2019 VW Jetta aces IIHS crash tests but headlights remain sore spot

January 23, 2019

The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta walked away with impressive ratings from the IIHS' latest round of crash tests, but like dim headlights held the sedan back.

The only time the 2019 Jetta deviated from the IIHS' "Good" rating was when it came down to headlight performance. The sedan earned a "Marginal" rating for the LED projector headlights fitted to the SEL trim level. However, the base S, mid-level SE, and sport-styled R-Line trims scored a "Poor" rating for their LED reflector headlights. The IIHS said that the Jetta is a reminder that LED headlights don't necessarily provide great illumination of the road ahead. 

READ THIS: 2019 Volkswagen Jetta Review

Otherwise, the Jetta passed the round of crash tests with flying colors and earned "Good" marks in every single category. Active safety technology also earned the Jetta a "Superior" rating in its work to avoid and mitigate some crashes.

In the tricky frontal small-overlap crash test, data from the crash test dummies showed a low risk for any severe injury in the event of a crash. The test hurls the vehicle at a speed of 40 mph and clips only the driver's side portion of the front end. The crash scenario is meant to mimic drivers crossing over the center line on a road.

ALSO SEE: 6 things to know about the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta

As for the headlight issue, those ratings may change in the years to come. The NHTSA filed to allow more modern and brighter headlights in the U.S. last year. Eventually, automakers will be able to fit their cars with matrix systems, which automatically flick on the high beams in various driving scenarios, but dim certain portions of the light when they encounter pedestrians, oncoming traffic, and more to keep from blinding them. More often than not, it's the headlight test that prevents a vehicle from earning the IIHS Top Safety Pick+.

A study from the IIHS showed dozens of new vehicles tested in 2018 only offered "Marginal" headlights as the best-performing option for buyers. Often as in the case of the Jetta, "Good" headlights were locked away in pricier trim variants.

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