2018 Detroit Auto Show: 2019 Volkswagen Jetta

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Whenever someone wants to mock an Audi, they call it a rebadged Volkswagen, especially the smaller models. The current-generation Audi A3 was probably the most heavily criticized, being called just a Volkswagen Jetta with Audi badges on it. However, that was actually never true with this current-gen A3, as it was based on the VW Group’s new MQB architecture, while the Jetta was still based on the older, MKVI Golf platform. Now, though, that claim carries a bit more merit, as the new 2019 Volkswagen Jetta is also MQB-based.

Debuting at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show, the new 2019 Volkswagen Jetta shows off its new skin and its new technology. This new Jetta is entirely new, with essentially no carryover from the previous, outgoing model. That’s great for Volkswagen buyers, as it finally brings the Jetta into the 21st century. The previous-generation Jetta was very obviously designed to be cheap. Everything from its interior to its powertrains made the old Jetta feel like a budget alternative. This new car, though, seems far more upscale and more in keeping with the rest of the Volkswagen brand.

From the outside, the new Volkswagen Jetta is far more visually interesting than the car it replaces. Admittedly, it looks a bit Korean, being nearly indistinguishable from any Hyundai or KIA product without looking at the badges. That doesn’t mean it looks bad, though, as the Koreans are coming out with some great looking cars as of late. So this new Jetta looks much better than before and, more importantly, looks more premium than before. Even though it has fake exhaust tips, too, like modern Audis. Why? Why must that exist? I can see the exhaust pipes hanging down directly behind that fake black plastic trim piece. Why not make the exhausts go all the way through? I just don’t understand.

Even more important still, that more premium feel carries over to the interior. That was always the reason someone bought a Jetta over its more reliable Japanese competition, such as the Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic. The VW felt more expensive, was more stylish and generally gave off a more premium feel than either the Toyota or Honda. That wasn’t the case with the last-gen Jetta but it is with this one.

From a design perspective, the new Jetta is very typically Volkswagen. But that’s no bad thing. The steering wheel is pulled from the VW parts bin but it’s a good looking wheel that feels good in the hand. The touchscreen infotainment system is now level with the gauge cluster, making it eye level with the driver and much easier to look at. We also really like how the entire center control stack is angle toward the driver, much like old-school BMWs and that’s a cool look.

Under the hood, there will only be one engine option in North America, the brand’s 1.4 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. That little four-pot makes 147 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, which is decent for the segment. It will get a six-speed manual as-standard on base models, with an eight-speed automatic as an option. Anything higher than base model trim will get the auto as standard equipment. Although, the new Jetta reverts back to having a solid rear axle, which is a real shame and will make it handle and ride worse than an independent rear suspension.

The new Volkswagen Jetta looks good, has a nice interior and a punchy little engine. The rear beam axle is a bit disappointing but the rest of the car looks quite promising. It’s even $100 cheaper than the old car. Customers are going to love it. Well, Volkswagen customers will. Audi A3 buyers are going to be annoyed that their car now does, indeed, share its platform with a Jetta.