Some people just want a simple sedan that drives really well.
After several years of keeping the sixth generation Jetta in production, Volkswagen finally released the all-new 2019 Jetta at the Detroit Auto Show. Like the Golf, this new Jetta will finally ride on Volkswagen's MQB platform. The biggest changes to the Jetta are under the skin, but we were a bit underwhelmed by the finished product's design. The Jetta supposedly takes styling cues from the gorgeous Arteon sedan, but in the same way the the Porsche 911 took cues from the Volkswagen Beetle.
The Arteon may be a looker, but the Jetta won't exactly stand out in a crowd. The sixth generation Jetta never stood out because of its looks, but sold well because it had a well-appointed interior and excellent driving manners. The 2019 model should pick up where the old model left off by offering a premium driving experience at a non-premium price. Volkswagen models in the US have always punched above their price bracket and the new Jetta looks no different. The new 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine may not win any drag races with its 147 hp and 187 lb-ft of torque, but the optional eight-speed automatic should ensure smooth power delivery.
The Jetta is certainly not the most powerful car in this class. The Honda Civic offers up to 174 hp and even the new Kia Forte offers the same amount of power. However, neither of these cars can match the Jetta on torque and both are paired with CVT transmissions. CVT transmissions have a come a long way in recent years, but we still prefer traditional automatics, especially eight-speed units. This should be a huge differentiating factor for the Jetta. Anyone who has ever driven an older CVT may still have bad memories of it. The Jetta can lure buyers away from the competition with its smooth eight-speed automatic.
If the eight-speed transmission isn't enough of a selling point, the Jetta will also offer a traditional six-speed manual. This is also a big improvement because the Golf still only comes with a five-speed manual. The manual Jetta should be a bit more enjoyable, but enthusiasts will have to wait for Volkswagen to announce a new GLI model for the true fun to begin. A new GLI with the Golf GTI's performance package, 220 hp, and clever front differential would instantly rise to the top of the class, which includes new models like the Honda Civic Si, Hyundai Elantra Sport and Nissan Sentra Nismo.
The Jetta may not have the power that enthusiasts crave, but it does have the comfort that most people expect. The new interior looks like a huge improvement over the previous Jetta. Volkswagen has thrown everything at this new car including the virtual cockpit display, which originally debuted in Audi models. Like most Volkswagen models, the interior looks more functional than stylish, but it should be a nice place to sit. Of course, Volkswagen hasn't made the same mistake as other automakers and will include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard to improve the infotainment experience.
The Jetta should fair well in a heavily crowded segment that features giants like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. The Jetta has long been one of the roomiest and upmarket competitors in this segment, and it should continue to be. The new Jetta may be a bit bland on styling, but there are people out there who don't want their affordable sedan to be as outlandish as the new Civic. Until the new GLI gets announced, enthusiasts likely won't pay much attention to the new Jetta, but we have high hopes that Volkswagen will do big things with its most popular US model.