It's come a long way in seven generations.
It's been the "best-selling VW for more than 30 years." It's basically a Golf with a trunk. It's the excellent Volkswagen Jetta, and it's been around for seven generations now. It may seem like a bland sedan, but with a little bit of imagination, it can be turned into something really cool.
Alternatively, you can just get behind the wheel of the GLI version to see that sensible doesn't necessarily have to mean soulless. The Jetta has amassed quite the following over the years, so let's dive in and see how the name began and how the car evolved since the early 1980s thanks to this visual history provided by VW.
The first Jetta was introduced to Americans in 1979 as a 1980 model and was assembled at the Wolfsburg factory in Germany. It offered 76 horsepower and was a little more luxurious than the Rabbit of the time, offering an optional automatic transmission and full carpeting.
In 1985, the Mk2 model arrived with 100 hp and "more visual and interior sophistication." Bigger in every way, there was space for five and it moved up from the subcompact sedan segment to the compact class. Two- and four-door configurations were offered, and in 1991, the Jetta became the best-selling European VW car in North America, selling twice as many units as the Golf.
In 1993, the third generation arrived with more size, luxury, and power than ever before. The VR6 engine was offered for the first time with as much power as the first two generations combined - 172 hp. The GLX and Wolfsburg trims debuted too, and although other VW products of the time struggled to sell in the US, the Jetta continued to be a sales success.
Then in 1999, the Mk4 variant arrived for the 2000 model year, sharing more of the "Bauhaus-style visual cues from the larger Passat than the smaller Golf." A wagon was also added to the lineup for the first time, furthering the Jetta's popularity.
The Mk5 model was first unveiled at the LA Auto Show in 2005 and was larger in every way and offered a variety of powertrains, as well as more convenience thanks to electric power steering and dual-zone climate control, among other luxury features. 2007 also saw Volkswagen unveil the Jetta SportWagen, with more cargo space and a panoramic sunroof.
The Mk6 arrived in 2011 and was the only model thus far to be sold with a hybrid engine option. It also debuted the Jetta Sport trim with GLI influences: a lowered sport suspension, rear spoiler, two-tone heated seats, and a 170-hp 1.8-liter four-pot.
In 2018, the current generation debuted as a 2019 model. Based on the brilliant MQB platform and an optional 1.4-liter TSI engine with 148 hp, this model offered WiFi as an option for the first time, as well as customizable ambient lighting and the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit. This is the model that has just been refreshed for 2022 with a 1.5-liter turbo engine generating 158 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. New colors, new wheels, new styling updates, and a revised interior are joined by advanced driver aids like forward collision assist and blind-spot monitoring. What's next? Well, we think we have a clue...