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.
It's in back where you'll notice how much this Jetta sedan has changed from the previous editions. The rear doors open wide, making it easier for adults to climb in and to get comfortable. There's more room in back than a Cadillac CTS, though the optional sunroof trims away some of the headroom in such a way that taller passengers will have to slouch a bit.
All Jetta sedans have a fold-down rear seat, which exposes a rather narrow pass-through to the cabin. The fold-down mechanism isn't found inside in the car--the pull-style levers are inside the trunk, a logical place that's also less costly to manufacture, but leads to a less pleasing look if you inspect the unfinished linkages that tuck up under the Jetta's rear glass. The trunk is big, with a wide opening and a low liftover height, but the hinges are fairly large and could rub against luggage if you try to use every cubic inch.
Inside the cabin, the Jetta provides a moderate amount of small-item storage. The glovebox is roomy, and the iPod port's hidden inside--we prefer it in the center console, but that's an option on the Jetta. There's a small bin that sits in front of the shifter, and the cupholders between the front seats are backed up by molded-in water-bottle holders in the door panels. In general, the Jetta's cabin is finished in harder, grainier plastics than the VWs of old, but GLI models have a soft-touch dash cap that's a little more pleasing to the eye and to the touch.
As for the SportWagen, it's nearly as flexible. The rear seat won't win awards for its spaciousness, but this Jetta shows how Volkswagen won over critics with interior fit and finish. It's just nicer inside, with better materials, firmer seats, and a smoother appearance. The rear seat can be a tight squeeze, though, but the seats fold down for good cargo space that rivals some small crossovers, while providing a lower liftover height and better visibility--not to mention the availability of a diesel powertrain.