Mundane sedan rescued by peppy turbo engine
When I first jumped behind the wheel of the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta S, I wasn’t expecting much. The sedan is designed to catch the eye of commuters who want a nice-looking, gas-sipping and not-too-costly yet reliable car to get them from A to B.
Those cars certainly have a place in the automotive world — and in a lot of driveways — and there’s nothing wrong with that. We’ve all got somewhere to be and need a means by which to travel.
But such vehicles tend to blend together after a time. Despite Volkswagen’s big advertising push, the Jetta was in danger of being lost in the mix. Until I hit the accelerator.
Under the hood of the 2019 sedan sits a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine capable of 147 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. While those numbers aren’t mind-boggling, they combine to give the Jetta plenty of go power, and enough to make the driver smile.
I found myself flexing the engine more than I typically would in a commuter car. The turbo lag was minimal and provided a much zippier feel than I expected, which made for a good driving experience I was eager to experience time and again.
Another benefit of that 1.4-liter engine is its ability to use tiny amounts of fuel. The EPA estimates the ’19 Jetta will average 30 miles per gallon in the city and 40 on the highway — thanks, in part, to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
For the first two days I drove the car, I was worried the fuel gauge was broken. I had been putting my foot into it plenty (and have a 50-mile roundtrip commute) but the needle never flinched. It wasn’t until I parked at the office on the third day of my loan that I saw the fuel level drop a small amount.
I averaged nearly 38 miles per gallon in the week I had the sedan and I’m sure I pushed it more than the average driver.
Once you move past the engine, the Jetta is simply a basic commuter vehicle. The redesigned exterior features LED head and taillights and carries an air of refinement, something Volkswagen said was intentional.
“Rather than adding needless flash, the Jetta has been redesigned for a tasteful, more premium look and feel,” the car’s description read.
The hood styling is shared with the Passat, which gives Volkswagen’s two sedans a nice continuity when parked side by side.
I drove the S trim version of the Jetta. It’s the lowest trim level offered. I was a little disappointed by this given the aforementioned push about the interior redesigns.
The Titan Black Cloth interior was comfortable enough and looked nice, though nothing made it stand out from competing vehicles. The sound system worked and sounded decent. The gauge cluster had an uncluttered appearance, something I always appreciate.
Basically, the interior was fine.
But if I were in the market for a Jetta, I would seriously consider stepping up to one of the four higher trim levels. For the right dollar amount, you can get leather seats, a panoramic sunroof, a Beats audio system, an ell-electronic gauge cluster, a bigger touchscreen… the list goes on and on.
I don’t know if I’m sold on the SEL Premium, the top trim that comes loaded with options. I would likely go for the SEL, which boasts a lot of the above features and starts at $24,415.
Overall, the 2019 Jetta does what it’s meant to: Provides commuters with an affordable car that will get them where they need to go without using a lot of gas. The ride and interior are comfortable, though not exceptional. The exterior styling is understated but handsome.
Where the Jetta rises above the competition is the engine. It’s peppy enough to rescue what otherwise would be a rather mundane car — at least as far as the S trim goes.
Maybe VW should focus on that in the ads instead of ambient interior lighting. Just a thought.
2019 Volkswagen Jetta S
Vehicle type: 5-passenger, 4-door sedan, front-wheel drive
Base price: $19,345 Price as tested: $20,195
Engine: 1.4-liter inline-4, 147 horsepower at 5,000 rpm, 184 pound-feet of torque at 1,400 rpm Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 105.7 inches Overall length/width: 185.1 inches / 70.8 inches
Curb weight: 2,888 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 30 city / 40 highway / 34 combined
Final assembly in: Puebla, Mexico