UPDATE: You can now read our first review of the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta

The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta is not only a larger, more stylish replacement for this compact sedan mainstay in the German auto maker’s lineup, but it also represents a new philosophy that has implications beyond this single model. Now in its seventh generation, the 2019 Jetta makes a clean break from the Golf in styling. While both share VW’s MQB architecture, from the Jetta’s beginning, there was always a perception that the car was merely a Golf with a trunk instead of a hatch.

 “The Jetta is such an iconic product,” says Klaus Bischoff, head of Volkswagen Design. “We wanted to come up with something totally new. It was essential to give this product more prestige, more sportiness, a totally new proportion.” As a result, Bischoff said in the future, there will be a definite divergence in the appearance between Jetta and Golf.

The new Jetta takes advantage of its new underpinnings by having a longer wheelbase, wider track, shorter front overhang and a more steeply raked backlight, which gives it a coupe-like appearance. By emphasizing this sleekness, the Jetta has a longer lower appearance than the Golf, which will remain more upright by virtue of its hatchback body style. Bischoff promises that when the next Golf bows, “you will be able to tell the cars apart.”

New signature grille

The Jetta sports a new grille theme that will likely be adapted to other sedans in the lineup like the Passat. The horizontal grille is further elongated by its new trapezoidal shape. The opening is filled by four chrome bars, two of which connect to the headlamp housing that use LED daytime running lights to pick up where the bars left off, giving the nose a wraparound effect.

Also: Get your first look at the new and redesigned cars of 2019

“It was essential to give Jetta a strong face,” says Bischoff. “The combination of headlight and grille into one shape gives the front a very wide look, but the grille is also very high and deeply carved—it stands proud. It’s totally new for Jetta to have such a powerful expression.”

Strong profile

Designers used crisp character lines to give the car muscular shoulders, further enhanced by the prominent wheel arches and rocker panels. While the lower body has an athletic appearance, the sleek roofline and the new 3-window daylight opening give the Jetta a sporty profile.  “What’s going to call attention from the first glance is the sculpted body side and the strong shoulder line that runs from the taillight to the driver door,” says Marco Pavone, Head of Exterior Design at Volkswagen. “The surface treatment is a lot more masculine and sporty on this car.”

The rear is resolved by using an arch-shaped trailing edge that incorporates an integrated spoiler. The spoiler is both a design element and functional in that it helps improves the sedan’s aerodynamics to a low 0.27 coefficient of drag. The wider track of the vehicle is emphasized by both the spoiler and the design of the LED taillight clusters.

Jetta’s cabin design is all-new, with driver-focused instrument and infotainment screens. Trapezoidal design elements echo the new grille treatment and overall the appearance is clean and simple. Don’t look for any clever “Easter egg” design elements connecting the car to VW’s heritage, like FCA has done with its Jeep and Chrysler products. Instead, Bischoff’s approach is all business and the tailored cockpit reflects that ethic.  Bischoff notes that interior “design is about simplicity—you should understand everything from the first gaze,” he says. “A cockpit layout needs to be perfect in ergonomics, everything in one line, everything self-explanatory.”

The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta is just the first of a flood of new models coming from Bischoff’s studio and many new design themes, some similar and some quite different, will be seen in the 56 products the auto maker will introduce between now and 2025.

See why KBB calls the Jetta one of the coolest cars you can buy for under $20,000

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