For the seventh generation Jetta, Volkswagen has made the all new 2019 version bigger, lighter, quicker, with better gas mileage and armed it with a catchy marketing mantra: Betta Getta Jetta.

The compact five-seater, nudging close to mid-size in dimensions, cost about $200 more this year for our test drive SE trim, above the base S trim and below the R-line, SEL and SEL Premium, new this year.

While sales have dipped in prior years with buyer shifts toward SUVs and trucks, Jetta is one of VW's most popular vehicles sold in the U.S., and the makeover is geared to reverse the sales trend.

Built on VW’s award-winning global Modular Transverse Matric MGB platform, it allows the Japanese manufacturer to shift platforms across 11 models, thus reducing costs.

Nearly 3 inches longer and 66 pounds lighter, the SE is now slightly quicker off the line with high torque at low rpms, and the new size provides slightly more interior space for front seat occupants. A 3-inch longer wheelbase aids a comfortable ride on 16-inch wheels outfitted with all-season tires using torsion-beam rear suspension. Handling was responsive with speed-sensitive steering feedback. Cruise control required on/off action to increase or lower set speeds.

Standard on all models are rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert and heated front seats. Visibility is excellent beneath a panoramic sunroof. Outside, there is distinct styling with more character lines, bigger grill and shorter wheel overhangs.

Inside, fit and finish is excellent, and interior materials feel upgraded with manually adjusted contoured seats covered with perforated V-Tex leatherette. The 6.5-inch touchscreen is easily reached, gauges easily read and with Bluetooth, Apple Car Play and Android Auto can be accessed via a smart-phone using VW’s Car-Net® can provide automatic crash notification, remote vehicle access, stolen vehicle location and geo-fencing for parents to set boundaries for teenage drivers.

Eco driving mode improves miles per gallon.

The four-speaker sound system is ample in a quiet cabin.

There is a spare tire in a smaller trunk, but cargo space increases with 60/40-split folding rear seats. Crash safety ratings are expected to be top tier, and the basic warranty is for six years or 72,000 miles. Visors now extend, and reliability’s been historically strong. Major competitors include Honda Civic, Kia Forte and Mazda 3 – pricier at similarly equipped base level.

LIKE: Looks, ride, cabin design, price, handling, peppy, tech features, warranty

DISLIKE: Cruise control operation

BOTTOM LINE: Performance, price and resale value make it a top competitor

 

FACT FILE

2019 VW JETTA 1.4T

Base price w/destination fee: $23,005 (as tested, no options)

Curb weight: 2,959 lbs.

Wheelbase: 105.7 inches

Length: 185.1 inches

Width: 70.8 inches

Engine specs: 1.4 liter, inline 4-cylinder, turbo

Horsepower: 147 hp at 5,000 rpm

Torque: 184 lbs.-ft. at 1,500 rpm

Transmission: 8-speed, automatic w/manual shift

EPA rating: 30 mpg city and 40 mpg highway

Range: 13.2-gallon tank, regular

Performance: 0-60 in just under 8 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.