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Entry price: $18,545

Price as tested: $25,815

Likes: New design, price, roomy, high tech safety.

Dislikes: Only one USB on lower priced trim, no fully-independent suspension anymore.

This week, we’re driving the all-new seventh-generation 2019 Volkswagen Jetta, delivered in SEL trim and powered by a peppy 1.4 liter turbocharged four-cylinder that is now the standard across the line.

Jetta’s wheelbase is now 1.3-inches longer as it moves over to the Golf platform. The only dimension that went backward since our last drive of a Jetta in 2017 is the trunk cargo room, which drops to 14.1 cu. ft. from 15.7. Notable is less curb weight, as Volkswagen’s use of lighter yet stronger underpinnings results in about a 50-pound lighter vehicle. Coupled with a new eight-speed transmission instead of last generation’s six-speed automatic, the new Jetta does two better MPG in the city (28 versus 30) and then still delivers the 40 MPG the 1.4-turbo did in the past. 

With an enhanced exterior design that is classy and refined, it’s what you can’t see at first glance that really sets off the Jetta from the others in class. Specifically, the 2019 Jetta offers available Blind Spot Monitor, Forward Collision Warning with Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist), along with a six-speed manual transmission for a retail price under $20,000. Yes, you read it right.

The entry Jetta S starts at just $18,545 and with the $450 optional driver assistance safety feature, you’re all set for $19,890 retail including $895 delivery. If you want the S trim automatic, add $800. 

Following the entry S model, which is the only trim that offers the manual transmission, comes the eight-speed automatic family of Jettas ala SE at $22,155; R-Line at $22,995; our SEL at $24,415; and top line SEL Premium at $26,945. Thus, you can be sure there’s a VW Jetta sitting in the showroom that fits your economic situation. Our SEL came in at a final $25,265 retail including delivery. 

Jetta competes against “heavyweight compact” contenders Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra and Honda Civic, so any safety or turbo advantages a Jetta can dish up makes it more than competitive. All of these new turbo Jettas are very quick on the low end, so much so we spun the tires a few times on takeoff that actuated the electronic traction control. The engine delivers its top 184-lbs. of torque at just 1,400 rpm, thus the great low end performance. However, once you reach 50 mph and need to pass, the 147 horses comes more into focus and there’s not much torque left. Expect zero to 60 in about 7.5 seconds.

We do recommend the eight-speed automatic over the standard six-speed manual S model as the automatic delivers the same fuel mileage and has a much better resale value as most used car buyers shy away from manual transmissions these days.     

The technology on the SEL is impressive and features the new Volkswagen Digital Cockpit that puts everything at your fingertips via steering wheel controls. There’s a Composition Media eight-inch touch screen display with AM/FM/HD and a CD player or Bluetooth for enhanced listening. 

Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and GateHouse Media. Contact him at greg@gregzyla.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.

 

Auto bits

On-track or off-road driving experience make great gifts

Forget the shifter toilet handle and faux fur ice scraper. 

Here’s a gift idea the car nut in your life will remember for a lifetime. 

As the shopping season winds to its frantic conclusion, those looking for a gift for a car enthusiast may want to consider an experience rather than an object. A gift certificate to a driving experience on a race track or off-road course is just the ticket. We’re as car crazy as anyone here at BestRide and you can trust us that driving a vehicle flat out on a racetrack or bombing through the woods in a performance ATV is just as great as it sounds.

Search online for the racetrack nearest to your home. Since BestRIde is based in the Northeast and are fortunate to have Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, Club Motorsports in New Hampshire, and the Monticello Motor Club in New York State all within easy driving distance.

There are also off-road driving schools in most areas of the country. One of them is the Team O’Neil Rally School in Dalton, New Hampshire. This school has access to miles of paved and gravel roads as well as special training areas to help you learn everything from safe winter vehicle control to our favorite move, the Scandinavian flick. Classes start at about $1,400 and the school has one to five-day programs.

John Goreham

 

Did you know

According to AAA, more than one-third of Americans are expected to travel this holiday season.