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

Volkswagen is known for its small cars, and to rebuild its reputation with buyers, VW focused its attention on the all-new 2019 Jetta. The German company introduced its latest version of its  best-selling car at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The new Jetta is larger than the model it replaces, and the styling is more coupelike. The grille is much more prominent, and LED lighting comes standard. The roomier interior contains more premium materials and amenities than before, including the availability of VW’s digital cockpit, a panoramic sunroof and a 400-watt BeatsAudio system.

There’s an extensive list of safety features, too. A rearview camera comes standard, and forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking, an updated version of VW’s adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with rear traffic alert, lane-departure warning/lane assist, and high-beam control are available. The Jetta is also available with automatic post-collision braking, and all Jettas will come with a transferable 6-year, 72,000-mile warranty.

Offered in S, SE, SEL and SEL Premium trim levels, the Jetta is expected to go on sale this summer, with a starting price of $18,545 (there will be an extra charge for destination). That starting price is lower than it was for the previous year.

The drive

Earlier, two very exciting firsts were revealed at Volkswagen's top-secret Arizona Proving Grounds (APG) . The first first was a chance for us to drive a prototype of the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta at APG. The second first was our group being among the first journalists ever allowed to set foot inside the walls of the Arizona Proving Ground.

I'm happy to say that we behaved ourselves quite well behind the scenes and on the track, and while the first look at APG was fascinating, driving the new Jetta was enlightening.

VW's Arizona Proving Grounds

Completed in 1992, Volkswagen's Arizona Proving Grounds covers about 2.5 square miles about an hour outside of Phoenix. Originally built with privacy in mind, APG was located well beyond the point anyone could imagine Phoenix's populace expanding into. So, naturally, a condo community has just been built next door to the track. VW learned to never say never and built APG's walls a little higher.

Behind those walls, 200 people test the wide array of the Volkswagen Group's products, from Audis, Bentleys, Bugattis and Ducatis, to SEATs, Skodas, and -- of course -- VWs. Among other disciplines, APG's staff of around 200 do durability, corrosion and hot-weather testing. Highlights of our APG tour included the Humidity Chambers set at 95% humidity and 122 degrees (think about spending weeks/months in a Bikram yoga class), and the Salt Fog Chambers (imagine the salty taste as your body begins to corrode).

For our test drives of the new VW Jetta, heavily disguised as it was, APG opened up a road course, skidpad and high-speed oval.

Driving the 2019 VW Jetta

The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta, expected to make its public debut this January at the Detroit auto show, is based on VW's modular MQB platform. There won't be a quiz, so all you really need to know is that the MQB architecture makes sharing premium technology and safety features easier and cheaper. Volkswagen is currently using it on vehicles ranging from subcompact cars up to the new Atlas midsize SUV.

In its new iteration, the 2019 Jetta is slightly bigger in all dimensions. The most significant stretch comes from overall length, which is increased by 1.7 inches. That added length -- plus it's nearly an inch more width -- opens up the Jetta's cabin and appears to really expand the trunk space.

At APG, we were driving prototypes of the all-new 2019 VW Jetta equipped with the 150-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. This torquey engine, and the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo which will be coming later in the Jetta GLI, carry over from the current Jetta powerplant lineup. Notably, the current car's transmission choices (a 5-speed manual and 6-speed automatic) will be replaced by a 6-speed manual and VW's 8-speed automatic. Our test cars were equipped with the 8-speed automatic.

The 1.4-liter engine was waiting for the 8-speed automatic. Low- and mid-speed acceleration was clean and quick -- passing slower traffic on the road will not be a burden, especially when you toggle the driver-mode selector from "Comfort" to "Sport." On the road course, the front-drive Jetta climbed over its front tires (as front-drive cars tend to do), but the car control in S-turns and tight corners was impressive.

The biggest entry I made in my notebook, however, was how quiet the new Jetta is. Even on the so-so quality asphalt that made up the road course, the Jetta kept the wind and road noise from the outside world outside. The benefits of this quiet really shone on the high-speed oval course, where I was able to have a normal conversation with colleagues in the front and rear seat without having to raise my voice at all, while driving 127 miles per hour.

The other thing that the stood out at 127 mph was how steady the 2019 Jetta is at high speeds. Obviously, the German engineering sensibilities that require a vehicle to exhibit reassuring stability on roads that have no default speed limit are part of the new Jetta's central nervous system.

The current benchmark in compact cars is the Honda Civic, both in sales and just about every comparison test you read. With its uniquely European personality and gifts, the thing that the new VW Jetta needs to be is the German Civic. The compact cars we drove at VW's Arizona Proving Grounds were a deserving leap in that direction.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta Exterior and Interior Pics


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