The all-new 2019 Volkswagen Jetta is roomy, comfortable, well-made and a good value.
The new Jetta comes in S, SE, R-Design, SEL and SEL Premium versions, plus the GLI S, GLI 35th Anniversary Edition, and GLI Autobahn. The Jetta is based on the Golf hatchback VW builds in Mexico, but there are key differences between the Jetta sedan and the Golf when it comes to power, technology and suspension design.
This year’s Jetta shares little other than its name with the 2018 model. Beneath its crisp, conservative sheet metal lies a sophisticated platform with an asterisk. While the Golf and other VW vehicles that ride on the same architecture use a modern multi-link rear suspension, the Jetta uses a simple torsion-beam instead. Again, the exception is the GLI, which has a multi-link independent rear suspension.
A turbocharged Jetta GLI joins the lineup in the 2019 model year with a 228-hp, 2.0-liter, turbo-4 and either the manual or a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It is also available with adjustable adaptive dampers.
From behind the wheel, the Jetta rides softly, and its steering responds quickly. The little turbo-4 pulls as best it can, delivering adequate, but not enlightening, acceleration.
The GLI offers a much more spirited driving experience. Its turbo-4 pulls harder, its suspension is firmer and more responsive, and it offers much of the feel and fun of the Golf GTI.
The standard Jetta makes a fine long-distance cruiser boosted by its 40-mpg highway rating and has enough room in the back seat for two adults or three in a pinch.
Even the base Jetta S is well-outfitted with alloy wheels, a 6.5-inch touchscreen for infotainment that’s Apple- and Android-compatible, and alloy wheels.
Jetta SEL Premium runs about $27,800, a reasonable sum considering its features such as a trick, configurable TFT display in place of conventional gauges, heated and cooled leather seats, Beats by Dr. Dre speakers, a panoramic moonroof, and navigation.
Standard LED headlights give it a distinct view at night; SEL trims have more sophisticated LED projector headlights with aspirational halo-effect running lights.
Most trims use a 6.5-inch touchscreen, but SELs swap that out for an 8.0-inch unit with a shiny glass screen that pairs well with the 10.25-inch widescreen display that takes the place of conventional analog gauges on high-spec Jettas.
The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta is not built to thrill. It is competent and comfortable but far short of engaging. We rate it a 5 out of 10, a perfectly average score for a vehicle as light on minuses as it is on pulses. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Rivals like the Honda Civic and Mazda 3 have more personality than the staid Jetta.
Base versions of the 2019 Jetta use a 1.4-liter turbo-4 that puts out a humble 147 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. The turbo engine builds what power it has quickly and quietly, and it pairs well with the 8-speed automatic transmission fitted to most Jettas that leave VW’s Puebla, Mexico, assembly plant. The Jetta GLI features a 2.0-liter turbo-4 rated at 228 hp that’s cribbed from the Golf GTI.
MSRP: From $18,745
MPG: 30 city / 40 highway
Horsepower: 147 hp
Fuel tank capacity: 13.2 gal
Dimensions: 185″ L x 71″ W x 57″ H