As it usually goes, our first test drive review of the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta had us sampling one of the compact sedan’s higher trim levels, the SEL – the second-highest version of the Jetta after the SEL Premium trim with some impressive class-exclusive features. Even the lower trims come well equipped, though, which we found out with our seat time in the Jetta SE. How does this decontented seventh-generation Jetta stack up against its compact sedan rivals like the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Hyundai Elantra? We spent a week 2019 Volkswagen Jetta SE to find out.
2019 Volkswagen Jetta Exterior
From a styling standpoint, the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta SE is practically indistinguishable from the SEL we’ve already tested. With the exception of the fender badge/vent on the SEL, these two trim levels are identical including the LED headlights and alloy wheels. Every line, crease and detail gives the new Jetta a far more upscale appearance than its predecessor, and that starts up front with the wider grille and creased hood. There are two separate creases that run down the side of the car that add a dynamic touch to the Jetta’s profile, and even the relatively small 16-inch alloy wheels do a great job of filling out wheel openings. We’ve seen all of these elements used across the VW design language in recent years, but the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta is the most cohesive example of the automaker’s current design work.
2019 Volkswagen Jetta Interior
The changes between the SEL and this 2019 Volkswagen Jetta SE are most apparent once you’re on the inside. That being said, even without class-leading features such as the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, eight-inch touch screen infotainment display or the BeatsAudio, this cabin is still roomy and well appointed. The SE proves that you don’t have to spend a lot on a new car to get modern conveniences like leatherette seats, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and dual-zone automatic climate control. Perhaps the only disappointment about the Jetta’s cabin is the so-called panoramic sunroof. From the outside, the sunroof takes up almost half the roof’s area, but inside, the opening is no bigger than a typical sunroof.
In terms of space, the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta is longer, wider and taller than the sixth-gen Jetta, and that equates to a small yet welcomed amount of added cabin volume. Despite offering less legroom for the rear seats, the seventh-gen Jetta feels bigger than the previous Jetta as well as other compact sedans currently on the market. The big advantage this sedan has is improvements in materials and the fit and finish throughout the cabin resulting in a passenger experience that is impressively quiet and comfortable, and that’s just what an entry-level compact sedan needs!
2019 Volkswagen Jetta Powertrain
Unlike the 2018 model year, the all-new 2019 Volkswagen Jetta only offers a single engine – VW’s 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 147 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Another change is that it’s now a little harder to get a manual transmission. The 2018 Jetta offered three trim levels with an available five-speed, but you can only get the six-speed manual transmission on the 2019 Jetta S. All other 2019 Volkswagen Jetta trim levels are equipped with the new eight-speed automatic transmission that replaces the previous six-speed auto. This new drivetrain combination results in a more efficient Jetta with EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 30 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway*; an increase of 2 mpg city and 1 mpg highway compared to the 2018 model year.
As we saw in our initial test drive review of the new Jetta, this compact sedan has gotten so much better to drive thanks to VW’s MQB platform. On the Jetta, it offers front-wheel drive layout with a torsion-beam rear suspension, which allows the sedan to feel balanced when being driven on windy back roads without resulting in a harsh ride in the city or on the interstate. All trim levels of the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta three driving modes (four if you count the customizable mode) that alter the car’s throttle response, shift points, steering feedback, climate control and ambient cabin lighting to provide an even more refined driving experience.
2019 Volkswagen Jetta Safety
The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta has not yet rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but it does come with plenty of standard safety and conceivence features including automatic post-collision braking VW’s Car-Net App-Connect service. This latter feature provides Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, but it can also be expanded on the SEL and SEL Premium trim levels to include functions such automatic crash notification, roadside assistance, stolen vehicle location assistance, family guardian, remote vehicle access and more. The SE adds in a blind spot monitor, but you will have to step up to a higher trim level if you want more advanced driver assistance technologies such as adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert with braking, forward collision warning with emergency braking and lane keeping assist.
2019 Volkswagen Jetta Overall
The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta SE delivers a perfect balance between equipment, style, comfort, value and peace of mind (thanks to the six-year/72,000-mile warranty). The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta has a starting MSRP of $18,745**, while the Jetta SE is priced at $22,155. There are no major option packages available on the Jetta SE, which leaves the as-tested price of this car at a remarkably affordable $23,005 after the destination charge.
Make sure to visit your local AutoNation Volkswagen dealership and test drive the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta today!
* Based on 2019 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.
** MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.