2019 VW Jetta: More of a Yankee than ever

The seventh-generation Volkswagen Jetta, designed exclusively for the U.S., is among the last VW brand vehicles to move onto the automaker’s MQB platform. The redesigned compact sedan, available in five trim levels, is powered by a 1.4-liter turbo engine, good for 147 hp. The 2019 Jetta’s starting price is $ 100 less than that of the previous-generation Jetta, even though it has far more features and technology included. Here is a roundup of snippets from first-drive reviews of the Jetta.

“The nuanced goodness of the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta may not be immediately apparent to some drivers. It’s not entertaining in the sense of a BMW 3 Series, nor are buyers asked to pay for that.

Rather, the Jetta possesses the dynamic abilities and precision feel that encourage spirited driving — just at a more grounded, more sober pace that makes it an excellent candidate for the daily commute as well as a fun-filled weekend trek over some twisty, back-country, two-lane roads. The new Jetta offers a likeable balance of good body control, confidence-inspiring braking, and precise steering with a quicker ratio than last year’s model. Faithfully, the car responds to driver inputs seamlessly and never becomes tiring.”

— Ron Sessions, New York Daily News

“Driven with just two adults onboard, passing performance feels acceptable and the acceleration rate at medium and wide throttle openings seemed more linear than we’ve experienced with other engines with tiny turbos. Only in certain low-speed situations rolling onto the throttle was there an occasional hint of turbo lag. The new transmission reacts swiftly to throttle inputs, especially in its S mode.”

— Frank Markus, Motor Trend

“It’s not as Euro-grade stiff as the Golf, which is designed with a bunch of markets in mind. The Jetta’s suspension tuning errs on soft, and additional plushness arrives by way of thick all-season tires, which wrap around standard 16- or 17-inch alloy wheels on all trims. Even when the roads get rough, the Jetta never brings that harshness inside — hell, sound barely permeates the wonderfully hushed interior.

“Under the hood is a 1.4-liter turbocharged I4 that puts out 147 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The Jetta isn’t going to win any races, but this engine provides more than enough torque for driving and passing in the city or on the highway. The new eight-speed automatic operates smoothly, save for the occasional clunky downshift to first when stepping on the gas below about 5 mph. A six-speed manual is available, but only on the base S trim.”

— Andrew Krok, Roadshow by CNET

“Previous Jettas were taut, agile, and enjoyable to drive, but this new one is a bit dull. Its handling is sound, but this is not a car suited for brisk, entertaining drives.

“Pushing the car a bit harder results in notable body lean, and the steering is neither particularly quick nor brimming with feedback. That said, taking the Jetta to its modest limits on the sharp turns of our track revealed a balanced behavior.

“The ride is comfortable thanks to the compliant suspension that absorbs most road imperfections well. However, some sharp bumps tend to punch through as if the shock absorbers don’t have enough resilience to keep those impacts at bay. Some occasional thuds from the suspension hurt its overall refinement.”

— Gabe Shenhar, Consumer Reports

“After spending most of a day driving a production version in and around Raleigh, N.C., I concur: The new car rides very nicely compared to others in the class (MQB really works!) and body control and handling are well above average — the car happily squirts through corners while managing body roll well without a stiff ride.”

“The standard eight-speed automatic is smooth and shifts quickly. It keeps the turbo four in its happy place, and by ‘happy place’ I mean keeping the tach north of 2,500 rpm. Holding the transmission in second or third gear seems to work best on all but the freeway. Do that and the new Jetta is a sweet driving, reasonably quick compact sedan.”

— Wes Raynal, Autoweek

“A sharp new wrapper doesn’t necessarily make a good car. It needs a solid powertrain and suspension to bring everything together. In the Jetta’s case, its mechanical bits are average at best. For 2019, VW reduced the Jetta’s engine options to a single turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder producing 147 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The horsepower level is only on par with entry-level compacts, but the torque matches compacts with larger optional engines. The feel of the powerplant backs up that odd duality. It feels plenty perky in town with all of that down-low grunt. But when hustling up on-ramps and trying to pass, the Jetta feels sluggish.”

— Joel Stocksdale, Autoblog

“Out on the Loblolly pine-lined roads outside of Durham, it’s nice to see the Americanized Jetta still bleeds black-red-yellow. It’s typically Teutonic, with a drive experience that feels better bolted down than rivals from Japan or the States, even if it isn’t. The Mk. 7 sticks with a torsion-beam rear suspension, a noticeable departure from its Korean and Japanese counterparts, but it’s still as cheerful to drive as previous Jettas were, with predictable electronically assisted steering and those excellent MQB underpinnings.”

— Conner Golden, Automobile

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