Behind the Wheel

2019 Volkswagen Jetta Review: Good ole days of 'Betta Getta Jetta' have passed by

The Volkswagen Jetta has been redesigned for the 2019 model year but still isn't as good as its rivals.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

As catchy a marketing campaign as it is, the "Betta Getta Jetta," tagline falls flat when you test drive the latest iteration of the compact car. With stiff competition from the recently redesigned Toyota Corolla, Mazda Mazda3, and Kia Forte.

The Jetta a compact car that sits below the Passat and new Arteon in the German automaker's U.S. lineup. The Golf and Beetle are smaller than the Jetta. It was fully redesigned for the 2019 model year.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta The Volkswagen Jetta looks very similar to every other VW on the lot.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

In every grade, the Jetta is powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine that produces 147 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with a six-speed manual transmission in the base model, but all subsequent trim levels come standard with an eight-speed automatic. The powertrain is competent but doesn't differentiate itself from the competition. It's fuel-efficient, achieving 30 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway regardless of transmission.

The compact car has a cabin filled with materials that are just "meh." Compared to the thoughtfully styled and appointed surfaces of the Mazda3 and high-quality design and materials in the Corolla and Forte, the Jetta just doesn't cut it, especially in its lower trims.

The Jetta comes standard with a 6.5-inch infotainment touch screen, four speakers, a USB port, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink. That's a decent list but even when you add equipment like the dual-zone automatic climate control and 8-inch touch screen, the Jetta still looks cheaper than much of its competition.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta The interior of the Jetta is modern and straightforward.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Climate controls are intuitively laid out in the Jetta but certain functions, like dimming the driver information display, are controlled via the infotainment screen and frustratingly unavailable while driving at least as tested in the SE trim.

Unlike other vehicles in its class, the Jetta doesn't come standard with much driver assistance technology. Blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and lane departure warning are all available.

As is customary in Volkswagen cars, the seats in the Jetta aren't comfortable for long stretches of time but they are supportive, keeping a driver and passengers in place as the vehicle remains reasonably planted through twists and turns in the road. Unlike other vehicles in its class, the Jetta has enough room in its rear seat for two average sized adults.

2019 Volkwagen Jetta The Jetta has a good amount of passenger and cargo space.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

This redesigned Jetta has less cargo space than you'd find in its previous generation but it still holds up versus the competition. There are a good number of nooks and crannies to store things in, in the cabin.

There are few compelling reasons to choose the Jetta over the Corolla, Forte, and Mazda3. Each of those vehicles does many things better than the Jetta, and delivers at least one stand-out reason to choose it over the Volkswagen. If you're in the market for a new compact car, skip the VW lot.

Volkswagen vehicles have been sold in the U.S. for the last 70 years.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

In 1949, Ben Pon, a Dutch businessman, arrived in New York with precious cargo - two Volkswagen Type 1 models, later known as the Beetle. Pon was one of the first to attempt to sell a Volkswagen to Americans and now, 70 years on, 17 million have been sold.

Let's take a trip down memory lane.

1949 Volkswagen Beetle

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

In post-World War II Europe, the Volkswagen Beetle was well on its way to being one of the most popular vehicles on the continent. Its efficient packaging and air-cooled engine helped it win a fan base. The 25-horsepower Beetle shown here is identical to the one Pon first imported to the U.S. in 1949.

1954 Volkswagen Type 2 Bus

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Telefunken, a German radio company, painted their logo on the side of the Volkswagen Type 2 Bus and used it as a delivery van. This is the Panel Delivery version of the Bus, which features a modified version of the Beetle's floorpan and the same 30-hp flat-four engine.

1963 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

German coach builder Karmann built this Volkswagen coupe, adding sporty style to the German automaker's lineup. Like the Type 2 Bus before it, the Karmann Ghia used the same engine as the Beetle, a 34-horsepower four-cylinder, for the 1963 model year.

1967 Volkswagen Type 2 21-Window Bus

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

This is a copy of the highly sought-after 21-Window "Samba" version of the Volkswagen Type 2 21-Window Bus. It features a white-on-orange paint scheme. In the U.S., 23-window variants were known as the Sunroof Deluxe. Instead of a sliding door, the Samba as two pivot doors.

1973 Volkswagen Squareback

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Like the modern crossover, the Squareback wagon sought to prove that smaller vehicles would still haul a family. This '73 has storage under the hood and in the back. The model has 65 horsepower and was one of the first vehicles to have fuel injection technology.

1973 Volkswagen Thing

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

This Thing wasn't designed to be part of the Addams family. The original concept was meant to be a military vehicle European nations. Called the Type 181, that model was off-road friendly. By the time the vehicle came to the U.S., the 46-horsepower convertible was marketed as "Thing."

1977 Volkswagen Dasher

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

The Dasher was designed to be a more premium model than the Beetle. Known as the Passat in Europe, the Dasher came in sedan, hatchback, and wagon variants. It was front-wheel drive and powered by a water-cooled four-cylinder engine that achieved 78 horsepower. Volkswagen produced the car for sale in the U.S. as the B1 from 1973-1981. It was the sister model of the Audi 80.

1979 Volkswagen Super Beetle

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The Super Beetle marked the end of the original Beetle era. It was the last of original generation to be sold in the U.S. The Type 1 continued to be manufactured for sale at the company's Puebla, Mexico plant until 2003, 65 years after it for launched. This model is owned by Volkswagen and has less than 1,000 miles on its 48 horsepower four-cylinder engine.

1981 Volkswagen Scirocco

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The less-sexy Scirocco succeeded the Karmann Ghia in Volkswagen's lineup. It was a Giugiaro-designed coupe that started production in 1974 and ended its run in 1982, only to be revived in 2008. The Scirocco's production ended in 2017. This 74-hosepower model had fewer than 1,000 miles on it.

1982 Volkswagen Jetta Mk1

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Volkswagen offered the Jetta as a sedan alternative to the Golf/Rabbit. The first generation of the model delivered European design and fuel efficiency. Soon after its debut in 1979 the model became the best-selling European car in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Its 76-horsepower engine was paired with either a five-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission.

1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI

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The 1974, Volkswagen became selling the Golf MK1 as a front-wheel-drive, long-range replacement for the Beetle. It was known as the Volkswagen Rabbit GTI in the U.S. The Golf is still produced today for sale around the world.

1998 Volkswagen Beetle "New Beetle"

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The Beetle returned as a modern car in 1997. It contained some of the quirky attributes that played on the heritage of the model including a dashboard-mounted flower bud vase. The New Beetle was in production until July 2019 as the automaker began to shift toward more electric vehicle production.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Production of the Volkswagen Atlas began in 2017 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The three-row SUV was brought to market as a 2018 model. The Atlas is known as the Volkswagen Teramont in China, the Middle East, Russia, Mexico, and Rwanda.

Volkswagen is exploring the potential of modernizing classic cars with new electric powertrains.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Classic cars sure are pretty to look at. But, they're not so great when it comes to running clean. A new movement in the classic car community looks to change that, swapping old engines for fresh electric motors.

Chevrolet highlighted the trend earlier this year on a 1962 Chevrolet C-10 pickup truck and now Volkswagen is getting in on the game, showing off a 1972 Volkswagen Type 2 Bus that has been retrofitted by EV West to include the powertrain from a VW e-Golf.

Electrified 1972 Volkswagen Type 2 Bus

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Volkswagen has exchanged the powertrain in a 1972 Volkswagen Type 2 Bus for that in a 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf.

"Their passion for classic-car culture and commitment to renewable energy made EV West the ideal choice for this project," said Mathew Renna, VP G4, Volkswagen North American Region. "We thought, who better to see if the e-Golf powertrain would be the perfect fit for our older vehicles. It's great to see that the spirit of hot rodding is going to live on into the electric age."

The stock powertrain from a 2017 e-Golf features a 35.8kWh battery system that gives the Bus 125 miles of all-electric range. The powertrain sits in the rear compartment of the Bus, which previously held the vehicle's stock air-cooled 60-horsepower four-cylinder engine. The battery units are housed inside custom engineered and reinforced enclosures under the Bus's front seats where the fuel tank used to sit.

According to Volkswagen, "The independent rear suspension of the Type 2 Bay Window makes a perfect mate to the transverse driveline which is contained in a single unit that houses the 100kW synchronous AC permanent magnet electric motor, one-speed transmission and charging system."

The Bus's stock long-throw shifter now features park, reverse, neutral, drive, and regenerative braking modes. It has been fitted with a retro-inspired multifunction digital EV gauge on the dashboard.

"We are very excited to be a part of this project," said Michael Bream, Founder and CEO of EV West. "Merging a historic model from an iconic brand with the technology of today, is just one of many ways that we can step closer to a more sustainable future while continuing to enjoy our rich automotive heritage."

The Bus is painted Kansas Beige and Pastel White. It is not currently for sale.