting in and out of the sedan proves to be care-free with the large doors and ample space pairing up nicely for ease-of-access. The cabin devoutly caters to the driver with fantastic outward visibility, and the front seats are comfortable enough to strap in for long journeys without too much resentment.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 41.1 in
  • Front Head Room 38.5 in
  • Rear Leg Room 37.4 in
  • Rear Head Room 37.2 in

Interior Colors and Materials

Some evidence of cost-cutting becomes clear when looking at the interior closely. The use of cheap, hard plastic in certain areas takes away from the premium feel given by the digital features, and the soft-touch bits are not enough to make one overlook the reflective plastic used for things like the center console and parcel shelf. That being said, the standard cloth upholstery, available in Titan Black or Storm Gray, isn't terrible and the V-Tex leatherette upholstery found in the SE model and upwards is agreeable. The V-Tex leatherette is available in the two colors mentioned above as well as a Dark Beige. Only the SEL Premium model offers genuine leather, available in either Storm Gray, Titan Black/Storm Gray, or a combination of Titan Black and Dark Beige.

Jetta Trunk and Cargo Space

The Jetta delivers an enjoyable though not a competitive amount of trunk space at 14.1 cubic feet. This figure is less than both of its main rivals as the Hyundai Elantra has slightly more space with 14.4 cubic feet, while the Civic Sedan has 15.1 cubic feet to work with. You can fit around four carry-on suitcases and a duffel bag comfortably in the trunk of the Jetta, and cargo space can be maximized by folding the back seat down for longer loads.

The internal storage space offered by the Jetta is adequate, but unfortunately, nothing to write home about in comparison to its main competitors. The glove box has got a rather deep pocket for miscellaneous storage needs and door pockets provide considerable space, which is a nice touch.

2020 Volkswagen Jetta Front Angle View Volkswagen
2020 Volkswagen Jetta Side View Volkswagen
2020 Volkswagen Jetta Rear View Volkswagen
  • Trunk Volume
    14.1 ft³

Jetta Infotainment and Features

Features

The Jetta comes with quite a few nifty standard features from base model upwards, including a multifunction steering wheel, manually adjustable driver's seat, front comfort seats, and electric parking brake. Moving up a step to the SE will see the addition of a leather gearshift lever, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and keyless access with push-button start. The only addition to the R-Line is a leather steering wheel. From the SEL, you'll get an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, and ten-color ambient lighting. The top of the range SEL Premium sees the inclusion of an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with memory and lumbar support, and leather seating surfaces. Beyond that, you can also get a heated steering wheel and Volkswagen's Digital Cockpit instrument cluster. Heated rear seats are optional on all but the base trim and standard on the SEL and SEL Premium. Driver assistance systems are made available in the form of high beam assist on upper trims, lane keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.

Infotainment

Standard infotainment features offered by the Jetta are relatively on par with competitors in the segment, and from the base model upwards, you'll get a four-speaker sound system, 6.5-inch color touchscreen, Bluetooth, Apple Carplay, Android Auto, and the CarNet app suite. The SEL and SEL Premium both upgrade to an eight-inch screen with a nine-speaker BeatsAudio sound system including a subwoofer. The system boasts AM/FM/HD radio, and on the SEL Premium, onboard navigation. Wireless device charging is also standard on the upper pair of trims, as is SiriusXM satellite radio.

Jetta Problems and Reliability

One of the Jetta's most definitive strong points is the competitive warranty. The basic warranty of four years/50,000 miles offered by the VW outshines that of the Honda's three-years/36,000-mile basic warranty. The Hyundai Elantra surpasses both, however, with a fantastic basic warranty of five years/60,000 miles and an even more extensive powertrain warranty.

The 2020 Jetta has suffered no recalls as yet, although the 2019 Jetta was the subject of seven recalls of varying severity - expected in the first model year of a generation. VW is known for expeditious recalls, though, and to further emphasize their reliability, three-year/36,000-mile roadside assistance is available 24 hours a day should you encounter any issues.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    7 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Maintenance:
    2 Years \ 20,000 Miles

Jetta Safety

The NHTSA has given the 2020 Jetta range a five-star overall safety rating and in an evaluation by the IIHS, the 2020 Jetta scored marks of Good across all categories excepting a Poor score for the headlights, and an Average score for LATCH ease of use.

US NHTSA crash test result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Key Safety Features

Safety is a strong point for the Jetta, and standard safety features include a rearview camera, Six airbags (dual front, front side, and side curtain airbags) ABS braking, stability control, and an automatic post-crash response system. The SE sees the addition of the forward-collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. The R-Line sees an XDS differential and moving up to the SEL and SEL Premium will see the inclusion of adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and high beam assist.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2020 Volkswagen Jetta a good car?

The Jetta is a good buy for specific consumers, namely small families on a tight budget or shoppers looking for a hassle-free and comfortable car to get from point A to point B. This compact sedan is not for the driving enthusiast looking for an engaging and fun drive, as the Honda Civic would prove to be a better pick in this regard with more power and better handling dynamics. The VW sedan is dependable, though, and provides just enough power to get the job done - but one shouldn't expect it to go the extra mile in terms of performance or amusement. A strong point for the Jetta is comfort; it proves to be superior to a couple of small bumps in the road and provides a softer ride than the Civic. Additionally, the standard features list is on par with the segment's best. However, rivals offer their safety systems lower in the range, while on the Jetta you have to spring for upper trims to unlock the best features available.

The Jetta does just enough to get by, but isn't memorable or fun in comparison to competitors and other sedans in the segment are worth considering.

🚘What's the Price of the 2020 Volkswagen Jetta?

As an entry-level compact sedan, the Jetta does well at maintaining relatively affordable prices with the base model Jetta S starting at an MSRP of $18,895 with the manual transmission and rising up to $19,695 with the automatic. Stepping up to the SE sees a rise in price to $22,645, and the sportier R-Line bumps the MSRP to $22,695 with manual transmission and $23,495 with automatic transmission. The SEL is one model away from the top of the range and starts at $25,495, while the finest model of the range, the SEL Premium, starts at $27,945 excluding a $920 destination fee applicable to all Jetta models.

2020 Volkswagen Jetta Models

The Volkswagen Jetta range comprises five trims: the S, SE, R-Line, SEL and SEL Premium. A turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine drives all models, with a six-speed manual standard on S and R-Line trims and an eight-speed automatic standard on all others (optional on the S and R-Line).

Standard equipment in the S includes LED reflector headlights, a chrome front grille, and 16-inch alloy wheels. The inside is graced with a multifunction steering wheel as well as a manually adjustable driver's seat, cloth upholstery, and manual air conditioning. A 6.5-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and four speakers is included from the base model. Standard driver-assistance technology includes a rear-view camera and automatic post-collision braking system.

The SE model comes standard with a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, V-Tex leatherette upholstery, and dual-zone climate control. Keyless access with push-button start also comes stock-fitted, while safety is bolstered by forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, and blind spot monitoring.

R-Line models get sportier styling with R-Line bumpers and 17-inch alloy wheels. The feature-count is bolstered by a leather steering wheel, while performance is improved with the XDS differential.

Upgrading to the SEL adds LED projector headlights, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, and ten-color ambient lighting. A nine-speaker BeatsAudio system is paired with an eight-inch touchscreen, wireless charging is included, and the upgrade also equips VW's Digital Cockpit, adaptive cruise control, and lane keep assist.

The SEL Premium tops the lineup with added navigation, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with memory, and genuine leather upholstery.

See All 2020 Volkswagen Jetta Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

There are two additional packages available in the Jetta range, with limited availability depending on trim.

The Driver-Assistance package is only available as an extra for the Jetta S for $450. This package includes front assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear traffic alert and heated side mirrors - standard on all upper trims.

The Cold Weather Package is available on the SE and the R-Line at a price of $500. It includes a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, heated windshield wiper park, and washer nozzles as well as remote start. It is standard on all top-end models.

🚗What Volkswagen Jetta Model Should I Buy?

The best model to buy in the Jetta range has to be the R-Line. Being the middle of the range, it comes with many standard features akin to those of the SEL and SEL Premium, such as the larger infotainment suite with BeatsAudio speakers, and hosts the sportiest styling of them all. You will also have to do without nice-to-haves like wireless charging and the virtual cockpit, but you'll get the XDS differential that no other model has, vastly improving the handling dynamics of the R-Line, and the available manual gearbox is a joy to use. Opt for the additional Cold Weather Package and you'll have a great all-round sedan that hasn't broken the bank but has heated seats all around and a heated steering wheel to keep things toasty.

Check out other Volkswagen Jetta Styles

2020 Volkswagen Jetta Comparisons

Honda Civic Sedan Honda
Hyundai Elantra Hyundai
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Volkswagen Jetta147 hp30/40 mpg$18,895
Honda Civic Sedan 158 hp25/36 mpg$20,000
Hyundai Elantra 147 hpTBCTBC

2020 Volkswagen Jetta vs Honda Civic Sedan

The Honda Civic sedan is the Jetta's foremost rival, and for a good reason. The Civic is slightly more expensive, starting at $19,850 versus the Jetta's MSRP of $18,895, but are the few extra dollars worth it?

The Civic is the more driver-oriented car with an engaging chassis paired with supple suspension, lively turbocharged engines, and a fantastic manual gearbox. The optional CVT is more economical than the Jetta, too, scoring 36 mpg combined to the VW's 34 mpg. Things get worse for the Jetta with the Civic's spacious cabin, high-end materials, and impressive list of standard safety and convenience features, with the best features from VW only available on upper trims. A bigger trunk on the Civic puts the final nail in the coffin for the Jetta, and although it might have an easier to use infotainment system, it simply doesn't match the high standards set by the Civic.

See Honda Civic Sedan Review

2020 Volkswagen Jetta vs Hyundai Elantra

At a base level, the Hyundai starts at an MSRP of $19,150 and is slightly more expensive than the Jetta. The Elantra and the Jetta's performance figures are similar except for the Jetta's extra 52 lb-ft of torque that brings it some nippier acceleration. In terms of fuel economy, the Elantra wins with an EPA combined estimate of 36 mpg in comparison to the Jetta's 34 mpg. The Jetta, however, wins in the infotainment department with standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and a Wi-Fi Hotspot. The Elantra reigns superior with standard comfort features lacking in the Jetta, including climate control, keyless entry, multi-zone climate control, and remote trunk release. It also comes standard with lane departure warning and lane assist, as well as an extra 0.6 cubic feet of trunk space. The Jetta was given an overall five-star rating by the NHTSA against the Elantra's four stars, making the Jetta safer. The VW car offers a more premium feel and more safety, but the Elantra comes with a superior standard warranty and more value for money.

See Hyundai Elantra Review

Volkswagen Jetta Popular Comparisons

2020 Volkswagen Jetta Video Reviews

Check out some informative Volkswagen Jetta video reviews below.

$18,895 - $27,945
Price Range (MSRP)
Volkswagen Jetta