The latest VW Jetta sedan is larger than its predecessors, and splits the size difference between many of the most popular compact and mid-size sedans. That gives the four-door great head and leg room, while SportWagen models still based on the last-generation Jetta have less space for people.
The Jetta sedan is 2.9 inches longer than the former model, with a 104-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 182.2 inches. It's larger than vehicles such as the Hyundai Elantra and the Kia Forte, which trade some of their back-seat leg room for more front-seat space, and the Suzuki Kizashi, which runs a couple of inches shy of the Jetta in rear-seat space. Looking up the size ladder, the Hyundai Sonata and Subaru Legacy both are much longer in wheelbase than the Jetta, but give up an inch or three in back-seat leg room—and with the Legacy, a cubic foot of trunk space, too.
The Jetta is simply one of the most spacious compact sedans on the market. Climb into its cabin and the reputation for a cramped interior evaporates. Base cars come with cloth seats, but all other versions have sporty vinyl seats with impressive bolstering that strikes a good balance between give and grip, especially on the GLI. The Jetta's been derived from other VW platforms, and it's clear how it's been expanded: there’s more elbow room to the outboard side, while the steering wheel sits more inboard. In other words, the controls haven't moved, but the doors have been pushed out to boost space. It doesn't affect driving position all that much, but it does leave more space on the left side of the steering wheel than on the right.
The Jetta sedan's back seat is the triumph. Wide-opening doors reveal plenty of leg room, and better entry and exit than a Cadillac CTS, even. The expanded leg room means you can transport adult pals, though ordering the available sunroof will nibble away at headroom, and anyone over 5’ 10” will notice.
The rear seat folds down with a narrow opening to the cabin—and the flip-down controls are pull knobs located inside the trunk itself, just as in the Hyundai Sonata. When you think about it, the location makes better sense—and it’s probably much less expensive to manufacture. The Jetta trunk is spacious, with low liftover and a wide opening, but has gooseneck-style hinges that could pose trouble if you fill it to the brim.
A roomy glovebox hides the optional iPod port inside, whether you like it there or not. A shallow bin ahead of the shifter can hold other thin items, and the doors have molded-in bottle holders to go with the center console’s large cupholders.
The SportWagen isn't a footnote here: the carryover model from the previous Jetta lineup still wows us with the interior fit and finish of VWs gone by, and with firm, supportive seats. The interior room isn't as large as in the sedan, though, and it can be a tight squeeze for large adults riding in the back seat. But this wagon's all about cargo space, and its wide-mouth hatchback and fold-flat rear seats make it a versatile, roomy counterpoint to small crossovers.