Volkswagen brought its pop-up Jetta Haus to the Windy City to show off the all-new 2019, giving me the opportunity to take it for a-day-in-my-life drive.
So I ran errands and drove places I’d normally go, from the lakefront to the grocery store to rush-hour traffic.
And I discovered it’s a pretty nice vehicle.
Of course, I should specify that even though Jetta has a base price of $19,395, I was driving a top-tier SEL Premium trim with all the whistles and bells. So, the as-tested price was $27,795.
Taking all the cool stuff out of the equation, the 1.4-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is really nice with its 147 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The Jetta is compact enough for tight city maneuvers, yet large enough to fit backseat passengers in reasonable comfort.
While I generally liked it, here are some key things you should know about the all-new Jetta.
The Digital Cockpit is cool
The available Digital Cockpit is reminiscent of the Virtual Cockpit available in Audi vehicles. It’s a little less detailed, but no less cool.
I played around with the settings and opted to have the full navigation map on the behind-the-wheel gauges. But this is multi-configurable, so you can have vehicle info or speedometer/tachometer surround a minimized map or do away with the map altogether.
One thing to know about this -- if you’re using Apple or Google maps through your connected phone, this map will not show up in the Digital Cockpit. You can only get the map displayed if you have native navigation and are not using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for navigation purposes.
The Digital Cockpit only available starting at the SEL trim, where it’s standard. So, to get this feature, you will spend $25,265 at a minimum.
Customization settings work
If you scroll through the vehicle settings, there’s a nifty little customization wizard that lets you set your preferences. Depending on the trim and added options, the number of things it’ll customize will depend on feature availability.
In the SEL Premium, I was able to add my name in the system, pair my phone, set my seating position and preset radio stations. It even remembered how I’d configured the Digital Cockpit.
Once the customization profiles are set up, when you enter the Jetta, it asks which profile to adopt.
I switched between guest profiles and a previously set up “Mark” profile, which were both different than mine, and the audio, gauge and seating settings automatically changed. A nice feature if you’re going to have multiple drivers in a single car.
Compact car, nice trunk
A lot of compact cars scrimp in the storage department. But I’m pleased to say that the 2019 Jetta does not.
I went grocery shopping during my turn in the vehicle and noticed the spacious trunk is well designed with bump-out wells at either end of the front of the trunk – perfect for a set of golf clubs.
The Jetta’s trunk volume is 14.1 cubic-feet, which is better than a Chevrolet Cruze or Subaru Impreza.
Standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
While Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are starting to become more mainstream in the marketplace, it’s worthwhile to note that not all manufacturers have bought into these phone-mirroring systems, and not all manufacturers offer both.
Mazda, for example has promised CarPlay and Auto for a couple years now, yet it hasn’t delivered. Toyota said it’d never have either, yet for 2019 you’re starting to see CarPlay (but not Auto) in some of its vehicles. Then, of course, there are the BMWs and Alfa Romeos of the world who make these features options and charge you $100 or $200 for the privilege.
Volkswagen, thankfully, does not fall into any of these camps. Auto and CarPlay are standard at the base S trim.
A manual isn’t available across all trims
It’s a sad day for #SaveTheManual types. While Jetta still offers a manual transmission, Volkswagen has opted to treat it as a punishment rather than a pleasure.
It has been upgraded to a 6-speed (rather than the previous 5-speed), but it’s only available on the base S trim. That means no cool stuff if you #GiveAShift.
I find this somewhat surprising considering that Jetta is available in a sporty R-Line trim, which would appeal to an enthusiast type who might prefer a manual transmission.
The base price for the Jetta is with the manual, and you’ll add $800 if you upgrade to the 6-speed automatic transmission.
The only option available at this point is the Driver Assistance Package ($450) with forward collision warning, autonomous braking and blind spot monitoring. No leather seats. No Digital Cockpit. No heated seats.
The Bottom Line
The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta is a nice vehicle. The redesign makes it more handsome than cute, which also makes it a vehicle you’d be happy to take your boss to lunch in.
And it won’t break the bank.
While there are many neat available features as you level up through the trims, you can still get an attractive vehicle without all the extras.
For example, the SE trim – one level up off the base – adds leatherette seats, automatic transmission, heated front seats and blind spot monitoring for $23,005.
In a nutshell: The new Jetta is fun to drive, easy to park and has room for people and stuff.