- Docile personality
- High-tech options
- Good safety gear
- Styling will age well
- Spirited GLI model
- Docile personality
- Breaks little new ground
- Conservative, almost to a fault
- Unsupportive front seats
The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta is a mild-mannered, well-equipped compact sedan.
The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta hardly lacks for assets. The compact sedan is roomy, comfortable, well-made, and a good value.
But the 2019 Jetta doesn’t bond with its driver in the way we’ve come to expect from German-branded small cars, including the Jetta’s VW Golf cousin. The exception is the sporty Jetta GLI.
The 2019 Jetta comes in S, SE, R-Design, SEL, and SEL Premium versions, plus the GLI S, GLI 35th Anniversary Edition, and GLI Autobahn. The Jetta is based on the Golf hatchback VW builds in Mexico, but there are key differences between the Jetta sedan and the Golf when it comes to power, technology, and suspension design.
Good? Yes, the 2019 Jetta is a good four-door sedan. It falls shy of great. We rate it at 5.8 out of 10 points overall (read more about how we rate cars.)
The 2019 Jetta has most of the goods, but not all of the things that have make VWs excellent choices in the past. It's the iPhone SE of the lineup.
This year’s Jetta shares little but its name with the 2018 model. Beneath its crisp, conservative sheet metal lies a sophisticated platform with an asterisk. While the Golf and other VW vehicles that ride on the same architecture use a modern multi-link rear suspension, the Jetta uses a simple torsion-beam instead. Again, the exception is the GLI, which has a multi-link independent rear suspension.
Likewise, the Jetta’s 1.4-liter turbo-4, rated at a modest 147 horsepower and paired to either a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic, is the least-powerful engine you’ll find in the VW lineup.
A turbocharged Jetta GLI joins the lineup in the 2019 model year with a 228-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 and either the manual or a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It is also available with adjustable adaptive dampers.
From behind the wheel, the Jetta rides softly and its steering responds quickly, but with little of the eager tenacity found in rivals like the Honda Civic and Mazda 3. The little turbo-4 pulls as best it can, delivering adequate, but not enlightening acceleration.
The GLI offers a much more spirited driving experience. Its turbo-4 pulls harder, its suspension is firmer and more responsive, and it offers much of the feel and fun of the Golf GTI.
The standard Jetta makes a fine long-distance cruiser boosted by its 40-mpg highway rating, bar some obtrusive wind and road noise. Its seats are firm, if light on lumbar support, and well-bolstered, and there’s enough room in the back seat for two adults or three in a pinch. The Jetta’s 14.1 cubic-foot trunk is about par for a mid-size sedan, but it’s well shy of the similarly sized Golf.
The Jetta discards the notion that a German-branded car need be stingy with equipment. Even the base Jetta S is well-outfitted with alloy wheels, a 6.5-inch touchscreen for infotainment that’s Apple- and Android-compatible, and alloy wheels. Active-safety gear such as automatic emergency braking costs just $450 on the Jetta S and is standard on the rest of the lineup.
Tick all the boxes and the Jetta SEL Premium runs about $27,800, a reasonable sum considering its features such as a trick, configurable TFT display in place of conventional gauges, heated and cooled leather seats, Beats by Dr. Dre speakers, a panoramic moonroof, and navigation. A GLI Autobahn top $30,000, which isn't that much of a premium for its additional performance.
2019 Volkswagen Jetta
Call it timeless or call it bland, the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta’s crisp lines will offend few.
The only way to make the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta stand out in a parking lot is to order it in Habanero Orange, a deep shade of chile that could have been plucked from the Super Beetle’s color palette.
Otherwise, this conservative sedan does little to attract attention. For many owners, that will be just fine. We call it an easy 5 out of 10 (read more about how we rate cars).
The Jetta’s exterior follows sedan convention, with clean, elegant proportions and few hints of extravagance. Even its wheel designs—16- and 17-inch alloys, depending on the trim level—hardly reach for the stars. Standard LED headlights give it a distinct view at night; SEL trims have more sophisticated LED projector headlights with aspirational halo-effect running lights.
The GLI reaches for a little more but not much. Its honeycomb grille has a red stripe inspired by the GTI, side skirts visually lower the car, and a 0.6-inch suspension drop does it physically to create a lower profile.
Inside, the Jetta’s dashboard cants toward the driver; its lean isn’t as perceptible from the captain’s chair as it is from the passenger’s seat. The result is a big stretch for passengers to adjust the radio volume. Most trims use a 6.5-inch touchscreen, but SELs swap that out for an 8.0-inch unit with a shiny glass screen that pairs well with the 10.25-inch widescreen display that takes the place of conventional analog gauges on high-spec Jettas.
2019 Volkswagen Jetta
The 2019 VW Jetta pleases, but it doesn’t entertain.
The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta is not built to thrill. It is competent and comfortable, but far short of engaging. We rate it a 5 out of 10, a perfectly average score for a vehicle as light on minuses as it is on pluses (read more about how we rate cars).
Rivals like the Honda Civic and Mazda 3 have more personality than the staid Jetta.
Base versions of the 2019 Jetta use a 1.4-liter turbo-4 that puts out a humble 147 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. The turbo engine builds what power it has quickly and quietly, and it pairs well with the 8-speed automatic transmission fitted to most Jettas that leave VW’s Puebla, Mexico, assembly plant. The Jetta GLI features a 2.0-liter turbo-4 rated at 228 hp that's cribbed from the Golf GTI.
A 6-speed manual is standard on the Jetta S and it’s worth seeking out for its crisp shift action and light, easy clutch.
The 6-speed doesn’t turn the Jetta into a corner-carver, though. The Jetta utilizes the same stiff structure we’ve come to love in the Golf, but here it prioritizes comfort over tenacity. Its soft suspension gobbles up pockmarked roads, but can feel slow to recover after rough railroad crossings. Beneath the Jetta’s trunk sits a simple torsion-beam rear suspension, a design not fitted to the similar Golf hatchback. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the torsion-beam design in gentle driving, but when pushed it doesn’t allow the rear wheels to operate with the same independence of more common multi-link setups like that used in the Golf. There’s a reason that the Jetta is about $2,000 less than the Golf.
The quick, accurate steering delivered through the three-spoke wheel settles into a comfortable soft spot for straight-line highway cruising. Jetta SEL and SEL Premium trims feature four drive modes, something oddly lacking from the sport-styled-but-not-sporty Jetta R-Design trim. Set to Sport, the Jetta’s steering firms up nicely when pushed through a curvy road while remaining quick and light in a parking lot.
Don’t look to the Jetta R-Design for more zip or zoom; it shares the rest of the lineup’s soft suspension. It does feature an electronic differential to help distribute power better between the front wheels in hard cornering, but with just 147 hp on tap, its job is an easy one.
The sporty choice is the GLI. Its turbo-4 engine offers not only 228 hp but 258 pound-feet of torque. That's enough to deliver 0-60 mph times in the mid-to-low 5-second range. We like the power when it's sent through either the slick-shifting manual or the available quick-acting 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Both versions come with an electronically controlled limited-slip differential that helps the GLI keep the power flowing to the pavement even during aggressive cornering.
The GLI's lower ride height, independent rear suspension, and stiffer suspension settings give it a natural athleticism that approaches the much loved GTI. It corners flatter, responds quicker, and creates more smiles, but also rides harder than the base Jetta. The 35th Anniversary Edition has adjustable adaptive dampers that smooth out the ride in the Comfort or Normal modes and make it even firmer in Sport. Brakes from the Golf R ensure that the GLI can handle spirited canyon carving without brake fade.
2019 Volkswagen Jetta
Comfort & Quality
The 2019 VW Jetta utilizes its interior space well and feels well-finished.
Passengers win in the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta, which has good room for two adults and occasionally even a third in its second row of seats. That’s enough to earn it a point above average, but we take that back for limited front-seat comfort in all but the priciest models. That brings the 2019 Jetta to 5 out of 10 (read about how we rate cars).
Drivers and passengers aren’t stuffed in steerage class, but the center console digs into leg room and the seats are lacking in lumbar support. We like the tough cloth upholstery fitted to the Jetta S more than the synthetic leather found in SE, R-Design, and SEL trims. The range-topping Jetta SEL Premium features leather presumably made from rubber cows and it benefits greatly from adjustable lumbar support, something left out of the rest of the lineup. We also like the sloth sport seats in the GLI, though VW should go all the way and offer them with a plaid pattern, a la GTI.
Rear-seat riders have easy access thanks to wide back doors and legroom is above average for a compact car.
The Jetta’s trunk, at 14.1 cubic feet, swallows suitcases on par with other compacts but lacks the flexibility of increasingly popular hatchbacks and crossovers SUVs—including VW’s own Golf.
Jettas we’ve driven have felt tightly assembled with a mish-mash of materials inside. Soft-touch door and dash trim clashes with the occasional chintzy plastic bit, but overall the Jetta’s interior is price-appropriate.
2019 Volkswagen Jetta
The 2019 VW Jetta offers a comprehensive safety package, but its headlights don't earn accolades.
Nearly all 2019 Volkswagen Jettas are well-equipped when it comes to safety gear. The sedan earned five stars from the NHTSA but subpar headlights held it back from accolades from the IIHS. Overall, we rate it at 6 out of 10. Better headlights and standard active safety tech would elevate the VW Jetta to 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars).
All versions of the 2019 Jetta come standard with six airbags, stability control, a rearview camera, and a post-collision braking system that holds the brakes if it detects that the vehicle has been hit.
For a modest $450, the Jetta S can be fitted with the Driver Assistance package that includes automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, and heated mirrors. That’s money well spent, if you ask us—and we applaud VW for extending the option to both automatic and manual-equipped Jettas.
Jetta SE and higher trims, as well as all GLIs, come standard with all that gear, while SELs add adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, automatic high-beam LED projector headlights, and active lane control.
The IIHS said that the Jetta earns "Good" marks in all of its instrumented crash tests, but its headlights aren't up to snuff. As a result, it's not Top Safety Pick-rated.
2019 Volkswagen Jetta
The 2019 VW Jetta offers a good value and benefits from an extensive warranty.
The 2019 VW Jetta does not want for features or value, that’s for sure. We give it two points above average—one for its wide feature set and another for its impressive warranty.
In our eyes, it rates a 7 out of 10 for its standard and optional equipment (read more about how we rate cars).
The gateway to the lineup is the Jetta S, which is incidentally the only trim with a 6-speed manual transmission. It’s outfitted with cloth upholstery, a 6.5-inch touchscreen for infotainment that’s Apple- and Android-compatible, LED headlights, alloy wheels, and a steering wheel with audio controls. The 8-speed automatic runs $800 extra, while a worthwhile $450 Driver Assistance package adds automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alerts.
Next up, the Jetta SE adds to the S the Driver Assistance package, a panoramic moonroof, automatic climate control, keyless ignition, heated front seats, synthetic leather upholstery, and leather around its steering wheel. For about $22,000, it’s a solid deal.
We’re less convinced that the Jetta R-Design is worth an extra $800 or so; it nets buyers a sportier body kit but no performance upgrades other than an electronic differential that makes little difference in day-to-day driving.
The Jetta SEL borders on Audi-light levels of equipment with its 10.25-inch digital cockpit TFT screen that replaces other trims’ conventional gauges. The screen offers several different display modes, but it works best with navigation—something exclusive to the range-topping Jetta SEL Premium. Aside from the frugal Jetta SE, it’s the SEL Premium that makes the most sense to us. For under $28,000, it’s well-outfitted with leather upholstery, heated and cooled seats up front, navigation, Beats-branded speakers, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control.
Regardless of trim, the Jetta features one of the best warranties found anywhere: 6-year, 72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage that’s transferable to subsequent owners.
The Jetta GLI undercuts its Golf GTI sibling by quite a bit this year. Starting at $26,890 in S trim, the GLI includes a lowered suspension, specific 18-inch aluminum wheels, LED headlights and taillights, dual exhaust outlets, and a rear diffuser. The interior is well equipped with heated cloth sport seats that feature red contrast stitching and piping, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, keyless ignition, and a 6.5-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are also standard.
The $28,690 GLI 35th Anniversary Edition adds unique wheel designs and adaptive dampers, a feature that's available only on a $33,500 version of the Golf GTI.
The Jetta GLI in the range-topping trim adds a 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster, an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, heated and cooled leather seats, Beats audio, and a panoramic sunroof. That full roster of equipment costs $36,890 in the GTI, while the GLI Autobahn costs $30,090.
2019 Volkswagen Jetta
At 40 mpg, the 2019 VW Jetta won’t be a common sight at gas stations.
The 2019 VW Jetta is among the most fuel-efficient compact sedans on the market, and it doesn’t discriminate between automatic and manual transmissions like its rivals.
We rate the 2019 Jetta at 7 out of 10 points on account of its 30 mpg city, 40 highway, 34 combined rating (read more about how we rate cars).
The Jetta’s styling attracts little attention from anyone, including the wind it turns out. Its slippery shape and active aero shutters buried in its grille help it achieve an impressive 0.27 Cd in the wind tunnel.
Additionally, Jettas with the 8-speed automatic feature a stop-start system that intrudes less than most we have encountered.
The Jetta GLI is fairly efficient as well given its power. It is rated at 25/32/28 mpg with either its 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.