A funny thing happened to the redesigned 2019 Jetta on its way to the showroom: Volkswagen decided not to sell this German car in Germany.
That's right. It will be sold in Berwyn, Buenos Aires, and Beijing, but not in Berlin. As it turns out, the automaker had its reasons for limiting the sales of the compact sedan to the Americas and China — and eschewing Western Europe.
According to Jan Dickmann, VW's compact-car chieftain in North America, the Jetta was not a big seller in Europe, where customers preferred its hatchback sibling, the Golf. But it has always been quite popular in the United States, where Dickmann said VW has sold three million.
As a result, he said, the seventh-generation Jetta, which will start arriving in showrooms at the end of the month, was designed with the U.S. market in mind. This move also saved VW money by eliminating the need to modify a European Jetta to meet federal specifications.
Speaking of saving money, sharing a platform employed in several other VW models further reduced the development overhead. Dickman said the economies of that platform sharing "allowed the company to offer new features at a competitive price."
And indeed, the new Jetta does tell a value story. The standard equipment on the base S model, which starts at $18,545 ($19,345 with the automatic gearbox), alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, stop/start technology on the automatic models, a rearview camera, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.
Oh, and something called "automatic post-collision braking," which sounds a bit like locking the barn door after the horse is stolen. Actually, studies show that a crash is often followed by a secondary impact. The sustained braking works to keep the car in a straight line after the initial impact and thus avoid "the ricochet effect."
Also worth noting is the fact that the bumper-to-bumper warranty on the new Jetta has been doubled to six years/72,000 miles, obviously an example of VW's efforts to regain customer trust following Dieselgate.
I had a chance to experience both ends of the 2019 Jetta price spectrum during a recent press preview: the base S model with the six-speed manual transmission ($18,545) and the posh SEL Premium ($26,945).
My first impression was that this new Jetta is handsome business inside and out. The styling benefits from interesting sculpting and a sportier, more coupe-like profile than the car it replaces. Thanks to the styling — and touches like grille shutters and underbody sheathing — the car is also very aerodynamic, with a coefficient of drag of only 0.27. That low number, coupled with a low curb weight (2,900 to 3,000 pounds), translates into excellent EPA mileage ratings of 30 city and 40 highway.
The interior design is fresh and clean, with intuitively placed instruments and controls. I particularly liked the way the center stack was slightly canted toward the driver to ease visual and manual access. Soft touch surfaces abounded, even in the base model.
Operating the Jetta proved equally pleasant. It is lively enough, thanks to a 1.4-liter turbo that develops 147 horsepower and a hefty 187 pounds/feet of torque. The peak torque is developed at only 1,400 r.p.m., which means lots of help out of the chute.
The loaded SEL Premium I drove was fitted with a new eight-speed automatic. This seamless gearbox, which replaces a six-speed, proved sophisticated company. But, being a Luddite, I preferred the companionship of the crisp, precise six-speed manual in the base model.