2019 Volkswagen Jetta is the compact car for hatchback haters

The Golf hatchback may be Volkswagen’s worldwide sales leader, but Americans have always preferred the Jetta sedan. Perhaps because of memories of horrid 1970s hatchbacks like the Ford Pinto, AMC Pacer, and even the old VW Rabbit diesel, U.S. buyers typically prefer trunks over hatches.

So it makes sense for the redesigned 2019 Volkswagen Jetta to debut at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show. After working to clean up the mess of its diesel-emissions cheating scandal, VW is trying to put its best foot forward with the new Jetta and once again take on segment leaders like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.

The last Jetta was a virtually style-free car, with a very generic look that didn’t leave a lasting impression. The 2019 Jetta is a bit more distinctive, with a larger grille and a few more curves, but it probably won’t win any beauty contests. The swirl-pattern wheels in particular look like a holdover from the 1990s.

Things are a bit more encouraging under the skin. The Jetta rides on the same MQB platform as the Golf, Atlas, and numerous other Volkswagen Group models. That’s usually a good recipe for solid handling and refined road manners. Compared to the previous-generation Jetta, the new model is longer, wider, and taller, with a longer wheelbase. VW promises increased interior space as well.

The 2019 Jetta is powered by the same 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine used in the previous-generation model. This engine produces 147 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, which is sent to the front wheels through six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmissions. We’re awaiting the return of the sporty Jetta GLI model.

The new Jetta will be available with Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, similar in concept to the Virtual Cockpit from VW’s Audi luxury brand. Digital Cockpit replaces the traditional instrument cluster with a reconfigurable digital display. AppleCarPlay, Android Auto, and a 400-watt BeatsAudio system will be available as well.

Safety tech includes a standard rearview camera and automatic post-collision braking, which applies the brakes after a crash to prevent a second collision. Other available safety features include autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and lane departure warning.

The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta goes on sale in the U.S. in the second quarter of this year. Pricing will be revealed closer to the launch date.

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