Volkswagen Jetta — A value proposition

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

If you are seeking a small family sedan that can give you the most bang for the buck without sacrificing quality or driving enjoyment we recommend a stop at a Volkswagen dealership to test drive the all-new seventh-generation 2019 Jetta. You will find a conservatively styled, well-equipped, fuel-efficient, and thoroughly modern vehicle at a very affordable price.

The Jetta starts at $20,690 including destination charge for the base S trim. Standard features include 16-inch alloy wheels, LED head- and taillights, air conditioning, a 6.5-inch touchscreen-based infotainment system, a rearview camera, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, a USB port, Bluetooth, a four-speaker sound system, and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Additionally Volkswagen has a new class-leading six-year, 72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper, fully transferable warranty.

If you desire a bit more safety baked into your new car, VW has the answer. An additional $450 will purchase the Driver Assistance Package that includes front collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, a blind sport monitor with rear traffic alert and heated side mirrors.

The new Jetta is the sixth VW product for the U.S. market to be built on the company’s global MQB architecture, a flexible transverse-engine front-wheel-drive platform chassis that underpins vehicles from the smaller Golf to the larger Atlas SUV. The combination seems to work especially well, delivering a Jetta that feels solid, well-built, and lightweight, with a drivability leaning on the comfortable side with adequate handling on twisty roads and when cornering.

The only engine available is the carryover 1.4-liter turbocharged four cylinder making a modest 147 horsepower. Not an impressive number, but don't count it out without a test drive. We found the engine exhibited excellent throttle response with virtually no turbo lag. Mated to the eight-speed automatic the Jetta felt punchy off the line with scads of around-town performance. For comparison purposes the 4-cylinder has been measured at 7.7 seconds from 0-to-60, about average for the segment.

One of the outstanding features of the 1.4-liter engine is gas mileage measured at 30 mpg city, 40 highway and 34 combined on regular gas.

In addition to around-town quickness, it's important how the engine feels merging into fast-moving traffic and passing a slower car on a two-lane highway. We can report no problems, and we didn't find it necessary to carefully time the passing of a slower-moving vehicle, which is necessary in some cars. For those people who wish for more performance, Volkswagen says a more powerful GLI edition will be available in 2020.

The Jetta is available in five trim levels — base S, SE, R-Line, SEL and SEL Premium. We recommend the SE trim that we tested, which carries a bottom line of $23,005 including destination charge. It comes with the aforementioned safety features and adds a sunroof, leather-wrapped steering wheel, simulated leather upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control and keyless entry with push-button start.

A handsome all-new interior displays excellent fit and finish with the build quality of a more expensive sedan. As noted lower trim levels come with a 6.5-inch infotainment screen with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Higher priced trim levels get a larger 8-inch screen plus VW's fully digital and customizable gauge cluster called the Digital Cockpit.

We found the front seats comfortable with more knee and shoulder room than found in the outgoing Jetta. Rear-seat legroom is adequate but taller passengers might need to reach a compromise with front-seaters to gain a comfortable position.Trunk space has shrunk a bit from the previous Jetta, but with a 14.1- cubic-foot capacity it's still competitive in the segment. Interior cubby space has increased with larger door pockets and a larger console bin.

If you are looking for a bit more luxury than the bottom two trims provide, it is available for a price. For instance the SEL trim starting at $25,265 brings such niceties as adaptive cruise control, an eight-speaker BeatsAudio sound system, the upgraded infotainment system, satellite and HD radio, and additional safety features including auto high beam control, automatic wipers and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The SEL-Premium starting at $27,795 adds a cold weather package that includes heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel, 17-inch wheels, leather upholstery, power-adjustable driver's seat with memory settings and a navigation system.

Because many buyers in the compact sedan market are fixated on and driven by bang-for-the-buck value, conventional good looks, a long warranty, and solid fuel economy, shoppers in this class will find the new 2019 Jetta to be a compelling means of transportation to include in their consideration set.

Base price: $20,195; as driven, $23,005
Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 147 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 184 pound-feet @ 1,400 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 105 inches
Length: 185 inches
Curb weight: 2,970 pounds
Turning circle: 36.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 14.1 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 30 city, 40 highway, 34 combined
0-60: 7.7 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Hyundai Accent, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla

The Good
• Excellent gas mileage
• Class-leading warranty
• Comfortable interior

The Bad
• Less-than-stellar braking

The Ugly
• No optional engine