It's more than just a “Rabbit with a trunk.”
The Volkswagen Jetta is all-new for this year, and much has changed after seven-generations. In order to highlight just how far the model has come since it was first introduced the Volkswagen Group of America recently bought and restored this first generation example from 1982 in order to compare. Launched in the United States in 1980, the Jetta was billed as the “Rabbit with a trunk.” Sharing its underpinnings with the Golf, it defined a new segment for the automaker.
The brand had already enjoyed considerable success with the subcompact Rabbit in the late 1970s, following the end of Beetle sales in the United States. Initially the Jetta was offered in both two- and four-door formats, and arrived as the sixth model in VW’s lineup in 1980, joining the Rabbit, Dasher, Scirocco, Vanagon, and VW Pickup. For its era, the Jetta offered a standard amount of power—76 horsepower from a 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine. More important was its handling prowess, tuned to offer a tighter road feel than the other domestically made compact vehicles of its era. It had a healthy list of standard features, including power brakes, am AM/FM cassette-player combo, cut-pile carpet, and intermittent wipers.
As a shopper your only options were a three-speed automatic in place of the standard five-speed manual, air conditioning, sunroof, tinted glass and a set of aluminum-alloy wheels. While the 2019 Jetta is larger in every exterior dimension, the biggest difference has to be the striking technological evolutions. From the LEDs used in the head and tail lamps, to the advanced driver safety features like Forward Collision Warning, and Blind Spot Warning which are offered on the seventh-generation car, these weren’t even a dream when the first-generation Jetta debuted. The original did have cruise control, though.