VW types are excited over the new styling direction of the Jetta. Are we missing something? It’s handsome, but is it distinctive? To our eyes, the new sedan is good-looking in an upright way, with lots of new facets and creases folded in at the hand of VW design guru Walter d’Silva. The big VW emblem sits on a thin ribbed grille, and the angled headlamps and taillamps are shapely enough.
It’s different, but not more daring. The side view looks less like the Toyota Corolla, but more like the Honda Civic, while the “tornado” line and deep side sculpting doesn’t lead to any interesting point, unlike the similar line on the Audi A6. It does relieve what would otherwise be a tall, thick door and a droopy front and rear. What’s missing is the pert, high-trunked stance that made the Jetta a standout in the 1990s. That car looked exactly like what it was--a Golf with a trunk—and since then it’s veered down the road to anonymity. If you think we’re off-base, we’d kindly direct you to our photos of the 2011 Hyundai Elantra or the striking 2012 Ford Focus.
You’ll find the same familiarity inside, and here the cost-cutting has taken a toll. VW interiors have been lauded far and wide for their high-dollar feel. This very straightforward design has some very pleasing, low-key details. It’s just slathered in lots of lower-rent plastic, a disappointing downturn from the prior Jetta. They’ve inserted loving details where possible: the big round gauges are in classic VW style, the vinyl seats have sporty horizontal ridges, and the shifter’s capped with a metallic stripe. It looks quite a lot like the past Jetta cabin—it’s just gone downmarket a bit.
That said it’s nearly impossible to lose your way in this cockpit, even if the pushbutton to start is down in front of the shifter, not up near a standard key slot. You can’t say that for the obtuse Honda Civic dash.