Volkswagen delivers premium feel

by Haney Louka . Jul 27 2018
Haney Louka / Winnipeg Free PressThe layout is intuitive, panels fit together well, and Volkswagen spent a bit of money to put nicer-feeling materials in critical locations.

Haney Louka / Winnipeg Free Press

The layout is intuitive, panels fit together well, and Volkswagen spent a bit of money to put nicer-feeling materials in critical locations.

The features list reads like something from a premium set of wheels: a large touch screen with high-end sound, ambient lighting inside and LEDs out, rain-sensing wipers, navigation, satellite radio, heated and cooled seats, and a fully digital instrument cluster.

And then there are the dirty bits, which include direct injection, turbocharging, an eight-speed automatic transmission and a locking differential.

It may come as a surprise, then, that these features were all on board the new 2019 Volkswagen Jetta we recently got our hands on. And even in top Execline trim with all these goodies, this new Vee-Dub stickers at $27,695 with the six-speed stick on board.

Our tester, with its eight-speed auto, plus the $995 driver assistance package (adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection with cross traffic alert, forward collision alert and automatic high beams) just breaks the $30K mark.

The new Jetta joins many of its showroom companions as the newest offering built on VW’s versatile MQB architecture and has been designed to suit North American buyers. Traditionally, that would have meant a car with a lot of room and mashed-potato handling, but even North American drivers have come around on this and are looking for at least a small connection to the road.

And it appears that VW has delivered, on many fronts. The new car is a bit anonymous in overall appearance, but it’s clean and stylish and sits in a segment of the market where buyers aren’t necessarily looking to make a big statement with what they drive. I’ll only fault the hood, which has too many creases for my liking. It’s a sign of trying just a bit too hard to be distinctive.

It’s worth mentioning that I got into the Jetta after a week of driving Ford’s new EcoSport, a subcompact crossover. It was like going from a Fisher-Price into a real car. The Jetta feels like it’s worth twice the money even though their price tags are mere hundreds of dollars apart. To those of you who absolutely must have a crossover in this price range, take note of what you would be giving up.

VW has done well to put what matters into the interior. The layout is intuitive, panels fit together well, and it spent a bit of money to put nicer-feeling materials in critical locations. The dash and door panels have attractive grain and give a little when touched. Comfortable front seats and a roomy rear bench contribute to the car’s upscale feel.

All Jettas are powered by VW’s 1.4-litre turbocharged four-banger, good for 147 hp; a modest number for sure. But check out what matters: a peak 184 lb.-ft. of torque is on tap at 1,400 r.p.m., which gives the car usable power throughout the engine’s rev range. It’s a smooth and refined unit, too, and never sounds like it’s straining even at full go.

It would have been nice to try this mill mated to the standard-issue six-speed manual gearbox (kudos to VW for offering this transmission across the model range), but the reality is that most buyers will opt for the eight-speed auto. It’s a competent unit that does just fine on its own, either in Drive or Sport mode, and is responsive enough to driver inputs that I found myself looking for wheel-mounted shift paddles on occasion, but they’re not available on the new Jetta.

This is a high-volume entry where budget is critical, so we don’t expect the new Jetta to drive like a GTI, and it doesn’t. Most significantly, the Jetta has a torsion beam rear suspension, showing the company opted for economy and packaging at the expense of handling. And even though the chassis is tuned toward the comfy end of the spectrum, the car isn’t too floaty and steering response is up there with the better handlers in this class. In all, this is the kind of car that owners will be happy to get into and drive, and that’s not something that can be said of very many cars.

The icing on the cake? This Jetta earns fuel-consumption numbers that will make it easy to say “TDI who?” Official numbers are 7.8 L/100 km in the city and 5.9 on the highway. Impressive enough, but my experience was better: I averaged 5.4 L/100 km on a 600-km highway trip, and 6.0 L/100 km overall for the week. This combination of performance and fuel economy certainly does remind me of the VW diesels that are no longer an option for North American customers.

VW designed this 2019 Jetta with North American consumers in mind, and it looks like they nailed it.

autoreviews@mymts.net

Twitter: @haneylouka

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Haney Louka / Winnipeg Free PressOfficial fuel-economy numbers for the Jetta are 7.8 L/100 km in the city and 5.9 on the highway.

Haney Louka / Winnipeg Free Press

Official fuel-economy numbers for the Jetta are 7.8 L/100 km in the city and 5.9 on the highway.

Haney Louka / Winnipeg Free PressVolkswagen’s Jetta has a clean, stylish appearance and performance that you might not expect from its relatively understated appearance.

Haney Louka / Winnipeg Free Press

Volkswagen’s Jetta has a clean, stylish appearance and performance that you might not expect from its relatively understated appearance.