Volkswagen’s Jetta is now in its seventh generation, renewed for 2019 and definitely has impressively modern looks, performance and safety features, making this front-wheel-drive, four-door sedan a worthy competitor to Honda’s Civic, Toyota’s Corolla, Nissan’s Sentra, the Mazda3 and Hyundai Elantra.
VW’s 2019 Jetta R-Line, driven throughout Florida on a two-week odyssey of chasing racing, has foresworn its former boxy shape and now has aesthetics that are pleasing to most any eye. From its muscular front end with straked hood and powerful shoulders, through the exterior’s cabin area punctuated by a single crease to the slightly upswept rear deck and hidden double exhausts, the newest Jetta has been drawn with an accent to sporty cohesiveness.
Under that wide hood lies a rather small displacement four-cylinder engine of 1.4 liters, paired to a turbocharger that helps bring the power level of this 2970-pound sedan to 147 horsepower at 5,000 rpm. There’s 184 lb-ft of torque available at an on-ramp-necessary 1,400 rpm while redline comes at 6,500. While a six-speed manual is available, this car is fitted with VW’s eight-speed shiftable automatic transmission (both the Honda and Nissan use CVT).
Suspension is through front struts and a rear torsion beam, giving compliance and sporting capabilities at the driver’s desire and this Habanero metallic orange sedan has Bridgestone 205/55R rubber riding on twinned, five-spoke 17-inch alloy rims. Precise electro-mechanical variable power steering helps place this VW Jetta properly and promptly where intended. All-wheel disc brakes have excellent feedback and zero fade.
The new Jetta’s R-Line model is in the middle of the lineup and doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the top of the line SEL, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a look. Sure the black-and-white leatherette seats are manually adjusted and a bit on the hard side, but their support in active driving situations and on longer trips is unquestionable. VW fits automatic windows all around, a nice touch many other manufacturers fail to do (handy for all those Florida toll booths).
While VW’s cruise control, operated on the left side of the steering wheel along with volume controls (car/trip info and phone controls are on the right side) is not purely radar-based, it does have a car-following-car image that appears in the gauge cluster when it deems one is following too closely. Note to VW: that’s called drafting!
The gauge cluster itself is business-like black-white-red, with tachometer hosting a temp gauge, speedometer cradling the fuel gauge and one’s choice of vital information between them, changeable on the right side of the steering wheel. A digital clock and outside temp are always on and one can simply change the trip odometer through a pushbutton at the base of the gauge enclosure.
At dash central is a clear, set-in 6.5-inch color touchscreen which accepts Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto quickly and seamlessly. The screen is surrounded by important info, including radio, media, phone, car, app and setup tabs. Pairing the phone is easy and using my iPhone to conduct all business and simultaneously keep charged was a pleasure. Why these procedures should be anything but simple confounds this driver.
Below the screen are heating, air conditioning and ventilation controls, which include seat heaters for front passengers. One caveat – a driver needs to reissue recirculation desires on each start-up. A grippy floor at the base of the central stack keeps a phone (and tolls) at the ready, and there’s a single USB and single 12-volt plug to take care of all digital necessities. There is covered storage with a hard plastic floor.
One can engage “eco” driving using a control near the gearshift but this 2019 VW Jetta R-Line’s efficiency is already near hybrid levels. It’s rated at 30/40/34 mpg from the 13.2-gallon tank using regular fuel and a 550-mile range is easily achievable in all but true city driving. This Jetta, with more than 13,000 miles on the odometer, yielded over 40mpg on a trip from Sarasota to Gainesville, even with stoppage on I-75.
While the R-Line is a middle model for the newest Jetta, this $24,140 machine had a single extra charge for the orange color. What VW includes is ever more impressive, even though some of the inclusions might appear normal to many. The Jetta uses proximity doors, pushbutton start, a netted panoramic sunroof, LED headlamps, 10-color ambient lighting, dual-zone climate control, gloss-black grille, black side mirror caps and R-Line badging.
Driver assists include forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking (untested) and blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert. That’s it! Rear seat passengers might not have their own air flow, but there is a 60/40 fold to the rear seats and a fold-down armrest with obligatory cup holders. The 14.1-cubic-foot trunk is well-finished and held everything necessary for this long trip with space for more.
After nearly 1,000 miles with the made-in-Puebla, Mexico 2019 VW Jetta R-Line sedan, this driver applauds the manufacturer for the car’s tightness. Most reviewers have a tendency to beat up on automobiles and the VW felt tight as the day it was born. It’s a very user-friendly car and one that pretty much runs past its competitors for its more-than-sufficient power, its predictable handling with good weight to the steering wheel and its ability to consume, without histrionics the bigger potholes and bumps that litter our highways.
This VW Jetta R-Line exudes elegance belying its minimal cost and looks like it will last a long enough time to be a darn good buy. If I were shopping for a mid-size sedan, it would rate extremely high on my purchase list.
By Anne Proffit