Car of the Year Car Reviews

Volkswagen Jetta: 2019 Motor Trend Car of the Year Contender

An Americanized version of a world-class platform

An Americanized version of a world-class platform

WE LIKE Rear seat, trunk, torque

WE DON’T LIKE VW’s cynical product planning

Three years after we named the Volkswagen Golf our 2015 Car of the Year, the Jetta moves to the same chassis, VW’s MQB small car platform. Despite Volkswagen’s well-known struggles to sell cars to Americans, the Jetta remains the best-selling German car in the U.S.

The Jetta gains a healthy 147-hp, 184-lb-ft 1.4-liter turbo-four and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Sacrificing the sweet-handling independent rear suspension by switching to a torsion-beam rear allowed the rear seat and trunk to grow. However, the interior cost-cutting measures Volkswagen employed were worrisome to the judges.

“The interior is sterile,” Michael Cantu said. Added Chris Theodore: “Bland interior package. Not as good as it should have been.” Christian Seabaugh smacked the base model for “sweaty plastics in which you can still make out the lines left when they were pulled out of their molds.” Then he faint-praises the higher-trim SEL model: “I’m not convinced that this is real leather, but the materials are generally a little better than in the base version.”

We felt the car rode and drove well enough. “The Jetta’s bones are good,” Angus MacKenzie said, “the chassis feeling fundamentally more mature than those of most of its Asian rivals.” But most judges could not get past the notion that VW decontented the car for American buyers.

“This is what happens when VW’s union won’t cave and management needs to cut costs elsewhere,” Mark Rechtin barked. Theodore goes further: “This is a dumbed-down version of the Jetta we should have had three years ago!” Chris Walton best captures our POV on the new Jetta: “Entirely forgettable waste of a world-class platform.”


2019 Volkswagen Jetta (S) SEL
Base Price/As tested $19,440/$19,890 $25,310/$27,795
Power (SAE net) 147 hp @ 5,000 rpm 147 hp @ 5,000 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 184 lb-ft @ 1,400 rpm 184 lb-ft @ 1,400 rpm
Accel, 0-60 mph 7.7 sec 7.8 sec
Quarter-mile 16.1 sec @ 87.3 mph 16.0 sec @ 86.5 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 124 ft 121 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.83 g (avg) 0.81 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 27.3 sec @ 0.62 g (avg) 27.6 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy/Comb 30/40/34 mpg 30/40/34 mpg
Vehicle Layout Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
Engine/Transmission 1.4L turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4/6-speed manual 1.4L turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4/8-speed automatic
Curb Weight (F/R Dist) 2,869 lb (59/41%) 3,111 lb (59/41%)
Wheelbase 105.7 in 105.7 in
Length x Width x Height 185.1 x 70.8 x 57.4 in 185.1 x 70.8 x 57.4 in
Energy Cons, City/Hwy 112/84 kW-hrs/100 miles 112/84 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 Emissions, Comb 0.57 lb/mile 0.57 lb/mile