Seven generations. Forty model years and counting. Let's face it, the Volkswagen Jetta is a fixture on American roads. And there are some very good reasons for that. The biggest among them being that Volkswagen has never let the Jetta grow stale. There are, as there was with the original Beetle, constant refinements going on to keep the Jetta competitive.
The Jetta is all-new for 2019, bigger on the inside and outside, with sleeker styling. It's a more aggressive look that pairs well with the GLI, the most sporting of the Jetta lineup.
The car I drove for a week was the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI. The GLI gets the same engine you'll find in the Golf GTI---a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 228 horsepower---a big jump from the 147 horses in the standard Jetta. It's paired with a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission with Tiptronic---you can drive it like a manual using paddle shifters if you like, or leave it in "D" and let it do the shifting for you. The combination not only pays off in performance, but in fuel economy. The Jetta GLI's EPA estimate is 25 city/32 highway.
Best of all, the 2019 Jetta GLI knows what to do with that power. The steering, suspension, tires and brakes are all true sport-sedan material. Driving this four-door is very much like driving the Golf GTI hatchback, making the GLI a perfect compromise for the young mom or dad who wants to keep the fun in driving, but needs a bit more car than the GTI.
The new-generation Jetta is the first to try to strike a balance between straightforward German form following function and the brave new world of electronics and infotainment. In my view, it strikes a perfect balance. Big pluses are the integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. On the frivolous side is ten-color customizable interior ambient lighting.
What is very cool is VW's new "Digital Cockpit". It's a large display where the gauge cluster is, but it's all-digital, fully configurable to show combinations of information you find most useful while driving, and, in between the time you turn off the ignition and you get out of the car, it displays your most recent trip information---the distance traveled, the time it took, the average speed you drove and the average fuel economy you achieved. If you pay attention, you can learn something about your habits and make adjustments that could pay off in better fuel economy.
The base price of the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is $29,995, and that brings a lot of standard equipment beyond the powertrain we talked about above:
- Engine start/stop system.
- VAQ limited-slip front differential lock.
- XDS+ cross-differential system.
- Four-wheel independent sport suspension.
- Vented front and solid rear disc brakes with red brake calipers.
- Dynamic electro-mechanical power steering with variable assistance.
- Anti-lock brakes.
- Anti-slip regulation.
- Engine brake assist.
- Electronic brake force distribution.
- Hydraulic brake assist.
- Electronic stability control.
- Electronic differential lock.
- Intelligent crash response system.
- Rear-view camera.
- Tire pressure monitoring.
- 18-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires.
- Automatic LED headlights.
- LED daytime running lights.
- LED taillights.
- Heated, foldable, power-adjustable side mirrors with integrated turn signals and position memory.
- Rain-sensing, variable intermittent windshield wipers.
- Power tilting and sliding panoramic sunroof.
- Special GLI grille, bumpers, side skirts and exterior trim.
- Chrome dual exhaust tips.
- Rear deck lid spoiler.
- Dual-zone automatic climate control.
- Leather-wrapped, three-spoke multifunction steering wheel with shift paddles.
- Tilting and telescoping steering column.
- Six-way power driver's seat with power lumbar support and position memory.
- Four-way manual front passenger's seat.
- Heated and actively ventilated front seats.
- 60-40 split folding rear seat.
- GLI interior with red accents and black headliner.
- Leather seating surfaces.
- Front center console with cup holders, armrest and storage.
- Auto-dimming interior rear-view mirror.
- Ten color customizable ambient lighting and footwell lights.
- Stainless steel pedal cluster and footrest.
- Illuminated door sill scuff plates.
- Carpeted floor mats, front and rear.
- Volkswagen Digital Cockpit.
- Driving mode selection.
- Forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking (front assist).
- Blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert.
- Hill start assist.
- Remote engine start.
- Keyless entry.
- Pushbutton start.
- Anti-theft alarm with engine immobilizer.
- Composition Media eight-inch color touchscreen with AM/FM/HD Radio, CD player, USB audio and voice control.
- BeatsAudio premium system with subwoofer.
- SiriusXM Satellite Radio trial subscription.
- Cruise Control.
- Electronic parking brake.
Again---all standard for five bucks shy of 30 grand. In fact, the only extra-cost option on our tester was the Pure Gray paint ($295), so with $895 destination charge, the bottom line on the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI window sticker was $31,185.
That's about five thousand dollars less than the average price of a new car today. And the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is far from average. Not long ago, you'd have had to step up to BMW to get this level of performance.