Betta Getta Jetta! 2019 Volkswagen Jetta

Betta Getta Jetta!

Hey, I didn’t make that up; saw it on an American VW dealer’s website. Come on down! Getta Jetta!

Okay, enough of that. With significant improvements the Volkswagen Jetta compact sedan acquires new exterior styling for 2019 and is now built on the modern MQB platform shared with Golf, Tiguan and some Audi models.

It’s peppy, too, and lighter, although motive power carries over from 2018. Under the hood you’ll find a diminutive, overachieving 1.4-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged “mighty mite” of an engine that makes a credible 147 horsepower and a formidable 184 pound-feet of torque at a very low 1,500 rpm. In plain English, put your foot on the gas pedal and the 2019 Jetta fairly leaps away from standstill. Once you’re up to highway speed, there’s not much puff left, but the transmission steps into give you extra urge when required.

The automatic transmission, however, is now an eight-speed unit as opposed the previous generation’s six-speed gearbox. It’s finely tuned, super smooth-shifting, and precise. Manual is still available for shiftier drivers, and fuel consumption for both transmissions is rated at an impressive 7.0 L/100km, city/highway combined (7.8/5.9 L/100km, city/highway for the automatic).

The new Jetta – which starts at $20,195 plus $1,645 freight for the Comfortline model – is now in its seventh generation and is bigger than ever. Compact really has become what once was “midsize” with the 2019 Jetta 148 millimeters longer than a 2010 model, for example, (that’s about six inches, for the Imperialists among you). The racy swage line defining the side of the car visually lengthens it even more.

Except for the busy “Tornado” wheels that come standard on the $29,095 Exceline version pictured, I quite like the sleek side profile. But I don’t care for the big American-style grille, which looks like it’s trying way too hard, in my view.

Inside, Jetta is roomy front and rear, with front-seat passengers able to enjoy heated and ventilated seats and the driver getting power and memory controls as well. The front-seat passenger has to make do with manual fore-aft adjustment and a lever for rake (no height adjustment, making some passengers feel like they’re sitting too low in the car). The big sun/moonroof is pleasant enough, but I’m starting to think these things are over-rated. It’s too hot to open them during the day and you’re in bed at night so who cares?

Okay, the evening. Maybe.

The new infotainment display/electronic instrument panel (called the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit) is easy to use and customizable. The rear-view camera’s terrific, with a large, clear display and helpful marker lines. There’s a bank of familiar knobs for climate and audio to supplement the touchscreen.

Although you can select multiple configurations for the driver display (the major “gauges”), you can’t eliminate the big analog-style tachometer in favour of an analog-style speedometer. You can make them both disappear, however, replaced with little digital speed readout at the corner of the screen and a large display for your BeatsAudio music app. This may not be the best use for your instrument panel, but the $995 Driver Assistance package does include Forward Collision Warning among other protective technologies, so that’s something.

I dunno. I’ll bet 98-percent of drivers have no clue what a tachometer is, so why even bother with one? The head-up display in the Mazda I recently drove was far superior overall, but let’s face it, when autonomous cars arrive, it’s that BeatsAudio app and its kin that will get most of the attention.

On the road, as I say, the new Jetta is responsive to the throttle, although sometimes too responsive I found. There are drive modes, however, enabling you to choose from Sport, Normal and Eco. I ended up in Eco, making the car feel less jumpy, eager.

Very smooth once underway, with good outward visibility and an excellent air conditioner. Operation of the transmission is pretty much undetectable; kind of like a CVT without the unpleasant noises. The engine, too, is very quiet under normal acceleration.

And because this is a Jetta, fans will expect a huge trunk and in this department the 2019 model – brace for it — underperforms. True! It’s a defining feature of Jettas (or it was…), but at 399L this trunk’s about 12-percent smaller than the outgoing Jetta’s, making it also smaller than the Honda Civic and Hyundai Elantra for shame. Beats a Mazda3, though, if that’s any consolation.

Oh, and while I’m at the rear, that trunk lid clonked me a couple of times, along with my partner Susan whose love of Volkswagens is being severely tested these days (you likely know why). For her, as she ponders replacing her Tiguan, VWs now need to be perfect and having a trunklid drop onto her head rendering her semi-conscious does not help.

Long gone are the struts, you see, replaced with cheaper, bulkier hinges (perhaps the culprits in the smaller trunk capacity scandal). If you push the lid all the way up, it will stay there. If you forget or are in a hurry, the trunk lid will mischievously assault you when you least expect it.

All that said, she (Susan, that is) loved the colour (Silk Blue), for which VW happily makes no extra charge. I thought it was fetching, too.

Perhaps taking a page from the Koreans, this car’s loaded with gizmos; you’ll not want for anything (unless you’re the front seat passenger). And what with the new styling, larger size, and peppy engine it should be a bit more exciting than it is. But the end result it that it just seems to blend into all the other cars. There’s a real sameness about it. Look at that 2007 Jetta I’ve pictured. Kind of boxy, true, but an airy cabin and that signature Jetta shape. European in character, if I may say.

But this isn’t Europe. Betta getta Jetta, as the pitchman drawls. So a great rental, I reckon, but if I was going for a small VW, make mine a GTI.