For 2019, Volkswagen introduced an all-new version of the compact Jetta sedan. Take a trip to your local dealer, though, and you'll find plenty of examples of the old-generation 2017. And yes, those are brand-new 2017s. Volkswagen skipped a year when they introduced the new car. Some of them have some pretty hefty deals available too. So what are the differences and should you save a buck or get some extra kit?
The 2019 Jetta offers up a larger platform than the not-exactly-small outgoing car. It's bigger in just about every exterior dimension: 20 mm wider at 1,798 mm and 33 mm longer in the wheelbase at 2,645 mm being the most notable. That means a bit more room for front and rear passengers, though just a few millimetres in most dimensions. Surprisingly, the trunk is a bit smaller – down 45 L to 399 L total – though that's still a sizeable cargo hold for the class.
Look at the new, longer Jetta on the outside and the styling is much more bold than the model that came before it. That's a compliment when you look at the sharp side creases compared with the somewhat bland styling of the 2017, but that big, in-your-face grille might take some more getting used to.
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The new Jetta replaces the two four-cylinder choices of the 2017 model with a single option: an all-new 1.4L turbo four that offers up 147 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. That torque figure shows up as low as 1,400 rpm, which really lets this car pull in any gear at almost any speed. It offers up 3 fewer ponies than the 1.4L offered previously, but it feels quicker. Partly helped by the torque and partly because of the lower weight. It also delivers better fuel economy, rated for 7.9 L/100 km city, 5.9 highway for the manual. The old 1.4L managed 8.3/5.9. The other engine offering from 2017 was the 170 hp 1.8L turbo four, but that engine is gone for 2019. Diesel buyers might enjoy the mild diesel rumble of the new drivetrain at low RPM, especially since the eight-speed auto loves to keep the car at the lowest revs possible at all times.
While the 2017 car offered up a five-speed stick and a six-speed automatic (six-speed dual-clutch automatic for GLI), the new one ups the gear count. Now the manual gets six gears and the automatic has eight. The new automatic is quicker-shifting and smoother than the old, along with the extra refinement that comes with lower cruising RPM.
Volkswagen has long been known for sporting handling, and the new Jetta is no different. While the old one didn't ever feel as crisp as the Golf, the new model has closed the gap. Even better, you can switch the steering to a sport mode that offers a bit more weight and a bit more feel. The suspension is crisp for the segment, but still offers a comfortable ride. It feels both more compliant and more firm than last year's car. That's helped by VW moving the new Jetta to the platform that underpins the latest Golf along with much of the rest of the company's lineup. The old model used a platform that was much older.
Buyers looking for the sportiest option, the GLI, will be disappointed by the new generation. That's because there isn't a GLI out – not yet, at least. While we wait, if you want the fastest Jetta you'll need to find a 2017. And while there are still some left with the 200 hp 2.0L turbo four, there aren't many.
Inside, the Jetta shows an even bigger change than outside. Volkswagen has thrown the high-tech features at this car. The most prominent being the available digital cockpit that takes the best of Audi's digital gauge cluster. The big screen is customizable and can show you just the gauges or even bring the navigation map into the centre screen.
Besides the instrument cluster, the now-base Comfortline trim (last year's middle trim offering) gets a 6.5-inch touchscreen radio display. (The smallest screen on the 2019 is larger than the biggest screen on the 2017 model.) It's turned toward the driver to make it easier to use while in motion. It's also surrounded by piano black trim that helps link the dashboard and centre stack. On top of turning it to face the driver, VW has moved the screen above the vents instead of below like on the 2017. That again improves visibility and makes it easier to keep your eyes on the road. Higher trims get a larger 8.0-inch screen and the Execline gets a BeatsAudio premium audio system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard on every trim, previously optional on base trims and standard only on Wolfsburg and Highline.
Buyers who were disappointed by the interior of the last-generation Jetta will likely be happy to see the new one. While the Golf and Jetta used to share similarly high-quality interiors – ones that seemed almost too nice for the segment – the previous Jetta moved to a cheaper look with materials that looked low-rent compared with the same-year Golf. That's why the 2017 Jetta was much less expensive than a Golf. With the new car, much of that low-spec look has been put in the past. The 2019 Jetta uses that shared platform to cut costs instead of putting the cost savings where you can see them. That means that the 2019 model has a much nicer appearance inside – like the gloss black trim and the stitching in the seats. There are still some hard plastics, like the rear door panels, but nothing out of place in the segment, and a big improvement over the outgoing car.
The 2019 Jetta has added a massive panoramic sunroof, available on higher trims. It offers an expansive look at the sky and is a big improvement over the normal-size sunroof in the 2017 car.
Another nice change for long trips is the new centre console. Volkswagen has moved the cupholders forward and taken advantage of the now-electric parking brake. The drink are now much easier to reach, and there's a storage compartment slot beside them that's great for leaving your phone or a parking pass. The centre console also offers up a better armrest position and more space for stuff.
With all the extra features, the 2019 Jetta starts at about $3,000 more than the 2017 car. But with the new car offering more tech and higher trims, dealers have some good incentives to get rid of the 2017s they still have. For buyers who want the bigger 1.8L engine that can mean some good deals. Highline trim cars are being advertised by dealers for as much as $7,009 off, on the out the door pricing, at least. Base trim cars are advertised for as little as $15,995. And if you want a GLI, the two ways to get one are to buy a 2017 or wait and hope there's a new one on the way. Volkswagen isn't advertising corporate deals on remaining 2017s but are advertising 0.99 percent financing on 2019s.
That's the new and newer Volkswagen Jetta. There's money to be saved if you don't mind a slightly older platform with a bit thirstier engine. But if you want more power, then new might be the only way to go over newer.
||2017 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4L TSI Trendline||2019 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4 TSI Comfortline|
|Peak Horsepower||150 hp @ 5,000 rpm||147 hp @ 5,000 rpm|
|Peak Torque||184 lb-ft @ 1,400 rpm||184 lb-ft @ 1,400 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||8.3/5.9/7.2 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb (manual)||7.9/5.9/7.0 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb (manual)|
|Cargo Space||445 L||399 L|
|Price as Tested||$18,040||$22,780|